The East Valley Tribune filed a motion Thursday in Pinal County Superior Court seeking the release of a taxpayer-funded study blocked by Johnson Utilities.

The study, conducted by Florence to evaluate the utility for possible purchase, was requested by the Tribune in January after the town opted not to buy the water and wastewater company.

The utility, owned by Scottsdale developer George Johnson, serves more than 20,000 customers in the unincorporated area south of Queen Creek and a portion of Florence.

Florence ceased negotiations when Johnson declined a $190 million offer. When Florence began studying the potential purchase in January 2007, town officials agreed Johnson would be tipped off to any related public records request, Town Attorney James Mannato has said.

On March 24, Johnson Utilities filed a restraining order against Florence blocking the release of the study, claiming it would cause "irreparable harm."

Taxpayers footed the bill for the $308,000 study, which examined the condition of the water and wastewater system, including how it was built, engineered and designed.

In March, Johnson paid the town $219,000 of the study's cost, leaving taxpayers with $90,000 of the bill. Town officials have said they did not question why Johnson agreed to reimburse part of the cost.

The Tribune's motion, filed by lawyer Dan Barr of Perkins, Coie, Brown & Bain, states the study is public record under both statutory definitions of the public records law.

A hearing on the case is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in Pinal County Superior Court.

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