Senator Townsend Wrangles Maricopa County Into Complying with Audit Subpoena

Senator Townsend Wrangles Maricopa County Into Complying with Audit Subpoena

By Corinne Murdock |

Monday’s scheduled Senate committee meeting to look into requested Maricopa County records from the 2020 election was canceled after the county’s Board of Supervisors complied with Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s subpoena, following State Senator Kelly Townsend’s (R-Mesa) pushes to have them to respond to her records requests echoing those made in Brnovich’s subpoena. Townsend’s efforts were to assert the will of Arizonans, she said in a press release, noting that she took action when the supervisors didn’t comply with Brnovich’s requests at the beginning of this month. 

“I am pleased to report that Maricopa County has complied with the legislative subpoena commanding fulfillment of the Attorney General’s request dated March 9, 2022. The Government Committee scheduled for later today is therefore no longer necessary, as its intended objective has been achieved. The County’s acknowledgement of its duty to timely account for election administration activity is a laudable victory in our pursuit of accountability to Arizona voters,” wrote Townsend. “While the Maricopa County Chairman defends the delay in their response to the Attorney General with indeterminate case law and timelines set by courts, our subpoena conveyed the will of Arizonans, from the branch most representative of the statewide electorate, that the County make election integrity requests a top priority, rather than place them in a public records queue.”

However, Townsend noted that her job wasn’t done. She promised that she and a number of unnamed colleagues would ensure that Maricopa County officials carried out their compliance to the end. 

“While I am encouraged by Maricopa County’s evolving attitude towards transparency and compliance, I will be closely following the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation and will be following up with additional inquiries to answer further questions I have as Government Committee Chairman,” stated Townsend. “I stand with my colleagues as we remain committed to engage again when it is necessary for the Legislature’s plenary authority over statewide elections to be exercised.”

Townsend issued her subpoena last Monday. In response, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates claimed it wasn’t necessary to show up to Monday’s scheduled hearing because they already submitted requested records to Brnovich. Gates added that Townsend may not have authority to subpoena their board without permission of Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott).

Townsend responded by citing Arizona code, which allows committee chairmen to subpoena individuals. 

Gates reasserted to KJZZ several days after Townsend’s remarks that the board wouldn’t respond. Instead, the county’s attorney, Ed Novak, was slated to appear at the meeting.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Lawsuits Against Schools For Violating Parental Rights Under Consideration

Lawsuits Against Schools For Violating Parental Rights Under Consideration

By Corinne Murdock |

Parents and guardians may be able to sue just about anybody that violates their rights under the Arizona Parents’ Bill of Rights, according to a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The bill, SB1049, also classifies parents’ rights violations as a class two misdemeanor and enables the attorney general or a county attorney to sue school districts or charter schools alleged to have violated parental rights. Courts may impose fines of up to $5,000 for each violation that occurred at the school. 

The bill passed 5-3. State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) introduced the bill. During Thursday’s committee hearing, Townsend explained that the provisions of this bill were already law but lacked accountability.

The Arizona Parents’ Bill of Rights codifies the rights of Arizona parents to direct their child’s education, upbringing, moral or religious training, health care decisions, as well as the rights to access and review all of their child’s records, including medical records. 

State Senator Martín Quezada (D-Glendale) claimed that the “overwhelming majority” of parents’ frustrations could be resolved if they brought their issues to the educators for a conversation. Quezada said that this bill would only make parent-teacher relations more adversarial. 

“Nobody is out to violate parent’s rights. Nobody is out to harm parents and nobody is out to make an enemy of parents,” said Quezada. “I want to encourage people to leave their emotions aside, have conversations with your school district leaders and then hold them accountable in the way that you have been granted at the school board elections.”

Quezada’s claim doesn’t align with comments from others within his party across the country, such as the viral comments of Wisconsin State Representative Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton), who tweeted that parents should either homeschool or pay for private schooling if they wanted to have a voice in their child’s education. Snodgrass deleted the post, issuing a follow-up simultaneously backpedaling with an apology and claiming that those upset by her remarks were misinterpreting her.

