9-500.14. Use of city or town resources or employees to influence elections; prohibition; civil penalty; definitions

A. A city or town shall not spend or use its resources, including the use or expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages, personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or any other thing of value of the city or town, for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections. Notwithstanding this section, a city or town may distribute informational pamphlets on a proposed bond election as provided in section 35-454 if those informational pamphlets present factual information in a neutral manner. Nothing in this section precludes a city or town from reporting on official actions of the governing body.

B. The prohibition on the use of public resources to influence the outcome of bond, budget override and other tax-related elections includes the use of city-focused or town-focused promotional expenditures that occur after an election is called and through election day. This prohibition does not include routine city or town communications.

C. This section does not prohibit the use of city or town resources, including facilities and equipment, for government-sponsored forums or debates if the government sponsor remains impartial and the events are purely informational and provide an equal opportunity to all viewpoints. The rental and use of a public facility by a private person or entity that may lawfully attempt to influence the outcome of an election is permitted if it does not occur at the same time and place as a government-sponsored forum or debate.

D. Employees of a city or town shall not use the authority of their positions to influence the vote or political activities of any subordinate employee.

E. The attorney general or the county attorney of the county in which an alleged violation of this section occurred may initiate a suit in the superior court in the county in which the city or town is located for the purpose of complying with this section. 

F. For each violation of this section, the court may impose a civil penalty not to exceed five thousand dollars plus any amount of misused funds subtracted from the city or town budget against a person who knowingly violates or aids another person in violating this section. The person determined to be out of compliance with this section is responsible for the payment of all penalties and misused funds. City or town funds or insurance payments shall not be used to pay these penalties or misused funds.  All misused funds collected pursuant to this section shall be returned to the city or town whose funds were misused.

G. Nothing contained in this section shall be construed as denying the civil and political liberties of any employee as guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions.

H. For the purposes of this section:

1. "Government-sponsored forum or debate" means any event, or part of an event or meeting, in which the government is an official sponsor, which is open to the public or to invited members of the public, and whose purpose is to inform the public about an issue or proposition that is before the voters.

2. "Influencing the outcomes of elections" means supporting or opposing a candidate for nomination or election to public office or the recall of a public officer or supporting or opposing a ballot measure, question or proposition, including any bond, budget or override election and supporting or opposing the circulation of a petition for the recall of a public officer or a petition for a ballot measure, question or proposition in any manner that is not impartial or neutral.

3. "Misused funds" means city or town monies or resources used unlawfully as proscribed by this section.

4. "Routine city or town communications" means messages or advertisements that are germane to the functions of the city or town and that maintain the frequency, scope and distribution consistent with past practices or are necessary for public safety.