Diamondbacks made a stadium-related proposal to Phoenix, city officials won’t say what it was

This is a very weird story: The Arizona Republic reports that in June, Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall sent an email to Phoenix city manager Ed Zuercher, offering to discuss an “opportunity” for a partnership involving a stadium. And that’s all the Arizona Republic reports, as Zuercher won’t reveal what the proposal was, citing a nondisclosure agreement that Hall demanded he sign before being allowed to view the partnership proposal.

Cities refusing to release otherwise public documents because they’re involved in ongoing negotiations over them is common, but from the sound of things, these talks went nowhere, so it’s not an open issue. Normally this would make the documents in question fair game for journalists and the public via the Arizona Public Records Law — but a city spokesperson said the NDA required the document to only be “loaned” to the city to examine, then be returned to the team owners, making it not a public document.

This is, plainly, worrying as hell: If business owners of any kind can hold talks with public officials under a shroud of an NDA without it being subject to freedom of information laws, it will be a major loophole in requirements that records of governmental operations be made available to the public. This particular proposal could have been nothing important, or it could have been something that will affect the future of the Diamondbacks and public money in significant ways — the whole point is we don’t know, and have no way of knowing, thanks to this legal dodge. It’s the paperwork equivalent of hiding in hallways to evade open meetings laws, and I sincerely hope somebody challenges it.

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8 comments on “Diamondbacks made a stadium-related proposal to Phoenix, city officials won’t say what it was

  1. This has become commonplace in Arizona, the most corrupt state in the US.

    For example, a private business called “Scottsdale Arts” has a 20-year, no-bid contract with the City of Scottsdale. They get free rent in taxpayer-owned facilities which they “manage” (except for maintenance, which is funded by the taxpayers) for Scottsdale Arts’ own revenue, sharing none back to the taxpayers. And their contract contains almost no objective performance metrics.

    And, not being able to support themselves with even that generous arrangement, Mayor Jim Lane and our city council members (one of whom, David Smith, is a former city treasurer whose wife is on the board of Scottsdale Arts) gives them a taxpayer-funded $4+ million every year

    Yet, Scottsdale Arts asserts their finances are not matters of public record. And the kicker is that they’ve played the same game as the D-Backs when it comes to their contractually-required annual audits.

    In private meetings, Scottsdale Arts officers “show” audit reports to city officials, but don’t allow them to keep or make copies. Therefore, no “public records” are created!

      1. Lots of times how legal something is mostly has to do with how interested and well funded the legal team is on either side.

    1. How Scottsdale managed to dodge the Coyotes arena, back in the 00’s, is beyond me. Allegedly the thing fell through because Ellman refused to open his books. Today that would seem to be a advantage rather than a hindrance in getting public $dough.

      1. There probably wasn’t enough included in the deal to “convince” the decisionmakers to approve it. In retrospect that turned out to be a good thing for Scottsdale as the arena has turned out to be nothing but a fiasco for Glendale, and the SkySong alternative seems to have worked out for Scottsdale.

      2. As I recall, Dave, the Scottsdale arena plan required Ellman to commit “something” toward the building financially. I really don’t remember whether there were any “disclosure” requirements. The Glendale city council swept in and offered him a no money down, no money really ever, except for ticket surcharges and a share of parking fees deal… so he took it.

        Neither party really seems to have flourished as a result, though the taxpayers of Glendale have been hit hardest of course.

    2. John, many thanks for sharing the info about this situation. However, I did find audited reports and IRS 501(c) forms on their website (https://scottsdalearts.org/about/reports-downloads/). But I suppose your point is correct, that if they chose not to make these documents available, there would be no public recourse. Until Neal gets his law degree, of course.

      Oh, and in the fiscal year that ended in June of 2017, they received close to $5mil from the city, and it goes up every year!

  2. On the other side of town, the Coyotes are not concerned about getting their new arena, only concerned in their marketing and “positively impacting the community.”

    Arizona Coyotes Go Local As Season Begins


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