“I deleted my Tweet since it was lacking in nuance and easily misinterpreted. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that parents do not have a role in their child’s public education-I sure did. I encourage all parents to engage in voting for school board, join [parent-teacher organizations] PTO and meet with teachers,” wrote Snodgrass. “To clarify, my point is we should be fully funding our public schools and that diverting funds away from our public schools only makes it harder for parents to have the relationships we deserve with our kids’ teachers and their schools. Of course parents need to have a say in their kids’ education and their classrooms! I’m a parent, and I have a say, as should every parent. I shouldn’t have been cavalier or glib—that wasn’t my intention, and I apologize. Carry on!”

State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) rebutted Quezada’s remarks, reading a text she received from a constituent while the committee reviewed the bill, describing how the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) governing board refused to work alongside parents. 

One mother who spoke in favor of the bill reminded the committee that hundreds of Arizona educators signed a pledge last year to continue teaching what they desired, irrespective of parental consent or the law, in response to states implementing bans on Critical Race Theory. As of press time, there were over 200 Arizona educators that signed the pledge. 

About 8,000 educators nationwide have signed that pledge. There are about 3.2 million public school teachers and 500,000 private school teachers in the country. 

Those who signed onto the pledge as Arizona educators included the following:

Avondale: Natalie Cardenas

Bisbee: Etta Kralovec

Black Canyon City: Matthew Schock

Casa Grande: Sharon Tuttle

Chandler: Amy Shinabarger, Angela Thomas, Ann Cicero, Audra Johnson, Beth Herbert, Deanna Celaya, James Wallace, Judith Simons, Julia Palazzi, Melanie Ohm, Rachel Kulik, Shasta Payne, Teri Moser

Flagstaff: Russell Randall, Ricardo Guthrie, Michelle Novelli, Angelina Castagno, Beth Sanborn, Derek Thibodeau, Elizabeth Merrill, Erin Hiebert, Joe Wegwert, Leslie Grabel, Patricia Roach, Sarah Shamah, Stacy Clark, Tami Butters, Yvonne Parent

Fountain Hills: Vincent Sepe

Gila Bend: Josie McClain

Gilbert: Andrea Barker, Cary Tyler, Heather Gossler, Heather Schlemmer, Kaylie Aguilar, Kim Klett, Leda Devlieger, Monica Darugna, Rebecca Garelli, Stefanie Campanella

Glendale: Erin Chisholm, Carlos Velazquez, Craig Lewis, Deanna Bakker, Electra Stafford, Galindo Jack, Jamie Prichard, Kari Vargas, Lisa Cantella, Maggie Malone, Melanie Cobos, Nick Friedman, Rachel Schmidt, Romy Griepp, Valerie Sun

Goodyear: Jill Helland, Catherine Barnett, Nikole Brasch, Susan Hennessy

Laveen: Miguel Ramirez, Nancy Schwartz

Litchfield Park: Melissa England

Mesa: Elisabeth Tanner, Marissa Felix, Quiana Washington, Robin Dodder, Andrea Box, Anica Erickson, Ann Marie Geair, Anne Greer, Christina Bustos, Christina Jameson, Claudia Bloom, Dave Medley, Jacqueline Tambone, Julie Quiroa, Kay Crittenden, Kelly Wright, Kisha Delgado, Michelle Lantz, Paul Kreutz, Quiana Washington, Rachael Clawson, Steve Munczek

Paradise Valley: Justin Brooks

Peoria: Paige DeHaan, Breanna Malmos, Chelsea Charlton, Kaitlin Griffin, Melissa Girmscheid, Stephanie Churchill, Tina Sanders

