The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday morning to appeal a judge's ruling that said the county broke the law in its $15 million deal with the space balloon company World View.
Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy voted against appealing the decision.
The conservative Goldwater Institute sued the county over the deal in April, and in October asked a county judge to “declare (the lease) invalid” for violating state law regarding appraisals, auctions and rental rates.
Last week, Pima County Superior Court Judge Catherine Woods sided with Goldwater and voided the lease deal the county made with the space firm.
The ruling deals with just one of four counts in the lawsuit, another of which alleges the county violated the Arizona Constitution’s gift clause in the World View deal. The other two counts deal with competitive bidding for construction of the facilities and county procurement requirements.
Jim Manley, Goldwater’s lead attorney, described the ruling as a win for taxpayers and said the county “is free to renegotiate the lease if they want to, but they’re going to have to comply with the law.”
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said previously an appeal will not have any immediate effect on World View’s operations. With that appeal, the county would ask for a stay on the ruling.
“Our view is that until a court of record rules, which is the appeals court, the issue is open,” he said, adding that the county “followed the law” with the World View deal.
In early 2016, the Board of Supervisors agreed to build a launch pad and headquarters worth nearly $15 million on behalf of World View, and issue debt to pay for it.
Those facilities were recently completed and the company has moved in and begun operations near Tucson International Airport, according to Huckelberry.
Over the course of the 20-year lease, World View would pay back to the county the principal and interest, and a little more, according to memos on the deal from Huckelberry.
According to the lease terms, World View is required to employ 400 people by the 15th year of operation at an average salary of $60,000, Huckelberry has said. The facility is expected to generate $3.5 billion in economic activity over the 20 years, said a study commissioned by the county and Sun Corridor Inc.