Cave Creek Council votes 7-0 for town advertising change
CAVE CREEK – The Cave Creek Town Council unanimously agreed to advertise in the Sonoran News, despite the Cave Creek-based publication not meeting the statutory definition of a newspaper and many residents speaking out against the recommendation, at the public meeting on June 1.
Since the Sonoran News does not meet the state requirements of a newspaper, legally the town can’t use the publication to advertise its public and legal notices. However, if the public notices are also published in a qualifying newspaper besides the Sonoran News, then technically it complies with the state requirements, according to Gary Birnbaum, an attorney representing the town.
“Our analysis is that the Sonoran News does not meet the criteria, period,” said Birnbaum. “You comply with the state statute by using the Capitol Times, or the Republic, or the Gila Bend News.”
On legal recommendation, Councilman Thomas McGuire added an amendment to the motion stating that the Sonoran News would publish the town’s legal notices in a qualifying newspaper, the Gila Bend Sun, making the motion legal.
Previously, Cave Creek used the Arizona Republic for advertising, but Councilman Mark Lipsky, who brought the recommendation to the council, says that “for better or worse,” the Sonoran News is “the paper of record of this town.”
“The most important thing to me is the dissemination of information, and the information is best disseminated through the Sonoran News, like it or not,” said Lipsky while he seconded the motion.
However, Allison Peters, who represented the Arizona Republic, says it reaches 2,113 of around 5,000 Cave Creek residents and is an audited paper through a third party, Alliance for Audited Media.
“The value in running an advertisement or whatever it is with a publication that is paid for, is the people have paid for it and have a vested interest in reading it,” said Peters when speaking to the council members. “People can get a free publication, but are they reading it? You can’t prove that.”
Many residents of Cave Creek spoke out against the motion to advertise in the Sonoran News because the paper did not meet the statutory definition of a newspaper, and also expressing concerns that it was a form of payback to a publication that supported the newly elected council members in the recent recall elections.
Resident Nina Spitzer went on record saying that the four newly elected council members should excuse themselves from voting on this particular agenda item for ethical reasons.
“The Sonoran News directly supported you and campaigned to get you where you are, so it seems to me that would be the ethical thing to do,” Spitzer said.
Cave Creek resident Kerry Smith urged the council to not make any changes to town advertisements until a full survey and cost analysis was conducted by qualified staff members.
“It seems to me that you run a risk of compromising the public trust in your decision making,” said Smith when asking the council to vote against the motion.
Don Sorchych, publisher and editor of the Sonoran News, spoke at the meeting, saying that his paper goes to every single listed postal address in the town, and he assumes that is what the council will want for advertising purposes.
Sorchych denied that the advertising change prompted by newly elected Councilwoman Susan Clancy and Councilman Lipsky was a payback gesture.
“For anyone to say that they [council] are voting because we were for them, it’s because we’re best qualified,” said Sorchych when addressing the town at the council meeting.
Councilman Steve LaMar denied the accusations of the town council gifting favors to the Sonoran News because of its outspoken support of the newly elected town council members during the recent recall elections.
“I support this for one reason,” said Councilman LaMar when explaining why he supported the motion. “This is the way most people in Cave Creek can find out what’s coming before this town council and can participate.”