Rio Nuevo to City: "Negotiate or be sued"
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - If you thought things were tense between the City of Tucson and the Rio Nuevo board, just wait a minute.
The board just filed a letter asking the city to sign over about $47 million dollars in property or face a lawsuit---and board members are planning to file another soon.
It will probably will not have that kind of price tag but it's still designed to sort out contentious issues between the city and the board.
Some people see Rio Nuevo as a blood boiling boondoggle, that took in 230 million in tax dollars over more than a decade and has little to show for it.
Frustrated state lawmakers took control of the project from the city and appointed a new board about a year and a half ago.
Now the board has filed a 47 million dollar claim against the city asking it to sign over large swaths of land on the west side of downtown.
Councilmember Steve Kozachik calls it bad, wasteful timing and with one government body going against the other, taxpayers will pay either way.
Kozachik: "Look we've got two forensic audits going on. We've got an FBI investigation going on. Let them play themselves out. We had an Auditor General's report last year that said there was gross financial mismanagement we get that. Now we have 2 investigations going on to see if there's criminal wrongdoing. This lawsuit is simply piling on. The Rio Nuevo Board had no reason to file this lawsuit until those audits and the investigation come through."
Rio Nuevo Board chair Jodi Bain says the board filed now to be sure deadlines wouldn't close its legal options and that the goal is to get the city to negotiate over disputed issues and avoid a lawsuit.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: "Given the atmosphere that exists between the Board and the City of Tucson right now, what odds would you give you can come to something more amicable than a lawsuit?"
Bain: "It really depends on what day or what moment you ask this, particularly of myself as a board member. You would think the rational behavior would allow for saving money of suing each other. But unless this is something that is put forth, you can't get anybody to the table."
Kozachik says threatening a lawsuit is no way to get someone to negotiate.
In this week's council meeting City council has set a private session with its attorneys to discuss the Rio Nuevo claims.
The Rio Nuevo district has said it doesn't have a good idea of how much money it has. Jodi Bain she says it's not as easy as calling the bank and demanding a report on your balance because Wells Fargo actually represents investors who bought the bonds. It doesn't work for Rio Nuevo, or the city.