Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink issued a ruling today allowing the City of Glendale's 20-year, $324 million multilayered deal with the Phoenix Coyotes to stand. The judge's ruling was made in response to a lawsuit filed by a conservative think-tank in the Phoenix area known as the Goldwater Institute on behalf of a few citizens in the City of Glendale.
The Goldwater Institute sued the city on two controversial stances. First, Goldwater believed that not enough members of the City Council approved this agreement which, under the agreement, would go into effect immediately.
Goldwater did not feel that the vote constituted the "emergency status" the Council gave it that allowed a vote with not all members present/voting to be sufficient, allowing the result to be immediately effective. Finally, Goldwater felt that the arena management portion of the deal with prospective owner Greg Jamison's group should have been put out to bid.
Judge Fink ruled that Goldwater's assertions about the arena management portion were not strong enough to void the deal. According to Fink, the City of Glendale had set precedent and had policy in place regarding "professional services" that were to be rendered to the City not being set out to bid.
Fink also delayed the agreement going into effect until July 8th, one month after the original council vote had taken place. He set aside the emergency clause and ordered the City of Glendale and Goldwater attorneys to work together to change the wording of the lease agreement ordinance.
The delay of the agreement opens the possibility of a referendum taking place on the Coyotes' agreement. Glendale residents are working to gather signatures to place the deal on the ballot for voters to decide in November as to whether they want the deal to stand. Therefore, the Coyotes are not necessarily out of the woods yet.
In the meantime, the Coyotes will continue to operate as they have over the past few years, with uncertainty and caution. The sooner this can be resolved, the sooner the Coyotes can begin to plan for the future.
The NHL will allow them to operate with a limited budget to acquire free agents, but the Coyotes need stability to attract the top names on the market. GM Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett will continue to try to pull rabbits out of their hats while all of this is sorted out.