Attorney General’s Office asks city how Prop 415 information was disseminated

TERRI HARBER, The Daily News, Aug 14, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has asked the Bullhead City Council and City Attorney Garn Emery to provide information about how some information related to Proposition 415 was placed on billboards and online.

Proposition 415 asks voters to authorize the city to acquire the local water delivery infrastructure from EPCOR Water Arizona, Inc. The referendum also spells out financing limits for a bond of up to $130 million at an interest rate not to exceed 8%.

Complaints allege that Bullhead City violated state law, ARS 9-500.14, pertaining to use of city resources to influence the outcome of an election. While informing voters about such proposals is allowed, information coming from government entities must be neither for nor against a proposal.

Snell & Wilmer LLP of Phoenix, the attorneys representing the EPCOR-sponsored Taxpayers Against City Takeover, as well as State Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, each sent complaints about the city to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Mohave County Attorney’s Office. Both TACT and Weninger assert that the city has been putting a partisan spin on some of the information given to the public about Proposition 415.

The Government Accountability Unit, Appeals & Constitutional Litigation Division of the Attorney General’s Office is conducting the investigation. In correspondence dated Monday, Assistant Attorney General Keena Patel asked for details about who was responsible for making specific items public.

Video content of Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady speaking at a meeting before the council approved putting the EPCOR acquisition proposal to voters was cited in the complaints.

“I hope that the voters will see through all of EPCOR’s propaganda and greed and allow us to move forward with this acquisition,” Brady said. “So, this evening I will be voting yes on this item and I hope the citizens who trust my research and my judgment will do the same when they vote in November.”

Patel’s letter asked who authorized someone to crop that portion of video from the July 16 city council meeting. Also sought is who authorized posting it and who ultimately posted it.

Use of Brady’s negative comments during the meeting in other forms — and to potentially influence voters — is what TACT and Weninger consider unlawful.

Patel also wanted to know who managed the city’s online posts “on a daily basis,” how much time is spent managing those posts each day, and “the hourly salary of any person responsible for social media management.”

Both Facebook and the billboards were used to publish slogans: “Our City, Our Water, Our Rates” and “Local Control = Local Benefit”.

Also of interest to Patel is who created the content for the digital billboard advertisements, who authorized the content for them, who executed that content and cost for a member of the public to digitally advertise on the billboards.

The city has 30 days to respond to the letter.

“A failure to timely respond to this letter will be noted in evaluating whether action under ARS 9-500.14 may be necessary,” Patel added.