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Judge sets date for SRP records hearing

Salt River Project and a pair of Arizona municipalities will face off in court over a public records dispute in February.

A Maricopa County judge on Dec. 2 set a hearing date of Feb. 17. The two sides will debate whether the quasi-governmental utility company is subject to the state’s public records law. Prescott and Prescott Valley have filed two public records requests with SRP, and the utility has refused to turn over the documents.

In July, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Paul McMurdie ruled SRP was required to turn over 42 auditor’s letters to the cities, but declined to rule directly on whether Salt River Project must follow the public records law.

Because SRP redacted much of the information in the auditor’s letters, the cities have asked McMurdie to force the utility to turn over the letters in their original form and determine whether SRP is legally considered a public body, which would force it to comply with Arizona’s public records laws.

The cities also have asked the court to examine a series of documents relating to hydrological studies in the Chino Valley area. Salt River Project attorneys have declined to provide the documents, saying they are part of ongoing litigation and exempt from the public records law.

SRP attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss Prescott’s claims in the suit, arguing that the public records requests have all been filed by Prescott Valley’s attorneys.

But the attorneys for the cities responded that the two municipalities have an intergovernmental agreement which allows them to act on each other’s behalf in matters concerning the Big Chino Water Ranch, a project that would pump groundwater and transport it more than 20 miles to the cities. SRP has opposed the project.

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