By Patrick McNamara
February 6, 2008
Following a cycle of bad press that even began to draw national attention, the Oro Valley Town Council decided at a special session last Wednesday to make public a legal opinion the town sought from an outside law firm.
Town legal officials asked the opinion of the Tucson law offices of DeConcini, McDonald, Yetwin and Lacy in regard to whether or not a local Web blog should register with the town clerk as a political action committee.
This poses no liability to the town, Councilman Terry Parish told his fellow council members of releasing the confidential legal opinion. The firms opinion states that the blog could reasonably be considered a political action committee. The firm determined, however, that because the blog does not accept nor raise funds for political campaigns, it does not need to register with the town clerk.
Oro Valley residents Art Segal and Richard Furash operate the blog at the Web site letorovalleyexcel.com. The sites blog section comments regularly on local issues, and recently has endorsed candidates in the upcoming town council election.
An Oro Valley resident complained about the endorsements. Town legal officials investigated, and Segal received written inquiry in early December from the office of Town Clerk Kathi Cuvelier, asking him to register letorovalleyexcel.org as a political action committee. Segal has not complied.
Town policy is to investigate all complaints that are brought forth, Mayor Paul Loomis said at the town council special session.
It was a principle issue, Segal said in a recent interview. I editorialize, and I dont answer to anybody. I acknowledge totally that, yes, I endorse candidates.
Segal said he does not receive, nor expend, funds on behalf of candidates. I dont think the statute is applicable to me, he said.
Seeking professional advice, Segal and Furash later contacted Clint Bolick of the Phoenix-based think tank The Goldwater Institute.
Bolick, a constitutional law expert, advised the blog operators that the law doesnt mandate they register as a political action committee. In a recent article appearing on the institutes Web site,
Bolick said the think tank would stand up to represent the Segal and Furash in court if the town decided to press the issue further.
Town legal officials and council members opted not to pursue the matter, in part because of advice received from the outside law firm.
Oro Valley has paid the outside firm $115.80 for the legal advice.
Editor Dave Perry contributed to this story.