State attorney general's office declares Council's interchange tax increase in violation

The proposed Rancho Santa Fe Parkway would be in the Rattlesnake Wash development.

Miner/file

The proposed Rancho Santa Fe Parkway would be in the Rattlesnake Wash development.

KINGMAN – The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has found the City Council to be in violation of the state’s open meeting law when it voted for the 0.5 percent sales on Aug. 15.

The AG had received a complaint on Nov 7 that adequate notice was not provided for the discussion and vote that took place regarding potential increases to the city’s Transaction Privilege Tax, or sales tax.

The complaint specifically alleged that the tax increase was for “pavement preservation,” yet the discussion and vote led to a rate increase not only for pavement preservation, but also for “capital improvement projects.”

Those projects included Kingman Crossing and Rattlesnake Wash interchanges on Interstate 40.

The open meeting law requires that agendas for meetings of a public body contain a listing of “specific matters to be discussed, considered or decided at the meeting.”

After reviewing the complaint, the city’s website and responses from Council members and City Attorney Carl Cooper, the AG’s office determined that no fair reading of the agenda gave public notice of a tax rate increase for “capital improvement projects.”

“If the Council’s intention was to discuss an increase to the TPT rate for use other than ‘pavement preservation,’ the provided notice was not only confusing, but likely misleading,” Oramel Skinner, chief of government accountability and special litigation unit, wrote in the Jan. 2 letter to City Council and its attorney.

Therefore, the AG’s Office concluded that a violation of the open meeting law occurred at the Aug. 15 meeting when Council discussed and then voted 5-2 on a 0.5 percent increase in the tax dedicated to “capital improvement projects.”

Pursuant to state law, “all legal action transacted by any public body during a meeting held in violation of any provision of this article is null and void” in the absence of ratification.

If the Council chooses to ratify the legal action concerning the Aug. 15 agenda item, it must provide verification to the AG’s Office within seven days. Otherwise, the action is considered null and void.

Skinner’s letter relates solely to the disposition of the open meeting law complaint, and is not a formal opinion of the AG’s Office.

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