Phoenix: Karen Hawkes, Susannah Keita, Natasha Alston, Kareem Neal, Admaira Roman, Wilma Rice, Tom Moore, Kerrilee Wing, Sariah Winn, Nishta Mehra, Kelsey Knutson, Courtney Rath, Darcy Heath, Kelly Cutler, David Lee Carlson, Jay Barbuto, Nicolas Culley, Alexandra Zamarron, Alicia Messing, Carla Garcia, Claudia Chiang, Erika James, Ginette Rossi, Janel Vaughan, Judith Robbins, Kelley Gribuski, Kristin Cervantez, Lauren Gaston, Lauren Spenceley-Sheoran, Michelle Schulke, Mike Sarraino, Rodrigo Palacios-Tenorio, Roger Baker, Sarah Bennett, Shana Hornstein, Susan Rego, Tara La O’Garcia

“The thought of censoring the truth of our history in this country at this time in our nation is horrifying. I will not be silenced by frightened white supremist[s],” wrote Karen Hawkes of Phoenix. “We cannot heal and move forward without knowing and understanding the roots of our institutionalized racism.”

Queen Creek: Joanna Auclair

Sahuarita: Dawn Demps

Scottsdale: Louis Sugar, Carole Ancona, Jan Kelly, Kandice Nelson, Mariah Moritz

Sun City West: Harriet Luckman, Stacy Green

Surprise: Jon Alfred, Paula Auble

Tempe: Kelsey McAlarney, Sharon Hansen, Bernadette Lissner, Carol Johnson, Cortney Milanovich, Danielle Degain, Deanna Smith, Dylan Wince, Haylee Newton, Jacob Bley, Jo Anne Craig, Lawdon Haglund, Leslie Ringer, Maren Mueller, Valerie Craig

“All Americans deserve to know the truth about our racist, white supremacist history of violence against BIPOC. I should not have had to have been 66 years old before I confronted this history for the first time,” wrote Sharon Hanson of Tempe. “Although the sins of my forebears are not my personal sins, the current racist situation America IS my problem. America will never move forward until, like Germany, we hold up our ugly past, learn what actually happened (not some whitewashed version of the truth), and endeavor to make reckoning with it all.”

Tucson: Susan Whorley, Katie Vera, Arthur Almquist, Megan Carney, Isabella Porchas, Margaret Chaney, Amber Leeson-Curtis, Lee Foulkes, Peter Blankfield, Julie Elvick, Victoria Bodanyi, Meghan Hipple, Alyssa Cossey, Jenna Brito, Andrea Espinoza, Elizabeth Valenzuela, Jessica Williams, Kari Warner, Kati Gilson, Rita Verdin, Ryan Knst, Adrian Provenzano, Alexandra Mazur, Alison Climes, Ann Marie Palmer, Avis Judd, Barbara Wayne, Brieanne Buttner, Caryl Crowell, Chelsea Forer, Chris Parisoff, Corey Knox, Corina Ontiveros, Devon Holden, Edvina Velagic, Eric Donaghy, Farid Matuk, Jennifer Mullet, Jennifer Quigly, Carole Edelsky, Jessica Bernal Meija, Jim Byrne, Kate Van Roekel, Wes Oswald, Kevan Kiser-Chuc, Kristel Ann Foster, Linda Archuleta, Manuel Palacios-Fest, Mario Garcia, Natalie Taylor, Nataly Reed, Peter Blankfield, Rachael Eggebeen, Rebecca Kristensen, Sheila Wilenksy, Steven Ernsky, Tom McElhaney

“I will not let the white establishment silence me. I will continue to teach an accurate account of history,” wrote Jenna Brito of Tucson. “This includes teaching about how racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc is deeply embedded into our society and how it continues to shape out [sic] experiences.”

Vail: Drew Fellows

Yuma: Dorothy Higuera

At least one Arizona educator didn’t identify their city or town: Andrea Barrera.

