Arizona Supreme Court allows release of Senate audit records

Sep 14, 2021, 4:06 PM | Updated: 5:05 pm

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an effort by the state Senate to keep secret records of its ongoing review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County that are in the possession of the contractors conducting the recount.

The high court without comment rejected the appeal filed after an appeals court and trial court both ruled the documents are public records that must be released. The court also dissolved a stay on the appeals court ruling it put in place on Aug. 24 so it could review the record and decide whether to accept the appeal.

The Arizona Court of Appeals had ruled that the documents sought by the watchdog group American Oversight detailing how the recount and audit are being conducted are public and must be turned over.

Republicans who control the Senate have tried for months to keep secret how their contractors are conducting the recount. They argued that because the records are maintained by Senate contractors, they were not subject to public records law and that legislative immunity applies. But the appeals court in its Aug. 19 ruling rejected that argument.

The court said the main contractor, Florida company Cyber Ninjas, was subject to the records law because it was performing a core government function that the Senate farmed out.

“Allowing the legislature to disregard the clear mandate of the (public records law) would undermine the integrity of the legislative process and discourage transparency, which contradicts the purpose of both the immunity doctrine and the (law),” acting presiding Judge Maria Elena Cruz wrote for the three-judge panel.

“The requested records are no less public records simply because they are in the possession of a third party, Cyber Ninjas,” Cruz wrote later in the ruling.

A spokesman for Cyber Ninjas, Rod Thomson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Senate spokesman Mike Philipsen.

It is unclear when the records will actually be released. There is a previously scheduled status conference hearing set for Thursday before the trial court judge who issued the original order.

The appeals court ruling came in a case filed by American Oversight that is fighting for transparency in the election recount and upheld a Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s ruling. That judge also ordered the Senate to turn over audit records it held, and they were released on Aug. 31.

“Arizonans can look forward to much needed transparency, even if it may reveal gross attacks on democracy itself,” Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said in a statement.

The unprecedented partisan recount and review of election results in the state’s most populous county was prompted by former President Donald Trump’s loss in the state and his contention without evidence that he lost in Arizona and other battleground states because of fraud.

Senate Republicans issued subpoenas to Maricopa County for all 2020 ballots, the machines that counted them and other data in the state’s most populated county.

The materials were given to contractors with little to no election experience for what Senate President Karen Fann calls a “forensic audit.” Election experts say the 2020 election was secure and well-run, and the contractors are using bizarre and unreliable procedures. Maricopa County has refused further participation.

The results of the audit and hand recount are expected to be handed over to the Senate at any time. But there have been repeated delays. The Senate then plans to review what is expected to be a three-volume report before it is released to the public.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday also rejected an appeal in another public records case involving the Senate election audit. In that case, Cyber Ninjas and the Senate were sued for failing to release records by the company that owns the Arizona Republic newspaper. Cyber Ninjas wanted the case moved to a different trial court judge, but under pandemic rules issued by Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, the automatic right to ask for a different judge was suspended.

Cyber Ninjas argued that denying it the ability to seek a new judge improperly deprived it of a “valuable substantive right.” The high court without comment declined to consider a challenge to its own order, although two of seven justices would have heard the case.

___

Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A Bed Bath & Beyond sign is shown in Mountain View, Calif., May 9, 2012. Shares in Bed Bath ...
Associated Press

Bed Bath & Beyond tumbles after influential investor exits

NEW YORK (AP) — The newest meme stock on Wall Street, Bed Bath & Beyond, is tumbling even further in after-hours trading Thursday after a high-profile activist investor confirmed that’s he’s bailed out of the stock. Ryan Cohen, the co-founder of Chewy who helped ignite a couple of meme stocks to jaw-dropping heights, confirmed in […]
15 hours ago
The Trump Organization's former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg leaves from court, Thursd...
Associated Press

What’s next for Trump Organization after Weisselberg plea?

NEW YORK (AP) — The numbers guy did the math: Allen Weisselberg — a longtime loyal lieutenant to Donald Trump — could have gotten years in prison if he went to trial and failed to beat tax evasion allegations. But if he agreed to testify in an upcoming trial of the former president’s company, he […]
15 hours ago
FILE - This June 23, 2011, file booking photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows James "Wh...
Associated Press

Justice Dept.: 3 men charged in Whitey Bulger’s killing

BOSTON (AP) — Three men, including a Mafia hitman, have been charged in the killing of notorious Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger in a West Virginia prison, the Justice Department said Thursday. The charges against Fotios “Freddy” Geas, Paul J. DeCologero and Sean McKinnon come nearly four years after Bulger’s killing, which raised questions […]
15 hours ago
FILE - Opera tenor Placido Domingo attends an awards ceremony in the Royal Theatre in Madrid, Spain...
Associated Press

Placido Domingo’s name comes up in Argentina sex sect probe

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Opera star Placido Domingo’s name has appeared in an investigation of a sect-like organization in Argentina that also had U.S. offices and whose leaders have been charged with crimes, including sexual exploitation. Domingo, the Spanish opera singer who has faced accusations of sexual harassment from numerous women over the past […]
15 hours ago
Associated Press

Kansas City police: Toddler dies with drugs in system

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman has been charged after her 2-year-old son was found dead in a home strewn with apparent drugs and drug paraphernalia, prosecutors announced Thursday. Michaela Chism, 36, was charged with two felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child, who police found dead on Wednesday, the […]
15 hours ago
In this photo provided by Ken Mauldin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers load a roughly 400-poun...
Associated Press

Colorado homeowner emptied pistol to kill bear that broke in

DENVER (AP) — Ken Mauldin was jolted awake last weekend with his wife screaming incessantly in their split level home in Colorado’s mountain town of Steamboat Springs where their three children were sleeping one floor below. Then she yelled: “There’s a bear in the house!” Kelly Mauldin had just been awakened by the couple’s barking […]
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Arizona Supreme Court allows release of Senate audit records