March 1, 2005

A court ruling will force Riverview at Dobson referendum leaders David Molina and Jan Hibbard to answer questions about their campaign, a decision the developers hope will expose their financial backing.

Kimco Developers and De Rito Partners Development hailed Monday’s decision that will allow for discovery in their defamation lawsuit. Molina and Hibbard attorney Tom Irvine called it "baby steps" in the court process and said he also plans to pursue depositions.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Cathy Holt, who earlier this year delayed the discovery process at the request of Irvine, decided Monday it was necessary before she could rule on Irvine’s motion to dismiss.

Developer attorney Scott Salmon told the court that the developers believe Molina and Hibbard’s Valley Business Owners (And Concerned Citizens) group is being funded by rival developers.

"We hope to find out who the person or persons are who have not come forward, and then there may be a need for additional depositions," Salmon said.

Kimco Developers president Jerry Friedman echoed Salmon’s words.

"We believe strongly the group is funded by people outside the community to stop our project so theirs can go forward," he said.

Friedman would not say which developer that may be, but Vestar Development is planning Tempe Marketplace two miles to the west. Vestar Development has denied funding Molina and Hibbard’s group.

On May 17, voters will determine the fate of the Riverview project and its estimated $80 million incentive package. Riverview is expected to include Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, a 16-screen movie theater, a "big-box" retail center, auto dealerships and business park.

The defamation lawsuit was filed Nov. 24, eight days before the referendum petitions were due.

The complaint accuses Molina and Hibbard of using racist tactics and implying the developers violated open meeting laws, but makes no mention of the group’s financing.

That was highlighted in future court briefs.

Hibbard said the group will disclose financial sources when required by law.

Salmon accused Molina and Hibbard of using the phrase "Spanish-language theaters" on a referendum flier "to capitalize on racist tendencies."

Irvine said he may depose someone who was "running around town saying there would be Spanish-language theaters." He would not give a name.

The next court hearing date was not set.

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