Attorney General Mark Brnovich sued the Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday, targeting ASU's practice of leasing tax-exempt public land to private businesses.
Brnovich filed the lawsuit on Thursday morning in Arizona Tax Court, claiming that the real estate deals and the tax breaks they provide are illegal.
He said in the lawsuit that the practice is "inappropriate" for a public university, and seeks to force the forthcoming Omni Hotel on a University-owned corner of University Drive and Mill Avenue to pay property taxes. If that land was privately owned, it would be on the property tax rolls. Property taxes pay for public schools, libraries and other government services.
Brnovich's suit cites statute that says ABOR may only buy, sell and develop land "for the benefit of this state and for the use of the institutions under its jurisdiction," prerequisites he says the Omni and other real estate deals do not fulfill.
In a statement issued by ASU, the University criticized Brnovich's decision to file the lawsuit against ABOR, calling the attorney general "confused and confusing."
"Brnovich is suing the Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona State University over a real estate deal because he has decided he wishes the law was different than it actually is," the statement said. "This frivolous lawsuit is a huge waste of taxpayer money, time and energy, and it saps the public's faith in our elected officials.