As expected, the group looking to put the arena funding question in front of voters filed a lawsuit today, challenging the city clerk's decision to not certify their petitions.
STOP -- or Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork -- is taking the position that their voice is being snuffed out by the City of Sacramento. STOP attorney Bradley Hertz says those who signed the petitions have a legal right to be heard.
"The remedy is not to disenfranchise the 22,000 signers but to let democracy take its course," Hertz said.
But City Attorney Jim Sanchez says there were very specific legal reasons why the clerk couldn't give final approval -- including varations in the petitions that were used and other mistakes that broke the elections code.
"From our standpoint, this really does focus on the integrity of the elections process and the clerk's role in ensuring the integrity of that process,"Sanchez said.
The first hearing will be held Friday.
Ever since we learned that Chris Hansen gave STOP $100,000 which later cost him a $50,000 fine, there's been continued interest in who is paying for the effort to get the arena funding question on the June ballot.
STOP last filed a financial statement on Oct. 31. The group raised just north of $31,000 for the quarter. Their largest donation was $25,000 from Morning Star owner Chris Rufer.
The rest of the donations were from private citizens, in relatively smaller amounts.
The next deadline for financial disclosure is Friday.
STOP spokesman Julian Camacho says they'll be ready to turn in the paperwork --and he says there won't be any surprises. He declined to comment further.
Mayor Kevin Johnson reacted to the lawsuit in a Facebook statement made Wednesday saying:
"The City's obligation is to protect the public interest. Serious concerns have been raised about the nature of the STOP initiative petitions, including the submitting of nine different versions of the petition, all defective, and petitions that did not provide the intent behind the initiative. We all support the Clerk and the City's efforts to protect the public interest, especially given what’s at stake: creating 4,000 jobs, revitalizing downtown, keeping the Kings and moving Sacramento forward."
Sports Illustrated's Legal Analyst Michael McCann believes the legal challenge faces an uphill battle.
"Judges are usually fairly deferential to clerks and their expertise in their assessment of ballots," he said,
but, while the University of New Hampshire Law Professor knows the clerk has a clear advantage going in, he's not counting the STOP group out just yet.
"The plaintifs have argued that this is really a right to vote, and a court may be swayed by that as well," McCann said.
Still, he isn't aware of any arena plan that's come as far as Sacramento's that didn't ultimately come to fruition.