Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard shortly before 5 p.m. Friday filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Tucson to stop the closure of the Tucson Citizen.
A motion for a temporary restraining order is in the process of being filed, said Anne Hilby, spokeswoman for Goddard’s office.
The case has been assigned to Raner Collins, Hilby said, “but we do not yet know if he will rule on it before tomorrow morning.”
“The process has been initiated,” Hilby said. “We will be notified by the court as how Judge Collins will rule.”
Collins could not be reached for comment.
Kate Marymont, vice president of news for Gannett Co. Inc., visited the Citizen newsroom Friday morning to say the paper would print its final issue Saturday, continuing with a “modified” Web site focused on opinion and commentary.
When asked about Goddard’s action, Marymont said she could not comment without seeing the actual filing.
“I have little to say, I’d need to see what was filed and speak with our lawyers,” Marymont said.
Goddard was informed of the Citizen’s pending closure when Stephen Hadland, CEO of the Santa Monica Media Co. and the final bidder in the sale announced by Gannett in January, wrote a letter Friday morning asking Goddard to intervene.
“I am requesting the Arizona Attorney General’s office file a Temporary Restraining Order preventing the Gannett Corporation from closing the Citizen and require Gannett to continue printing the newspaper pending a sale to a qualified buyer,” Hadland wrote. “The Tucson Citizen has been systematically destroyed by its owners and I believe it remains a viable and popular newspaper in the community.”
Hadland has contended from his first bid that Gannett was not serious about selling the paper because it was only offering the name of the paper, its Web site, archives and a subscriber list, but not the 50 percent interest in the joint operating agreement it has with Lee Enterprises Inc., owner of the Arizona Daily Star.
The JOA has been in effect since 1940 and allows Lee and Gannett to share equally in the operating costs and profits of Tucson Newspapers, also known as TNI Partners, a subsidiary that handles all noneditorial operations for both papers.
Hadland,who said his bid for the Citizen “assests” was $400,000, considers his media company a qualified and viable buyer, something Marymont denied in speaking with employees Friday morning.
“In the end, there was no buyer,” she said.
Hadland said in a phone interview that if a paper goes without printing one day, it loses all value and that is why he urged Goddard to act quickly.
By Carli Brosseau, Renee Schafer Horton