Rio Nuevo board files claim against the City of Tucson

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- A number of west side properties and $47 million, that's what the Rio Nuevo board is demanding from the city in a claim filed in court late Friday.

Its the first step in what could be a multi-million dollar lawsuit, unless the city hands over exactly what the board wants.

And there are no signs the two sides are willing to work together.

"They're not serious people," said Councilman Steve Kozachik.  "They're screwing the taxpayers in this community."

To say Councilman Steve Kozachik is upset at news of Rio Nuevo's new $47 million claim, wouldn't cut it.

The board says suing the city is the right move and an appropriate step to recover what belonged to Rio Nuevo all along.

"We don't really have much of a choice we have to go to court to protect the taxpayers," said Rio Nuevo board member Jonathan Paton.

But Kozachik says suing the city is a funny way of protecting Tucson taxpayers, "Who is the City of Tucson?  It's the taxpayers."

And taxpayers would foot the legal bill of the battle between these two government bodies.

The city could just hand over $47 million to the board and avoid a lawsuit, but that would cripple funds used to support Tucson parks, or a third of the police force, or over half the fire department.

"What that tells me is they've been using the money they illegally took from Rio Nuevo as a slush fund to fund other city services," said Paton.

An FBI investigation and 2 forensic audits are underway while a crumbling Tucson Convention Center in major need of repairs hangs in the balance, as does the relationship between the board and the city council.

"Until we get a majority on the council that is going to be fiscally responsible, there's not much we can do with that," said Paton.

"It effectively tells us they're not interested in a relationship but in political posturing," said Kozachik.

Both sides claim to be doing what the taxpayers want.

"If you think the City of Tucson has done a good job of spending your tax dollars, then you're on the city's side.  If you don't think they've spent your tax dollars wisely, then I think you're on the side of this new board," said Paton.

The city has 60 days to respond to Rio Nuevo's claim.  City Attorney Mike Rankin has scheduled an executive session to deal with the matter at Tuesday's council meeting.