AG Drops City and Chamber Contract Allegations
It is no surprise that after a full year of investigating, The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has concluded the Sedona City Council is acting within the law in its tourism management contracts with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau. The AG’s final report states “no basis currently exists for further action… on this matter.”
The AG initiated inquiries in August 2018 at the request of Peoria Senator Judy Burges, who began asking for investigations targeting the Council in April 2018 at the behest of Sedona Rep. Bob Thorne.
Burges’ requests came amidst an ugly election campaign marred by deliberate misinformation and personal attacks. Sedona rejected all of these by approving Home Rule, re-electing Mayor Moriarty, returning three incumbent councilmembers and electing two new members.
The Attorney General’s report is in-depth, with detailed historical background. The main takeaways:
• The City Council made no “illegal payment of public monies” as defined by state law.
• The Council’s contract with the Chamber is for “a valid public purpose,” aligned with state law and the Arizona Constitution.
• Consistent with Arizona Supreme Court rulings regarding the Constitution’s ‘Gift Clause,’ the services the City receives from the Chamber are not “disproportionate” to the contractual amount.
• On two occasions, as a result of procedures by which the City allocates bed tax money, Sedona made payments exceeding the Chamber’s budget requests and the Council “took steps to manage the excess funds.”
• The Council reworked the Chamber contract in July 2019, moving to a ‘ground up’ budget aligned with the Sustainable Tourism Plan, instead of automatically allocating 55% of bed tax revenues. By doing so, the Attorney General states the Council removed the possibility of making excess payments in the future, “mitigating the potential” for potentially “significant” inadvertent technical Gift Clause violation.
The report puts an end to a painful episode in Sedona’s civic life.
Since that time Sedona has united to complete the Sustainable Tourism Plan, receiving a prestigious Governor’s Award for meeting the challenge and have begun implementing meaningful strategies. We see significant transportation improvements underway on 89A in Uptown. The Chamber has expanded its assistance to Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund helping keep our precious trails maintained and protected.
None of these would be happening without a City Council whose integrity, leadership and civic mindedness are beyond reproach. We have known that all along. It is a pleasure to have it reaffirmed by the Attorney General’s report and we welcome the conclusions.