August 13, 2018 / Modified aug 17, 2018 10:16 a.m.

Judge Sides With Pima County On Part 2 of World View Case

Ruling says the county properly entered into no-bid contracts with builders so it could meet World View's needs.

World View launch hero A March 2015 launch of a NASA-funded World View balloon flight to carry experiments to a near-space environment. (PHOTO: World View via NASA)

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A judge has sided with Pima County in a lawsuit regarding the deal to bring aerospace company World View to the Tucson area.

The portions of the suit brought by The Goldwater Institute deal with no-bid contracts entered into by the county to build the company's headquarters.

"The decision basically says the county used the statute correctly and had sufficient reason to award the contract," said County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

Pima County entered into the contracts in order to expedite the construction so that World View headquarters would be open in time for the company to receive grants.

The Goldwater Institute alleged the county began talks with architect Swaim and Associates and construction-manager-at-risk Barker Morrisey prior to learning of World View's timetable.

"Swaim and Barker, I believe, were already introduced to World View by their realtor, who basically indicated to World View that if you're going to locate here, you probably ought to use these firms," said Huckelberry.

The judge's ruling notes that Huckelberry did not act as the government agent who entered into the deal. That role was taken by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, who voted 4-1 in favor of the contract on Jan. 19, 2016.

The Goldwater Institute issued a written statement regarding the judge's ruling.

“This is a disappointing and puzzling decision that enables county officials to bypass the state’s strict rules for hiring contractors by simply engaging back-room deals for six months and then presenting it as a done deal with no negotiation," the statement reads.

"That isn’t what state law allows, and it harms taxpayers whose rights Pima County leaders simply disregarded throughout this process. We plan to appeal and to defend the county’s taxpayers to the full extent of the law.”

The ruling is the second regarding the deal, and one portion of the suit has yet to be resolved.

A state appellate court ruled in December that the county did not violate lease rules in its deal with World View.

The final portion will decide whether or not Pima County violated the gifts clause when it agreed to build World View's headquarters on leased land.

Huckelberry said it did not since the county will make money in the deal in the long term.

"We built them a building valued at about $13.5 million, and over the term of the lease we receive about $24 million plus in rent payments."

This story has been updated to include a statement released by the Goldwater Institute Tuesday morning.

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