Some school districts and politicians contend that Critical Race Theory isn’t taught in schools — but that’s not what educators have to say. One of the educators who signed the pledge, School District of Philadelphia Special Education Compliance Manager (SPECM) Aisha Eubanks, explained that educators use alternative names for Critical Race Theory when teaching it. Eubanks works at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

“It is not Critical Race Theory in K-12 it is called being Culturally Responsive and teaching truth-based history, which is based on systemic racism,” wrote Eubanks. “I plan to continue doing just that.”

In addition to Culturally Responsive Education (CRE), sometimes called Culturally Responsive Instruction (CRI), other names for Critical Race Theory include social-emotional learning (SEL) and comprehensive equity plans.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Ducey Signs Bill Establishing Election Audit Committee But Stays Mum On Special Session Option

Ducey Signs Bill Establishing Election Audit Committee But Stays Mum On Special Session Option

By Terri Jo Neff |

A new committee tasked with reviewing Cyber Ninjas’ findings of the Senate’s ongoing audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 general election is one of the provisions signed into law last week when Gov. Doug Ducey put his signature on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget bills.

Formation of the Special Committee on the Election Audit was included by Senate President Karen Fann in an amendment to SB1819, one of the 11 budget bills. The committee will run through Jan. 1, 2022 and be made up of Democrats and Republicans who are members of the current Senate Government Committee.

The purpose of the committee, according to the new state law, is to recommend to the senate president “the appropriate legislative action based on the findings of the audit, including a call for a special session of the legislature to implement the special committee’s recommendations.”

The Fann amendment also provides leverage for pressuring Ducey to call a special session if it appears new election-related legislation is needed which cannot wait until next January’s regular session. Without an assured two-thirds vote margin in either chamber, the governor is the only option for calling lawmakers back into session to pass laws to take effect before the 2022 primary in August.

Ducey, however, has been reticent on the subject, leaving it to a spokesman to comment.

“We will wait and see what the committee recommends,” C.J. Karamargin said last month about the possibility of an election-related special session.

One reason a special session to address the election audit is so important to Republicans is that the majority of the election reform and election integrity bills introduced by GOP lawmakers during the regular session were either watered down or did not pass. And the main reason for that was the ongoing feud between Sens. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-LD23) and Kelly Townsend (R-LD16).

Ugenti-Rita chaired the influential Senate Committee on Government. She and Townsend butted heads throughout the session, often over the fact Ugenti-Rita refused to allow the committee to consider some of Townsend’s bills.

Then during the last week of the session, the women took turns voting against each other’s election bills, both of which contained reforms many Republican voters supported.

Senate Committee Passes Revised Sex Ed Parental Rights Bill

Senate Committee Passes Revised Sex Ed Parental Rights Bill

By B. Hamilton |

On Thursday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, in a party line vote, approved HB 2035, legislation that will strengthen parental input in the Sex Education curriculum offered to their children. A previous version of the bill, SB 1456, passed this year, but was vetoed by Governor Doug Ducey.

According to Sen. Nancy Barto, sponsor of SB 1456, the issues brought forth in the governor’s veto formed the basis of the new version, sponsored by Rep. Gail Griffin. Griffin’s bill was turned into what is known as a “striker” or “strike-all-amendment” in order to attached the modified language of SB 1456.

HB 2305 “restricts sex education instruction for pupils in kindergarten through grade 4. Modifies requirements relating to sex education instruction, including curricula approval and parental permission and notification procedures.” In keeping with the governor’s recommendation, the specifies that age and grade appropriate classroom instruction on child assault awareness and abuse prevention is not prohibited.

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Arizona Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Parental Permission for All Sex Ed Curriculum

Ducey Vetoes Sex Ed Bill, Issues Executive Order Instead

The bill does not prohibit or dictate any curriculum in grades 5-12; it “merely ensures that parents may opt their children into instruction on human sexuality,” according to supporters.

On April 20, 2021, the Governor issued an Executive Order related to sex education, which among other matters, requires a public review process to select sex education curricula, directs schools to make any approved sex education curricula available online and in-person and allows parents to review the materials before opting their child in to sex education courses, according to the legislative record.