The Daily Agenda: Cyber Ninjas still won't turn over records
Let everyone audit the audit already ... The mapmaking process reaches a critical stage ... And Sal DiCiccio picks a fight about NFL buses.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann is threatening to sue the Cyber Ninjas for refusing to hand over public records to the Senate, which is ultimately responsible for the ongoing breach of public records laws.
This is all a little complicated, but the short version is, Fann hired Cyber Ninjas to do the audit and specified in the contract they don’t have to comply with public records requests. But the courts have consistently said the Senate does have to provide the records from the audit, and that just because the Senate doesn’t have the documents, that doesn’t let senators off the hook.
So the Senate needs the Cyber Ninjas to give them documents to comply with a court order, but the ninjas have refused.
We’re gonna take a minute to dwell on the sweet, sweet irony here. Fann hired an inexperienced, incompetent firm to do her audit, indemnified them from having to show their work to the public, repeatedly fought the press to keep the records secret, lost at every turn, couldn’t prove any fraud, and is now powerless to get the records from Cyber Ninjas as the court threatens her with contempt, possibly even jail time.
It must be a #BonesDay, because we bet the county supervisors are feeling good.
On Tuesday, Fann fired off letters to Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors to try to cover her ass and show she’s attempting to get the records after the Senate and the Cyber Ninjas have seemingly been at an impasse since the last round of legal battles.
“Cyber Ninjas’ inadequate response to my September 14 request places it in material breach of the (contract) as construed by the court, and the Senate reserves its rights to pursue any and every applicable claim or remedy to enforce the agreement’s provisions,” Fann wrote.
Rather than following the law, top ninja Doug Logan lashed out at the Arizona Republic.
Fellow Substacker Nick Martin spotted Logan’s Telegram post, which called on the legion of very reasonable audit cult members to “politely” reach out to American Oversight, the left-leaning advocacy group that sued, and the Republic, which also sued in but a different case.
But here’s the kicker: Logan wants his devotees to submit public records requests to the newspaper. That really gets to the heart of just how absurd this has all become and how ignorant Logan is of the law he and the Senate have refused to follow.
Newspapers are private companies and not government agencies, so they are not subject to public records requests. Cyber security firms posing as auditors normally wouldn’t be either. But when Cyber Ninjas took on a government contract to do a government function for the government — on behalf of the people — the rules changed.
They’re no longer simply a bad cyber security firm working in the private sector — they’re a bad cyber security firm conducting an audit of the people’s ballots in the Maricopa County election on behalf of the state Senate.
And the people have a right to audit the audit.
You also can’t request public records from us because we aren’t the government or funded by the government, but we do love helping people request public records for government business. If you want to support our prolific records requesting or the stories that come from it, you can pay $7 per month to become a paid subscriber.
A small, seemingly unimportant, correction on one of Arizona Mirror reporter Jeremy Duda’s many excellent articles about the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission caused a stir about partisan map-making.
The correction wasn’t Duda’s fault, and it wasn’t even a big one.
It said that the Southern Arizona Leadership Council didn’t actually draft a Republican-leaning legislative district map for southern Arizona that became a point of contention at last week’s IRC meeting, rather the group simply supported that map. (Republican Commissioner David Mehl had said SALC “submitted” it.)
Whatever, right? But if you make Duda write a correction, you can be damned sure he’s gonna get to the bottom of who misled him and why.
Turns out, the map was drafted by Anna Clark, a Republican operative in Tucson and the manager of Republican state Rep. Walt Blackman’s congressional campaign. Then, Ted Maxwell, head of SALC, sent the map to Mehl (who just happens to have founded the powerful business group), who brought it forward in the 11th hour and created the stir.
Maxwell told Duda he just found the map on the IRC website, liked what he saw and forwarded it to Mehl. Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller accused SALC of “launder(ing) a partisan map into the redistricting process.” (Every map is partisan.)
It’s worth noting, by the way, that Tucson Mayor Regina Romero sent a letter along with a list of proposed changes to southern Arizona’s congressional maps, and nobody batted an eye about partisan influence.
Essentially, Maxwell argued that Pima County needs at least one Republican-friendly district within the county limits, as Republicans control the legislature and the area has things it needs done.
As it is, Tucsonans essentially have to turn to Republicans from outside the city or county to do their bidding at the Capitol, and most of them consistently use liberal Tucson and Pima County as a political punching bag.
It’s map crunch time: The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is expected to finalize its draft maps today. From there, a 30-day public comment period begins. The drafts are just that — drafts — and the public’s input will weigh into the final adopted maps. This process is A Big Fucking Deal, as the president once said. It happens only every 10 years and sets the stage for political battles to come. If you’ve been tuning it out, it’s time to tune in. The Republic’s Ray Stern has a good primer to get you caught up.
The representative shuffle: Lobbyists have a few new lawmakers to buy dinner for. Three open positions in the Arizona House of Representatives were filled Wednesday: Republicans Neal Carter and Teresa Martinez were appointed by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to seats previously held by Frank Pratt (Legislative District 8) and Bret Roberts (Legislative District 11), respectively. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors selected Democrat Christian Solorio for the Legislative District 30 Senate seat vacated by Raquel Terán, who moved to the Arizona Senate after Tony Navarrete resigned after being charged for child molestation.
