Judge dismisses STOP case on signature drive

A visiting judge in Superior Court in Lake Havasu declined on Friday to review a rejected petition drive to repeal a Mohave County sales tax because the group that led the drive missed a deadline and on other technical grounds.

"Our motion said the protest had not been filed in a timely manner," Deputy County Attorney John White said.

He said Stop Taxing Our People should have filed a protest by July 25, which was 10 days after elections staffers had completed their review of STOP's petitions.

STOP filed the protest Sept.

3.

The ruling by Michael Burke means that STOP will have to start over again if it wants to qualify a tax repeal measure for the ballot, White said.

STOP sought to qualify the measure for the Nov.

5 countywide ballot.

The Elections Department rejected the STOP petitions Aug.

23 after a verification process disqualified more than 800 of 5,095 signatures.

The 4,290 validated signatures fell 131 below the legal requirement.

STOP co-founder Lenny Moschcau of Lake Havasu City could not be reached for comments regarding his plans.

STOP is trying to repeal the quarter-percent sales tax, which has been in effect since Jan.

1, 2000, on the grounds that county officials are using the proceeds for purposes unreleated to building new county offices.

STOP attorney Harvey Jackson, also of Lake Havasu City, said he advised the group to await a decision from the state Supreme Court on the validity of whether the sales tax is subject to repeal through an initiative drive.

"We were challenging the whole process," Jackson said.

"We have no facts to show that (the Recorder's Office) did not do fair checking" of signatures.

Jackson said STOP challenged the decision by elections because some signatures had been "arbitrarily disqualified" owing to discrepancies and glitches over whether circulators notarized signatures.

"There were arguments as to the technicalities," Jackson said.

"I think one of the notaries did not date it.

"There were 90-some signatures disqualified because of post office boxes," Jackson continued.

"Those would have been counted had they gone to the recorder assuming that a recorder could verify a correct (physical) address for them."

He said one circulator made mistakes that probably invalidated about 230 signatures.

White contended in a legal document that Superior Court lacked jurisdiction over the pleading filed by Jackson Sept.

3.

Hw wrote, "… the cause of action set forth in Plaintiff's pleading against Defendants Mohave County and the Mohave County Elections Director filed in this case is a new cause of action having nothing to do with the case of issues which were before this Court in this last summer, and which are now on Appeal."

The legal dispute started in July 2001 after former Elections Director Brad Nelson followed the advice of the county attorney's office by declining to accept petitions presented by Moschcau and his wife, Nancy.

STOP filed suit in Superior Court in August 2001 days after the county supervisors voted to earmark $2.6 million from the sales tax proceeds to maintain funding levels in county departments paid for through the general fund.

Burke ruled in October 2001 that the sales tax was subject to the initiative drive, while also determining that STOP missed a 10-day deadline by filing the suit 28 days Nelson turned down the petitions.

White appealed the case to the state Court of Appeals, which initially declined jurisdiction.

The court ruled in favor of STOP on July 11.

County officials requested a review before the Supreme Court Aug.

1.

STOP resubmitted petitions to the elections department July 1.