Goldwater Institute Sues Peoria Over Private College Incentives

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 6:32pm
Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 3:53pm
(Photo courtesy of Peoria)
Huntington University's digital media arts campus opened in 2016 in a former salon building .
(Photo by Sky Schaudt - KJZZ)
P93 sign in Peoria.

The Goldwater Institute is suing the city of Peoria, claiming a development project that uses city funds as business incentives to fill vacant buildings misuses taxpayer money.

Peoria’s P83 Building Reuse Project brought private Huntington University into the city.

Officials agreed to pay about $750,000 to renovate a building, and then give the college an additional nearly $2 million.

The program is meant to fill vacant buildings and attract businesses to Peoria. The Goldwater Institute claimsthe city’s agreement to give the school a total of about $2.5 million is illegal.

“Huntington University only promised to get accredited and offer classes and enroll students, things that it would do anyway to operate its business," said Goldwater Institute attorney and Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur. "It didn’t make any other special promises to the taxpayers, so we got lots of complaints about it.”

Sandefur is the lead attorney on the suit, which cites a failed private college in Gilbert which left taxpayers with debt.

“[The] Government can’t give away taxpayer funds to private businesses without any promise in return for taxpayers," Sandefur said. "Government shouldn’t be in the business of funding private businesses, and that’s why we’re bringing this lawsuit.”

City officials declined to comment until they had received a copy of the lawsuit.

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