Tom Rawles, a candidate for Mesa City Council, filed suit this week in Maricopa County Superior Court to prevent his opponent, Vice Mayor Dennis Kavanaugh, from seeking a third consecutive four-year term on the council.
In the suit, Rawles contends that the city charter and a 2001 state attorney general’s opinion prohibit Kavanaugh from running in the March 9 election.
"The purpose of the lawsuit is to force him to honor the law," Rawles said.
Rawles is a lawyer with the Phoenix firm Kimerer and Derrick and a former Maricopa County supervisor. In 1998, Rawles ran as a Libertarian candidate for governor.
Kavanaugh said he is eligible to run because his first term from 1996 to 2000 doesn’t count when it comes to the city charter’s ban on more than two consecutive terms.
That’s because the city switched to a district council system from an at-large system in phases in the 2000 and 2002 council elections, Kavanaugh said.
In 2000, Kavanaugh was elected for four years in the newly created District 3. Kavanaugh, who is serving his first term in the new district, said he is eligible for another.
"I guess I’m surprised Tom Rawles would depend on the courts to make this decision," Kavanaugh said. "It seems unusual for someone who has been a Libertarian in the past to seek government intervention to preclude Mesa residents from making a choice."
Kavanaugh said a September 2000 city attorney’s opinion confirms he is eligible to run.
City Attorney Debbie Spinner, who didn’t work for the city when the opinion was written, said Tuesday it is still valid.
Kavanaugh is a lawyer with the Mesa firm Day, Kavanaugh and Blommel. He filed campaign paperwork in May.
Three council seats and the mayor’s position are up for grabs in March.
In the suit, Rawles cited a Sept. 24, 2001, state attorney general’s opinion that examined term limits for state legislators.
Superior Court Judge Paul Katz is scheduled to hear the case Jan. 7, Kavanaugh said.