ABOR to be reimbursed almost $1 million over attorney general lawsuit

The court ruled the attorney general has to pay ABOR's legal fees for a lawsuit over ASU real estate projects

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has to pay almost $1 million of legal fees to the Arizona Board of Regents after a lawsuit surrounding ASU's use of land. 

The order comes after the dismissal of Brnovich's lawsuit regarding ASU's real estate projects, claiming the University was misusing tax-exempt public land to give deals to private businesses.

Brnovich pledged to appeal the ruling, citing his support for Arizona taxpayers.

"I would rather be on the side of taxpayers and students versus an out-of-state billionaire," Brnovich said in an email. "Shame on the Regents for using procedural tactics to delay our case from being heard. We look forward to an appeal and our continued fight to hold the Regents accountable."

On the other side, ABOR Chair Larry Penley said that it would have been a burden for the board to pay the attorney fees. 

"If we were to have to pay this, we would have to increase what we're asking these three universities for and that would divert funds away from the universities for their use for students and other programs that they have," Penley said. 

In regards to the high fees of almost $1 million, judge Christopher Whitten said in the ruling that the costs were so high because "the skill, experience and background of the defense lawyers, in this case, was far, far above average."

The Arizona Tax Court originally dismissed the attorney general’s lawsuit in November 2019, as it was past the one-year statute of limitations.

This came after Brnovich filed a suit in January 2019 over ASU’s plan to allow an Omni Hotel on university property plan, claiming it was unlawful and violated Arizona’s gift clause, which exempts subdivisions of the state from providing loans or credit to a corporation. 

In December, ABOR asked for money to cover the expenses of their attorney for the lawsuit.

Penley said he is unsure how the attorney general would be paying back the board.

ABOR further provided in a public statement that the reimbursement "will allow (the Board) to serve better the students, universities and the state of Arizona."

Reach the reporter at ekgalin1@asu.edu and follow @eringalindo29 on Twitter.

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