The past week has seen a skirmish turn into an outright battle between the City of Glendale and the Goldwater Institute. The War of the Gs is over a deal involving public monies and a hockey team. The desert has never been more lively.

Most recently, both entities have threatened to sue each other: the Goldwater Institute over what it claims may be a violation of the state Constitution’s Gift Clause, and Glendale over what it claims is the institute’s tortious interference and unlawful interference with the City’s business affairs.

Not unexpectedly, Goldwater lashed back, saying any City lawsuit would be “frivolous and unsuccessful.”

Commentary has sprung up musing on whether Glendale has a hockey stick to stand on, or whether it is inappropriately attempting to squelch open debate. And that got me wondering about SLAPP suits.

As you likely know, that is the acronym for a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” “a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.”

Are the days of slap shots in the desert numbered? Zbynek Michalek of the Phoenix Coyotes breaks his stick on a slap shot against the Los Angeles Kings, Feb. 18, 2008 (Harry How/Getty Images North America)

I have never run a city, and I’d have to admit that the Goldwater Institute can have the tendency to rankle; in fact, that may part of its signature. But would it be appropriate for a municipality to sue another entity—or even a person—for demanding answers about how public money will be spent?

Are there are any SLAPP experts out there who could explain if the Arizona version applies in this kind of case? Here is the law (A.R.S. §§ 12-751–12-752 (2006)).

I suppose the question would be whether the Institute’s actions crossed into territory that is unprotected by the statute. For example, is threatening to sue over a proposed deal protected? And is contacting bond-rating agencies and underwriters protected?

Inquiring minds want to know. Especially before any of us start to mouth off to our elected officials on some future item with which we disagree.