By Terri Jo Neff
While the public awaits the Arizona Senate’s report on how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 General Election, one senator is demanding Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich investigate the actions of the county’s board of supervisors in connection to the audit.
On Tuesday, Sen. Sonny Borelli (R-LD5) formally called on the attorney general to launch an investigation of the county board’s refusal to fully comply with Senate subpoenas issued in January and July as part of the audit. State law obligates Brnovich, also a Republican, to determine within 30 days whether the county has violated state statutes.
Should a violation of state law have occurred, Maricopa County could lose its portion of Arizona’s shared sales taxes. As of June 30, the county had benefited from shared sales taxes to the tune of $700 million, according to public records.
Borelli was not the only state lawmaker upset Tuesday by Maricopa County’s official attitude toward the Senate audit.
Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-LD12) accused the board of supervisors of engaging in “one of the most divisive and dangerous subversions of government” ever witnessed in Arizona.
“The Board’s blatant disregard for the Constitution and public mockery of the lawful oversight of elections by the Arizona legislature is not only disrespectful, it undermines the very fabric of our Republic,” Hoffman added. “Through its obstructionism, lack of transparency, and outright trampling of the Constitution, the Board of Supervisors has effectively spit in the face of every voter in Maricopa County and this state.”
Hoffman’s statement was in response to ongoing comments by Jack Sellers, the Republican chair of the county board, who has been openly critical of the Senate’s audit.
On Monday, Sellers chastised the Senate for hiring auditors with “no experience and little understanding” of how elections are run. He also characterized the audit as an “adventure in never-never land.”
“If you haven’t figured out that the election in Maricopa County was free, fair, and accurate yet, I’m not sure you ever will,” Sellers wrote. “There was no fraud, there wasn’t an injection of ballots from Asia nor was there a satellite that beamed votes into our election equipment.”
Sellers also called on elected officials “to tell the truth and stop encouraging conspiracies” and he challenged the Senate to be prepared to defend any accusations of misdeeds by the county.
“It’s time to move on,” Sellers wrote at the end of his letter.
Sellers’ tone and tenor is the norm for public comments issued by county officials about the audit, including a July 16 tweet by @MaricopaCounty which called the audit contractors “unqualified and untrained.” The tweet also repeated a common county mantra about the unreliability of any data put forth by Cyber Ninjas, the company Fann hired to conduct the Senate’s audit.
In other audit-related news, Judge Michael Kemp of the Maricopa County Superior Court issued an order Tuesday mandating Fann to comply with a request submitted in May for audit-related documents.
American Oversight sued Fann and the Senate after Fann and the Senate’s attorneys denied the non-profit advocacy group access to several audit-related documents via a public record request. The Senate turned over a number of documents, but several were denied on the basis that those documents were in the possession of Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors, thus not qualifying as public records.
Kemp turned away Fann’s efforts last month to dismiss American Oversight’s lawsuit. Then on Tuesday, the judge ruled Arizona’s public records law requires the disclosure of the remaining documents.
According to Kemp’s ruling, Cyber Ninjas and its various subcontractor are private companies -not officers or public bodies- but are “clearly agents of the Senate Defendants.” Thus the Senate has a duty “to keep and maintain all records relating to this audit,” including all records of Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractor.
“Whether these public documents are in the actual physical control or possession of Senate Defendants is irrelevant to their duties and obligations,” under Arizona’s public records law, the judge ruled. Kemp added that claims that the senators have not seen the requested Cyber Ninjas documents does not carry water.
“Willful blindness does not relieve Senate Defendants from their duties and obligations” under the public records law, he ruled.
It is expected that the Senate will file with the Arizona Court of Appeals for review of Kemp’s ruling.