Voters for a Fair Arena Deal will not appeal judge’s ruling

A leader of one of the political campaigns that attempted to force a public vote on Sacramento’s arena plan said this morning that the group will not appeal a judge’s ruling that struck the measure from the ballot. But the other group said there’s a small chance it would pursue an appeal.

Craig Powell of Voters for a Fair Arena Deal said the decision has been made not to appeal Judge Timothy Frawley’s ruling Wednesday that signature petitions handed in by the group and Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork (STOP) included too many errors for the petitions to be valid.

Powell said the decision was made after Frawley indicated in a hearing on Friday that the petitions had significant flaws.

Voters for a Fair Arena Deal and STOP sued City Clerk Shirely Concolino last month after Concolino disqualified more than 22,000 signatures the group had filed seeking to place a measure on the June ballot that, if passed, would require future voter approval of public contributions to sports facilities. Frawley denied that suit on Wednesday.

“We concluded that if the final ruling went against us, we would not appeal,” Powell said. “We disagree with the lower court’s decision, but appeals are expensive and typically it is a difficult matter overturning a factual ruling by a lower court.”

Eric Christen, who represents a group of nonunion contractors who helped finance the lawsuit, confirmed “there will not be an appeal.”

"It's unfortunate that the will of the people had to be thwarted because the T's weren't crossed and the I's weren't dotted," Christen said.

However, STOP co-founder Julian Camacho said an appeal, while unlikely, hasn’t been completely ruled out.

“The final, final decision by our group hasn’t been made,” Camacho said.

Camacho acknowledged, however, that an appeal would be difficult to undertake, given the time limitations. STOP would need to have an appellate decision by next Monday to have the issue qualify for the June ballot, according to city officials.

“I think the issue is the timing and the financing,” Camacho said. “It’s pretty tight. The window isn’t wide enough for us to take it much further.”

Another factor, he said, was the strong words in Frawley’s decision. The judge’s 14-page ruling essentially swept aside STOP and Fair Arena’s legal arguments.

STOP issued a statement Wednesday that appeared to concede that only a City Council decision to reverse a planned $258 million contribution to the arena would halt the plan.

“We call on Sacramento’s disenfranchised voters to express their outrage to their City Council; and we call on our elected representatives to begin listening to their constituents,” the statement said. “It is not too late for the city’s arena deal to receive the public scrutiny and debate that it deserves.”

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