Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Redistricting -- what was really going on Friday?

During public comment, the last agenda item prior to adjournment, though more people supported the work of the Commission so far, several still criticized both the selection of Strategic Telemetry for mapping consultant work and Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis for an apparent omission on her application.

Some people have also posted comments on news websites and blogs related to both of these issues.  A commenter calling himself "johartz" cited Mathis' application as posted on Sonoran Alliance's website.

Johartz said he is a grad student and believes "there are legitimate grounds for concern RE Mathis."

Mrs. Mathis's husband was hardly a "volunteer" on Nancy Young Wright's 2010 Campaign,

1) He was a direct contributor to the campaign
2) He is the listed campaign Treasurer 
3) And he was also PAID for his accounting services on behalf of the campaign

Also, and probably where the conflict occurs, Mrs. Mathis failed to disclose her husband on her IRC application. (emphasis mine)

Johartz' comments echo those of many Friday at the Capitol and last week in Tucson. 

Now, what exactly WOULD constitute a conflict, if one were to exist in this situation?  Arizona Revised Statutes § 38-503 states, in pertinent part:

A. Any public officer or employee of a public agency who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any contract, sale, purchase or service to such public agency shall make known that interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from voting upon or otherwise participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such contract, sale or purchase.
B. Any public officer or employee who has, or whose relative has, a substantial interest in any decision of a public agency shall make known such interest in the official records of such public agency and shall refrain from participating in any manner as an officer or employee in such decision.

Not only does this statute spell out what constitutes a conflict of interest, it gives examples by way of exceptions in subsections C and D.

Now how do the facts measure against this standard?

In her prepared remarks read after yesterday's public comment period, Mathis stated that on question 6, whether she has any conflict of interest, she believes her answer of "No" to be correct.  Further, she acknowledged having inadvertently omitted mention of her husband in the attachment answering question 8.

Christopher H. Mathis' Linked In profile shows his employer as "Law Office of Christopher H. Mathis, P.L.C.  Mr. Mathis told me that his law practice focuses on estate planning.  Since he was not considered for a contract with the AIRC to provide legal services, there is apparently no conflict of interest.

Nowhere on the application is a person required to disclose the voter registration affiliation of her (or his) spouse.  My understanding is that the 2010 campaign for Legislative District 26 was completed well before Colleen Mathis was considered for appointment to the AIRC.  Can any reasonable person, therefore, conclude that Chris Mathis -- who performed campaign accounting work for Nancy Young Wright, a Democratic candidate for state representative -- would obtain any pecuniary benefit from any decision that his wife Colleen might make in her official capacity as AIRC chair? 


WHO first made the suggestion that Mathis should be removed from the Commission?  We may never know.  We can, however, speculate on HOW. And reasonably infer WHY.

In an April column, NY Times visual op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow showed how "birthers" use(d) sleight of hand to distract and deceive people about President Obama's birthplace and his religious faith.  Clearly, a similar tack has been taken to distract Arizonans.

In their book, Sleights of Mind, Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde describe "what the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions."

This book is the result of the authors’ yearlong, world-wide exploration of magic and how its principles apply to our behavior. Magic tricks fool us because humans have hardwired processes of attention and awareness that are hackable—a good magician uses your mind’s own intrinsic properties against you in a form of mental jujitsu.
The parallels between the birther controversy and the hubbub over Mathis' alleged conflicts of interest are evident.  The facts in Mathis' application controversy, and their reasonable interpretation, are abundantly clear.

Doug Cole, a longtime advisor to Republican Arizona governors and member of the screening committee told Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl that the better time to air such things would have been last year, when the commission was being formed. "If this truly was a concern of the public, they should have brought it to the commission," said Cole. "We're the first step in the process."

Republican AIRC Commissioner Rick Stertz told Arizona Capitol Times reporter Evan Wyloge, he hopes the issue can quickly be put to bed.

“I’m sick of Colleen (Mathis) sitting here, getting beat up,” Stertz said. “We have a lot of work to get done in a short amount of time, so that issue can hopefully go to rest.”

President Obama did release his long form birth certificate.  And AIRC Chair Colleen Mathis disclosed her husband's profession.  Neither act was terribly earthshaking.  Nor will either act satisfy all of the critics. 

At this point, however, there should be no question it is time to move beyond this controversy and onto the work at hand.


The Arizona Republic's Political Insider in today's issue addresses this subject:

What's good for the goose isn't good for the gander . . . Several people testified at last Friday's Independent Redistricting Commission that Chairwoman Colleen Coyle Mathis, a political independent, lied by omission because she never disclosed that her husband was the treasurer of a Democratic lawmaker's campaign.

The issue never bubbled up during the screening process.

But what did surface earlier this year were omissions by Richard Stertz on his application. Stertz answered "no" to questions inquiring whether he had paid all taxes when due and whether he had any court judgments filed against him. Records in Pima County showed otherwise, such as four court cases naming him on the losing side of legal actions, two federal tax liens and two overdue property-tax bills.

At the time the omissions came to light, Stertz said he felt he had filled out the application truthfully and called the omissions an "oversight." It didn't matter: Senate President Russell Pearce picked the Tucson businessman to fill the remaining GOP spot on the commission.
And no one has complained since . . . perhaps because they've been too busy combing through Mathis' materials to look at the other four commissioners.

1 comment:

  1. A person with a made up "open ID" name attempted to post a comment claiming he/she knew who "johartz" really is and naming a political figure with whom "johartz" has been associated. There was no other content to this person's comment. Because that comment was offensive and inappropriate, I deleted it rather than allowing it to publish.

    This is an example of why I screen comments before allowing them to post.

    I do NOT automatically delete comments that disagree with my viewpoint. And the comment in question did not necessarily take issue with my viewpoint.