By Corinne Murdock |
Maricopa County officials admitted that they deleted election files from equipment after purportedly archiving them prior to fulfilling the Arizona Senate’s subpoena for that equipment. Chairman Jack Sellers and Vice Chairman Bill Gates made this admission during the House Oversight Committee hearing on the Cyber Ninjas-led audit on Thursday. The supervisors’ main defense for deleting the records had to do with freeing space for future election files – but Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) pointed out that files from prior elections were on the equipment obtained by the subpoena.
Biggs’ line of questioning prompted the admission from Gates and Sellers. He first asked the Arizona Senate’s liaison to the election audit, Ken Bennett, if it was standard practice to delete files off a server after an election. Bennett said he “hoped not.” Gates initially attempted to characterize the deletion as mere maintenance.
“I would say that it is appropriate to maintain files, and that’s exactly what we did,” said Gates. “The deleted files had been discussed. They were archived.”
When Biggs asked Gates to clarify if those “maintain[ed]” files were deleted off servers after the election, Sellers nodded and added that the files were “archived.” Biggs then asked whether the Arizona Senate was given the archives as part of the subpoena.
“When you released these servers and this information to the auditors to begin with, they didn’t have access to those archives at first – is that fair to say?” asked Biggs.
“They did not subpoena those, that’s correct,” responded Gates.
Gates’ response prompted laughter from Biggs.
“Okay, so – you didn’t feel obligated to turn [the archives] over then, to them?” asked Biggs.
“We responded to the subpoena,” repeated Gates.
At that point, Bennett stated that it was “laughable” that the county essentially created a loophole in the subpoena by archiving files from the materials explicitly subpoenaed.
“I find it frankly laughable to suggest that a county in response to a subpoena could say ‘We will delete files from the hard drives and materials that we give to the auditors because we have those files archived on data that we did not give to the auditors when the subpoena said give all those records to the election,’” responded Bennett.
Maricopa County’s Twitter account stated that deleting files that have been archived is a standard practice after all elections. Biggs asked Gates to confirm this. Neither Gates or Sellers said they could confirm immediately.
“I just know that because there is limited space on these servers, when you have to run that election, you have to make room for the additional election data,” said Sellers. “I do think it’s important [to note] that our recorder will be answering every question in a timely fashion.”
“That’s the same recorder that campaigned that [previous county recorder] Adrian Fontes was incompetent and called him a criminal, and he’s the guy that was running the 2020 election – and you actually hired someone to oversee Mr. Fontes. Because you guys didn’t trust Mr. Fontes as well – is that the same Stephen Richer?” asked Biggs.
Sellers said he disagreed with Biggs’ characterization.