The big issue today was (and still is) the hiring of an executive director.
At 5pm today, the commission was to meet, likely only in executive session, to discuss the threat of litigation from the Arizona Capitol Times regarding the AIRC decision to not release the names and applications of executive director prospects who didn't make the short list (for interview).
Previously, the Arizona Eagletarian wondered why the Capitol Times was pressing the issue before the short list was even released. A source today noted a precedent from the early 1990s involving a hiring by the Arizona Board of Regents. At that time, the court apparently ruled applicant information must be made public. This source believes it is important to explore whether any of the commissioners has had contact or any relationship with any of the applicants, not limited to those making the short list.
There appears to be evidence that Ray Bladine was encouraged to apply by one of the commissioners. Who else and how much more behind the scenes wrangling has taken place is yet to be discovered.
EARLIER in the day -- the commission convened at 10am to give another go at setting the foundation so they can get to the business of redistricting.
No decision was made on office space rental (it will again be on the agenda for the next meeting).
Commissioner McNulty inquired about commissioners having IRC email addresses. None of the commissioners asked about public records law implications. Should those be considered before any email addresses are set up?
Buck Forst, with ADOA (Dept of Administration) presented quotes (one each) on options to rent and to purchase equipment to provide live streaming online video of commission meetings. One vendor provided a quote to lease the equipment for $1,311/month. A different vendor proposed to provide the equipment for purchase at $13,907.
Commissioner Stertz said he had done his own research and found a range of $12K -- $20K for a mobile unit to do the job. The quotes Forst obtained did not include the option for wireless microphones, which would likely cost an additional $2K. The commission voted to authorize the purchase with a cost ceiling of $16K to include wireless mics.
A great deal of irritation, including Freeman "venting his frustrations" (his words) became apparent when they arrived at the matter of RFPs. Requests for proposals are in the works both for legal and mapping consultants. This is where we get to the heart of the matter.
The bulk of the time and money the commission spends will revolve around these consultants and what the consultants produce. Again, the first IRC spent roughly $6Million. The current year appropriation is $ 1/2 Million and the budget recently signed by Gov. Brewer provides an additional $3Million.
The RFP for legal consultants was released publicly this morning. Prior to the start of this morning's meeting, Stertz said he expects the RFP for the mapping consultant(s) to be released on or about next Thursday (April 21st).
In a previous meeting, Asst AG Jim Barton had recommended adhering to the state procurement code. He said this would minimize risk of litigation in the future. Stertz said he didn't recall having that discussion. Freeman didn't recall the commission officially making that decision.
What's the big deal? Well, according to the procurement code, the commissioners may not begin reviewing responses to the RFPs until after the closing date (April 28 for the one released today).
Conventional "wisdom" is that the wording of Prop 106 (which amended the Arizona Constitution to authorize the Independent Redistricting process) allows the IRC leeway to bypass the procurement code.
So, on the BIG money items, the Republican commissioners expressed irritation and frustration with having to adhere to practices designed to safeguard taxpayers and taxpayer funds.
The frustration regarding time pressures is understandable. But what are the ramifications of foregoing the procurement code?
For starters, if the commissioners begin reviewing RFPs from lawyers (for lawyer services), what's to stop them from calling one of those bidders to suggest how they might want to modify/amend their proposal? The possibilities are endless. Think Fife Symington and Project Slim.
On this issue, I do NOT question the motives of any of the commissioners. The fact is, at this stage of the bidding process, motives are only negligibly relevant. Even with the most noble of motives, the margin for error, especially if lawful measures are taken to bypass the procurement code, is enormous.
Compared to the $99.5Million dollar "oops" that Joe Arpaio now has to deal with, $3.5Million is almost immaterial. BUT -- we're looking BACK on Arpaio's ginormous mistake with an opportunity to PREVENT things from going wrong before they happen with the AIRC.
Another BUT -- IF this IRC messes up the legal services and/or mapping consultant contracts, THIS is where disaster can sneak in between the cracks. What happens over the next few months will undoubtedly impact Arizona's political landscape (directly) for at least the next 10 years.
I fully advocate giving Commissioners Stertz and Freeman the benefit of the doubt on what they expressed this morning about procuring consultant services. But I would rather not see room for backroom dealing (gerrymandering) be given ANY place in the process, now or anytime in the life of this particular commission.
The next two IRC meetings are scheduled for 11am, Wednesday April 20th and 1pm, Monday May 2nd respectively. They will be in Phoenix. The agenda for next Wednesday's meeting should be posted by Monday morning (April 18th).
Commissioner Stertz also added that he had received feedback from people in southern Arizona hoping to have some of the meetings (like every third or fourth meeting) in Tucson. I do know that there were a handful of Tucson Republican activists at last Friday's meeting (in Tucson).
Candidate profiles for the five executive director short list prospects were provided (with contact info redacted). Those candidates are: Ray Bladine, David Luhan, Kristina Gomez, Geoffrey Gonsher and Manuel Cisneros.
I haven't yet reviewed those documents. If readers would like to look at them, send me an email at ArizonaEagletarian@gmail.com. I can scan and send you an image file with them.