ABOR calls Brnovich’s ASU lawsuit ‘senseless,’ files motions to dismiss

Mar 11, 2019, 6:45 PM
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Board of Regents took steps last week to have state Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s lawsuit over real estate deals around Arizona State University thrown out of court.

ABOR, which governs the state’s three public universities, filed four motions Friday to dismiss the suit.

Each motion cites a different aspect of the board’s objection, including that Brnovich lacks the legal authority to sue ABOR.

“For decades, the Arizona courts have made clear the attorney general does not have statutory authority and free purview to file suit against whomever he wants,” ABOR Chair Ron Shoopman said Monday in a press release.

“Yet, once again, we are called to respond to a senseless lawsuit perpetuating false narratives. This lawsuit wastes time and resources at the board and universities and detracts us from the crucial work we do to serve the students and families of Arizona.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in January, alleges that ASU has been misusing its tax-exempt status to benefit private developers.

“We as taxpayers lose out because someone’s not paying those taxes,” Brnovich told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Jan. 10. “And all the while, Arizona State University is basically picking winners and losers and giving a benefit to whoever it wants.”

ASU President Michael Crow responded the next day by saying the business partnerships targeted by the lawsuit are common practice.

“No one is getting off on taxes, the company’s not benefiting in any particular way,” Crow told KTAR News. “The risk they’re taking is working with us and building something we need built.”

The lawsuit is one of two fights Brnovich, an ASU graduate, has picked with his ABOR.

In September 2017, he sued over tuition rates at ASU, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University. The suit contends that the cost of attending the schools doesn’t comply with a section of Arizona’s constitution that says state educational institutions “shall be as nearly free as possible.”

ABOR says its tuition rates are fair and necessary and Brnovich’s argument was misleading.

The suit was thrown out of court in April 2018, but Brnovich has since filed an appeal and submitted a motion to have it heard in the Arizona Supreme Court.

In its court response, ABOR said Brnovich’s request “is unprecedented and takes forum shopping to an embarrassing level.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Martha Maurer and Madison Spence contributed to this report.

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ABOR calls Brnovich’s ASU lawsuit ‘senseless,’ files motions to dismiss