TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - While it's still too early to declare victory, Pima County received some positive news in its ongoing lawsuit with the Goldwater Institute over a deal with World View, an aerospace and space tourism company.
An Arizona Appeals Court, Division 2, released a draft decision which says Pima County was legally correct when it did not "employ the competitive bidding process" when it reached the World View deal.
Under that deal, Pima County used taxpayer money to build World View a headquarters and launch pad for nearly $15 million. World View is leasing the facility from the county for 20 years at a cost of $24 million. If the company fulfills the terms of the contract, Pima County taxpayers will earn $9 million profit.
The Goldwater Institute sued the county saying the deal should be voided because it did not follow the bidding process outlined in state law.
A lower court agreed, but Pima County took the case to the state appeals court. As an economic development activity, the county says it is exempted from the bidding process.
In its draft decision, the court agreed but also warned it's the decision of one judge out of three and it's possible the reasoning and the decision could change.
Jim Manley, a Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute said regardless of the Appeals Court decision, the final say will likely lie with the Arizona State Supreme Court.
He believes the losing side will most likely appeal to a higher court. That means the case is far from over despite the good news for the county.
Regina Nassen, the lead attorney for Pima County said "We don't want to get too excited about it."
But for Pima County, the outcome looms large. It has been lagging in its economic recovery from the Great Recession, not creating jobs as fast as some other parts of the state.
Public-private partnerships, such as the World View deal, are part of jump starting job growth. It's similar to a deal worked out by Rio Nuevo and Caterpillar, also using taxpayer dollars.
Rio Nuevo is building a $53 million headquarters for the mining company, which will lease it for 25 years.
At the end of the term, Rio Nuevo will net a $4 million profit.
Other communities have made similar agreements in the past with private companies.
Pima County feels it is being unfairly singled out.
However, Manley feels the court has it exactly backwards and without a competitive bidding process, it sets up the county to abuse taxpayer money "giving them the authority to side step" the law.
While Manley said he's optimistic he's on the right side, he's still unsure what the appeals court will decision.
Pima County says a final decision by the appeals court could come within 60 days.