Committee for Preservation of Established Neighborhoods v. Riffel – 8/24/2006

August 28, 2006

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Affirms ruling that CPEN's Referendum Petitions Failed to Comply with Statutory Referendum Requirements.

CPEN filed a referendum petition challenging a Wickenburg rezoning ordinance. The Wickenburg town clerk rejected the petition because they did not contain a description of the measure in the petition as required by A.R.S. Sec. 19-101(A). Instead of inserting the required language into the petition, CPEN stapled the description to its petition. CPEN filed a special action seeking to compel the clerk to put the referendum on the election ballot. The superior court ruled that the petition was invalid as a matter of law because it did not comply with 19-101(A). The appellate court agreed, rejecting CPEN’s argument that the affixed description satisfied the constitutional and statutory principles required for a referendum petition. The appellate court, applying the strict compliance standard required in W. Devcor, Inc. v. City of Scottsdale, 168 Ariz. 426, 428-29 (1991), held that an attachment of the referendum description did not constitute an insertion of the description as required by section 19-101. Moreover, explained the court, requiring the circulators to include a description of the referred measure in the petition itself ensures that petition signers are informed about the measure referred in a way that attaching the description would not.

Judge Timmer authored the opinion in which Presiding Judge Orozco and Judge Weisberg concurred.