The Gilbert Town Council is prepared to violate state law to protest a new plan that diverts a portion of municipal court revenue to the state coffers.
The council voted 6-1 Tuesday to not certify its 2002-03 municipal court collections, which must be certified and submitted to the state treasurer by Sept. 1.
This is a political response to an Arizona House of Representatives bill passed this year that allows the state to take 75 percent of increased revenue generated by municipal courts during fiscal 2003-04 compared with the 2002-03 amount.
"This is shades of a totalitarian government stretching its tentacles where they shouldn’t be," Gilbert Councilman Dave Petersen said.
"It’s a flat-out rape of the community," Gilbert Councilman Don Skousen said.
The council has the option of calling a special meeting by the Sept. 1 deadline to certify the 2002-03 amount. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Sept. 2. Gilbert attorney Susan Goodwin told the council that if it does not certify the amount by Sept. 1, "you’re not complying with the law."
Goodwin said the council could receive a letter from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office or face a court order. The council asked about a possible fine, and Goodwin said there is no penalty clause in the state statute.
"I don’t plan to go to jail over this, but we need to assert our independence," Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman said.
The state Attorney General’s Office could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night.
The council expects Gilbert to be one of the hardest-hit communities because of its fast growth and increasing municipal court caseload. The council anticipates the court will bring in more revenue from fees and fines this fiscal year, but only 25 percent will remain in Gilbert. "It’s a different way to tax the people of Gilbert," Petersen said.
Councilman Steve Urie cast the only vote in favor of certification.