Jim Torgeson, who owns a Mesa sign manufacturing business, filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, naming the town of Gilbert and each member of city council as their council members. (Courtesy of Brian Jackson / Adobe Stock)
A Gilbert resident and critic of the city’s $ 515 million bond for streets, transportation and infrastructure filed a lawsuit on November 22, alleging that his free speech rights had been violated and demanding the annulment of election results.
Jim Torgeson, who owns a Mesa sign manufacturing business, filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, naming the town of Gilbert and each member of city council as their council members.
The lawsuit alleges the city in September removed at least 57 signs Torgeson made to ask voters to reject the link, and the lawsuit argues that the action deprived Torgeson of his free speech rights. in a significant way that could have affected the outcome of a close election.
The measure, Gilbert Question 1, was adopted by 0.4%, or 164 votes, in the November postal ballot. Gilbert’s city council accepted the solicitation at its November 16 meeting in a 5-2 vote with council members Laurin Hendrix and Aimee Yentes voting on dissent over concerns of electoral interference.
Because the measure calls into question the election results, Torgeson, through his lawyer Timothy LaSota, requested a speedy hearing within 10 days of the defendants’ response.
In a statement sent by email to Community impact journal, city ââspokeswoman Jennifer Harrison has received the complaint and the city attorney’s office is reviewing it.
âThe city strongly disagrees with the legal and factual claims made in the lawsuit and is confident that the election results will be confirmed,â Harrison wrote.
Torgeson returned the comment to LaSota, who could not be contacted immediately.
According to the lawsuit, Torgeson installed the signs in the city’s right-of-way on or around September 15. The signs said they were paid by a private citizen and gave a phone number, but did not say who the citizen was.
The city told Torgeson it was removing the signs because they were illegal without the name of who paid for them, according to the lawsuit. LaSota argues that the city is misinterpreting the law and, moreover, it has really removed the signs due to the content of the anti-mandatory measure in the message.
A September 23 email from Torgeson to the city challenged the city’s reasoning for the removal and requested that the signs be put back in place.
The lawsuit also challenges the city’s statements regarding the withdrawal by including a number of emails from the city that Torgeson received in connection with Freedom of Information Act requests.
An email, dated September 29, from city attorney Christopher Payne in LaSota, said the city strongly disagreed with LaSota’s interpretations of state laws on the legality of signs, but would no longer remove no sign.
Later signs of Torgeson included his name in the disclosure.
The lawsuit also compares the city’s treatment of Torgeson’s signs to signs against mayoral candidate Matt Nielsen in the November 2020 election. The lawsuit alleges that these signs also did not say who paid them but did not. not been removed, and he argues that was because Nielsen was not the city’s preferred candidate. Brigette Peterson beat Nielsen for the office by a 57% to 43% margin.
The lawsuit further alleges that the city used the information section of the election advertising brochure to campaign for the link by wording the “Frequently Asked Questions” in a manner that argued for adoption of the link.
The bond package was originally scheduled to be presented to voters in November 2020, but has been delayed until 2021 due to COVID-19. City officials said the city was using its last funds from 2007 bonds on ongoing infrastructure projects and road projects to meet growth, safety and traffic flow would therefore come to a halt. without more bond money.