T.P. Racing, L.L.L.P. dba Turf Paradise Race Track v. Arizona Department of Racing (12/22/2009)

January 8, 2010

Arizona Court of Appeals Holds Division One That, Pursuant to A.R.S. § 5-107.01, the Department of Racing May Pass on to License Applicants the Full Cost of a Thorough Background Investigation.

A.R.S. § 5-107.01(E) requires license applicants to submit fingerprints and information related to the applicant’s criminal history to the Arizona Department of Racing.  That provision further requires applicants to “pay the fingerprint fee and costs of the background investigation in an amount that is determined by the department.”  The Department required Turf Paradise Race Track to pay more than $60,000 to cover expenses it incurred in conducting a background investigation in connection with Turf Paradise’s license renewal application.  The expenses covered work done by a certified public accountant, a professional investigator, and the Department.  After paying the expenses and having its license renewed, Turf Paradise brought suit challenging the Department’s authority to require such payments, arguing that A.R.S. § 5-107.01 allows the Department to pass on to license applicants only the cost of conducting an investigation into an applicant’s criminal history.  

The Superior Court rejected Turf Paradise’s argument, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The Court relied on principles of statutory interpretation, including reading Section 5-107.01(E) in context with related statutes.  Specifically, A.R.S. § 5-108(A) requires the Department to conduct a “thorough investigation” into an applicant’s character.  The Department has authority, the Court said, to pass along the full cost of that thorough investigation to the applicant.  

Judge Swann authored the opinion; Judges Winthrop and Brown concurred