Arizona GOP Senate leaders fire back after Maricopa County defies subpoena

Aug 3, 2021, 2:02 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen conduct...
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen conduct a hearing about the Maricopa election audit on July 15, 2021. (Arizona Capitol TV Screenshot)
(Arizona Capitol TV Screenshot)

PHOENIX – Arizona Senate Republican leaders fired back Tuesday at Maricopa County officials who a day earlier defied the lawmakers’ subpoena for election-related materials.

Senate President Karen Fann implied that the GOP-led governing board of Arizona’s largest county was falling into a trap.

“Build the case, set the trap, and boom the Maricopa lies will come back to haunt them,” she said in a tweet.

Fann’s social media post had a different tone than her statement released Monday via the Senate Republicans’ communications office.

“We are weighing our options for securing access to the routers and passwords and will make a thoughtful decision in due course after conferring with my staff, counsel and colleagues,” the statement said.

“We remain committed to ensuring election integrity as voter confidence is at the heart of what we set out to achieve in this endeavor. Our constituents deserve no less.”

Fann has previously stated that the aim of the audit she ordered is to restore faith in the election system and find ways to improve Arizona’s voting laws, not to reverse the 2020 result of President Joe Biden’s narrow victory over Donald Trump in Maricopa County and statewide.

However, many Trump supporters still see it as a step toward somehow invalidating the election and returning the former president to office.

In another GOP salvo Tuesday, Senate Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli called on Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2022, to get involved in the intraparty dispute that has festered over the course of the audit.

“Today I submitted a request for the Arizona attorney general to investigate the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for their failure to comply with subpoenas from the state Senate,” Borrelli said in a statement.

“The supervisors are acting as if they are above the law, and it is an insult to the citizens of our state.”

Brnovich’s office told KTAR News 92.3 FM it had received Borrelli’s request and was reviewing it.

On Monday, the Board of Supervisors responded defiantly to the subpoena issued a week earlier by Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen.

The July 26 subpoena gave the county one week to hand over network routers and traffic logs, envelopes from all mail-in ballots or images of them, certain voter registration records with change histories, and records related security breaches.

The county didn’t reject every subpoena request but made it clear the routers – which are used by multiple departments, including the sheriff’s office — were off limits because turning them over would be a major disruption to government operations and a security risk.

“The board has real work to do and little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land. Please finish whatever it is that you are doing and release whatever it is you are going to release,” Chairman Jack Sellers, one of four Republicans on the five-member Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, wrote in a letter accompanying Monday’s response to the subpoena.

The county also argued that the subpoena wasn’t even lawful because it was issued while the Senate was adjourned, among other reasons.

Cyber Ninjas and the other contractors Fann hired to conduct the election review said they need the requested materials to complete their final audit report. The contractors completed their hands-on work last week and returned the ballots and other remaining items to the county.

The report is expected to come out later this month, although the process has continued beyond every previous timeline.

The county says it complied with all legislative subpoenas to the extent it can legally and securely, giving the contractors all the information they need to complete their work.

“The reason you haven’t finished your ‘audit’ is because you hired people who have no experience and little understanding of how professional elections are run,” Sellers wrote.

Borrelli defended Fann and called for the Board of Supervisors to be more respectful.

“President Fann has handled this process professionally and she has tried to be diplomatic while dealing with the attacks and insults from the board,” Borelli said.

“Enough is enough! The level of disrespect and contempt from the supervisors toward Senate leadership and Arizona voters is appalling.”

Last week, Supervisor Bill Gates told KTAR News’ The Mike Broomhead Show that it would be up to the Senate to initiate legal proceedings over enforcement of the subpoena. It’s unclear what more the Senate can do at this point.

“Release your report and be prepared to defend any accusations of misdeeds in court,” Sellers wrote. “It’s time to move on.”

Last week, Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan revealed that prominent supporters of Trump’s movement to cast doubt on the 2020 results raised about $5.6 million from unknown donors to cover audit costs. The Senate’s deal with Cyber Ninjas was for just $150,000 plus select expenses.

Logan released the fundraising information to comply with a request from the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Fann initially authorized the audit, which started in April, after winning a legal battle with the county over access to voting equipment and about 2.1 million ballots from the November election.

Before the judge ruled in the Fann’s favor in February, the Senate failed in an effort to hold the county supervisors in contempt over their lack of compliance, which could have landed them behind bars.

Sen. Paul Boyer was the sole Republican to vote against the contempt resolution, joining the Senate’s 14 Democrats and creating a 15-15 tie.

Another contempt effort seems unlikely to succeed because not only is the Legislature out of session, but at least one other GOP senator, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, has joined Boyer in publicly denouncing the audit proceedings.

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Arizona GOP Senate leaders fire back after Maricopa County defies subpoena