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Conservative think tank heads to court over ‘release time’ contract

PHOENIX — Arizona taxpayers who are being represented by lawyers from conservative think tank The Goldwater Institute will be in court Tuesday to fight “release time.”

Residents are challenging the release time provisions found in a contract between the City of Phoenix and local police labor unions.

“Public service is a public trust,” said attorney John Riches. “Public employees owe a duty to the public that hired them and pays their salaries. The public expects that they perform those jobs.”

Riches maintains that under the practice of taxpayer-funded union activism known as “release time,” government workers are released from their jobs to perform full-time union work, while still collecting government salaries and benefits.

Instead of doing work for the public, release time employees spend work hours doing political activism, such as electioneering or lobbying, recruiting new members and even soliciting grievances against the government employer.

According to the Goldwater Institute, release time violates a state constitutional provision known as the “gift clause,” which requires public dollars spent to have a corresponding benefit.

Release time happens across the country and critics of it argue that it costs taxpayers over $1 billion dollars yearly.