Tempe officials on Friday denied accusations they tried to censor a group of grassroots activists.
The city was responding to allegations that the City Clerk’s Office acted inappropriately when the group said it was told to register as a political organization.
However, City Attorney Marlene Pontrelli said the activists misunderstood the clerk’s intentions. She said the clerk’s office was trying to inform the group of state election laws.
The group, whose members said has no name, circulated a letter during a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Jan. 31 accusing Tempe mayoral candidate Dennis Cahill of ignoring discrimination in the public works department.
The letter also endorsed mayoral candidate Hugh Hallman.
Arnold Ruiz, 63, who drafted the letter, said he was told Monday by the city clerk that his group violated election laws and needed to register as a political organization.
Political action groups are bound by law to register with the city, said City Clerk Kathy Matz.
Pontrelli said Matz was offering information about state election laws and did nothing wrong. The clerk’s office, she said, contacted Ruiz to inform him where to register if his group was a political committee.
"The city is not telling him that he has to register," Pontrelli said.
State law says the city will investigate suspected violations of election laws if someone registers a complaint, Pontrelli said. No complaints have been filed against Ruiz.
Tim Casey, an attorney representing Ruiz, said he was pleased to hear the city was not requiring his client to register.
There are 14 registered political action committees active in Tempe, according to city records. Among them are the America West Airlines AZ Pac, the Arizona Police Association, the MCI Employee Pac and the Southwest Ambulance EMS Employee Pac.