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Goldwater Institute files lawsuit to block Coyotes arena lease agreement

Former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison speaks after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league owned Phoenix Coyotes is in a tentative deal to sell the team to a group that includes Jamison during a press conference before the start of Game 5 of the NHL Western Conference semi-final hockey playoffs in Phoenix, Arizona, May 7, 2012.

Reuters

The Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit Wednesday in an effort to block the arena lease agreement between would-be Phoenix Coyotes owner Greg Jamison and the city of Glendale.

The lease deal is crucial to Jamison's attempt to put together a group to buy the financially moribund team for a reported price of $170-million (all currency U.S.) from the NHL. Jamison was given the lease, which will pay his group about $324-million over 20 years in arena "management fees" and capital improvements in a 4-2 vote by Glendale city council.

In an earlier attempt to block the lease, Goldwater, a conservative watchdog group, asked a Maricopa County Superior Court judge for a restraining order against the council vote but was denied. Wednesday's lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of two Glendale taxpayers, asked the court to invalidate the council vote and order the city not to approve the lease until all its details are disclosed to the public.

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Goldwater argued the lease approval violated Arizona's laws about public records because it says Glendale has not complied with a 2009 court order to disclose all of the documents related to the arena lease. The court action also says Glendale violated its own city statutes because it approved a management agreement without placing it up for bids.

"We continue to hope that the city will construct a lawful deal that protects the interests of Glendale taxpayers," Goldwater president Darcy Olsen said in a statement. "Without seeing critical exhibits contained in the arena management agreement such as the arena annual budget or the arena management performance standards, it is not possible to determine the constitutional validity of the agreement.

"Arizona's public records and open meetings laws mean nothing if the city of Glendale can get away with a $425-million deal without disclosure."

The reference to $425-million appears to be Goldwater's estimate of the cost of the lease to Glendale over its 20 years if the interest on loans needed to pay Jamison are included. The lease calls for a total of $94-million in annual payments to Jamison's group over the first five years of the lease. City officials have already said they plan to take the $17-million due in the first year of the lease from a sewer and water fund and borrow the money to pay back the fund.

Officials from Glendale and the NHL could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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