If you don’t know your district, start here: This is a lot of changes at once, and we’re aware that some of our readers might not know who their state representatives are in the first place. If you need a refresher, head to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission’s district locator and punch in your address to find your congressional, legislative and county supervisor district (though it seems to have trouble with city districts — here’s Phoenix’s district locator). To find your state lawmakers, check the legislature’s roster. It always helps to tell politicians that you’re their constituent if you reach out to them for help or to share your opinions.
It takes more than a newsletter to pay rent in Phoenix: Hank wrote a piece for Politico Magazine on U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s ambitions at the statehouse and how they inform her position in Washington. He would’ve preferred the headline “For Sinema, Chaos is a Ladder,” but sometimes we aren’t our own bosses. (And yes, while we’re on the topic, we did hear she wore a denim vest while presiding over the Senate. The nerve! Will people be dressing as Sinema for Halloween?)
If at first you don’t succeed, keep arguing: Attorney General Mark Brnovich is continuing his throw-spaghetti-at-wall legal strategy to try to fend off the forthcoming federal vaccine mandates. This time, he’s arguing the mandate can’t go into place because the vaccines weren’t properly tested. And no, he won’t disclose whether he’s vaccinated — his spokeswoman, Katie Conner, told Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer that such a question was “inappropriate.”
It was all a big accident: The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality wants to take over enforcement of coal ash disposal rather than let the feds handle it, and they’re asking for control at the request of utilities that burn coal. An initial proposal for a state takeover also included, allegedly by mistake, a provision that would prohibit people from filing lawsuits against utilities over violations, the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger and Ryan Randazzo report.
Company with tons of money wants more of it: Arizona Public Service might sue the Arizona Corporation Commission if commissioners don’t let them raise electric rates, Randazzo reports. In particular, the utility said it wants part of its money back on environmental modifications it made to the Four Corners Power Plant, or the commission can expect to be served papers. The Corporation Commission is wonky as all hell, but these rate cases affect you directly: They affect how much you pay for your monthly electric bills.
Did not know these funds existed: A plan to provide some COVID-19 relief funds to airport restaurants at Sky Harbor International Airport might not get money out fast enough to businesses that need it, the Federal Aviation Administration warned the city. The plan needs to be approved by the FAA, or the city won’t get the $19.2 million in funds, reports the Republic’s Jen Fifield. (If anyone knows of any documentation of all the various federal pandemic funds flowing into Arizona at all levels of government, please point us to it — we’re trying to string something together.)
Never email: Phoenix Children’s Hospital inadvertently emailed employees who received an exemption to its vaccination requirement without blind-copying the recipients, essentially showing which employees weren’t vaccinated. And now they’re being sued by some employees for that, who are represented by none other than election denier Alexander Kolodin, reports AZFamily’s Jason Barry.
New job alert: President Joe Biden nominated Gary M. Restaino to be the U.S. Attorney for Arizona. Restaino has served as an assistant U.S. attorney here since 2003. The appointment awaits confirmation from the U.S. Senate.
Keep an eye out for more details: One the Jan. 6 insurrectionists from Arizona, Micajah Joel Jackson, plans to take a plea deal, though it’s not clear what’s in the actual plea offer yet, reports the Republic’s Anne Ryman.
Like Cher or Madonna: The Arizona audit had an entire cast of characters, but, not to be outdone, Wisconsin’s GOP election review has a lady named “Carol.” No last name, just Carol. Not clear who her boss is, she’s just Carol.
Arizona provides all kinds of tax credits that people or companies who pay taxes here can claim. You can get credits for contributing to charities or school tuition organizations or buying a solar water heater or helping foster kids. The amount of income tax credits claimed by individual taxpayers in Arizona keeps going up (and so does Arizona’s population): It went from $649 million in fiscal year 2020 to nearly $782 million in fiscal year 2021, a new report on the tax credits from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows. (Thanks to Beth Lewallen’s Twitter for flagging the report — as always, we recommend following her for near-constant legislative tidbits).
In the dumbest feud in recent memory (no easy feat here), Phoenix City Council member Sal DiCiccio picked a fight with Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone over, basically, traffic.
DiCiccio got mad about police escorting a handful of buses full of “special people” through an intersection at 24th Street and Camelback, calling it “sick privilege.” It turned out the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was escorting the Houston Texans, the visiting NFL team playing the Cardinals, from the airport to their hotel. And it’s a practice that’s been going on for more than a decade that helps several large buses maneuver quickly through towns where the home team’s fans might not be very kind, Penzone explained in a sharp letter to DiCiccio.
“In my estimation, the time allocated to your inconvenience was similar to, or less than, the time you spent complaining on your social network platforms. When I calculate that time spent and the time I am now spending to respond to your petty complaint, I recognize the taxpayers deserve more from our time,” Penzone wrote to DiCiccio.
DiCiccio, not one to back down from a fight with a guy he is not the boss of in any way, claims that if he sees another escort like this in his district, he “will personally stop the Convoy and call 911 for creating a hazard on our streets.” Doesn’t seem like that will help with traffic, either, Sal!
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meets today at 9:30 a.m. to likely finalize draft maps. You can find the agenda and streaming info here.
The Arizona Capitol Times will host a discussion of civic engagement and elections today at 8 a.m. You can watch it on Zoom here.
Kochs Off Campus will hold a National Kochbusters Day of Action protesting the University of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom at 4:30 p.m. at the Speedway and Campbell intersection in Tucson.
The public records ignorance displayed by Cyber Ninjas is both laughable and infuriating. And I love your reporting on this and other local political matters. I wish your brand of reporting was a much more widely followed model in other states.