Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, August 15, 2011

Redistricting -- Open Meeting issues? -- UPDATED

This morning, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission convened in Casa Grande to receive an update from legal counsel on Attorney General Horne's investigation into possible Open Meeting and procurement violations, to receive legal advice and to give direction to counsel.

Four of the five commissioners attended.  Because of a previously identified, unavoidable schedule conflict, Commissioner Rick Stertz was absent.  He will be briefed on the situation seperately.

AIRC Counsel Mary O'Grady reported in open session that the AG had received reports of potential violations and had sent an "investigative demand" to interview all five commissioners.  The demand also said certain related documents must turned over to him.  In addition to the demands, pursuant to a request from AIRC counsel, the AG sent copies to O'Grady of complaints Horne had received.

McNulty asked if the documents (citizen reports of possible violations) received from the AG were public. O'Grady said her understanding is that yes, they are public records.

When asked what the reports consisted of, O'Grady said one made reference to how the Commission had "spent a lot of time in executive session during the procurement process." Others included general reference to allegations of Open Meeting Law violations, but nothing specific. Some reports alleged conflicts of interest and express concern about Strategic Telemetry's work for Democrats in the past.  McNulty asked if they were essentially the same as what we've seen in emails and comments we've heard in public meetings.  O'Grady replied in the affirmative.

Freeman asked for clarification of the purpose of the executive session. He understood it was for a question and answer interaction between Commissioners and counsel.  O'Grady indicated that based on the agenda items, the executive session could also include discussion of the issues, but that no action, other than giving direction to counsel would be taken.

After nearly two hours, the AIRC reconvened in public session.  McNulty made a motion to authorize counsel to proceed, pursuant to ARS § 38-431.07 B. That statute states:
A public body shall not expend public monies to employ or retain legal counsel to provide legal services or representation to the public body or any of its officers in any legal action commenced pursuant to any provisions of this article, unless the public body has authority to make such expenditure pursuant to other provisions of law and takes a legal action at a properly noticed open meeting approving such expenditure prior to incurring any such obligation or indebtedness.
Herrera seconded the motion.  In discussion on the motion, Freeman expressed his concern that this motion not be considered carte blanche approval in the event other, thus far unforeseen, situations arise.  The motion was amended to narrow the scope to this preliminary investigation as indicated in the AG's initial press release, but NOT to relate to any potential future enforcement action. Other discussion on it suggested they believed the motion was not necessary but "just in case," they would be covered.

Freeman said he does NOT support this decision today because it appeared the AIRC was authorizing counsel to act if the AG does initiate enforcement action.  He mentioned that it could entail substantial expenditure of funds if that happens, and if it comes to that, he wants to be able to consider proposed budgets on potential legal action.

Herrera suggested Freeman could make his own motion, if he doesn't like the one that was being discussed.  Freeman, saying that the discussion was on the motion that had been made and seconded, did not address Herrera's suggestion. After the 3-1 vote (Freeman voting "nay"), Herrera again posed the question to Freeman as to how differently the motion could have been made to garner Freeman's support.  Again deflecting the question, Freeman stated that he preferred to have the Chair run the meeting.

When I asked him about his concerns, after the meeting adjourned, Freeman said he might have been overly cautious.  It appears to me, however, that he wants time to figure out what his position will be if that eventuality occurs. 

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This afternoon, the AIRC published notice and an agenda for a second meeting to take place Wednesday afternoon. This is the only agenda item:

Report, legal advice and direction to counsel regarding Attorney General Inquiry.
The Commission may vote to go into executive session, which will not be open to the
public, for the purpose of obtaining legal advice (A.R.S. §38-431.03 (A) (3) and (4)).

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Because the reports from the AG are public records, I have requested copies.  When I receive them, I plan to post them for your review also.

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And SPEAKING of potential Open Meeting Law violations, the 2001 AIRC, though not necessarily caught in the act, and certainly not causing the kind of stir the current AIRC faces, clearly knew it had committed at least SEVEN violations.   I'm working on that for another post, hopefully within a day or two.

In the meantime, make your voices heard.  The tea party people, as INcredible as their claims are (and the claims ARE without credibility), are speaking up loud and... well, even though it's been quite a cacophony, the highly partisan AG Tom Horne has listened to them.

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Speaking of cacophony, the complaints His Partisanship, Tom Horne, bases his investigation on is embedded below.  Incidentally, in a previous post, I mentioned I had been told that unflattering information would be made public shortly after the Phoenix hearing. It appears that the Yellow Sheet is where those things were discussed.  But apparently, the largest newspapers in the state did not find the documents significant enough to report.  However, since the primary readership of the Yellow Sheet is made up of lobbyists and other paid subscribers (like state government agencies and officials... hint, GOP lawmakers like Andy(s) Tobin and Biggs), Tom Horne thinks the political GOSSIP sheet is grounds for an investigation.  As a practicing attorney, one would think that Horne would have a better idea what constitutes evidence, or even grounds for an investigation.  I'm not an attorney and even I can tell that partisan whining falls short of being reasonable grounds.

The documents upon which Horne initiated his partisan witchhunt can be found here.

If that still doesn't work and you'd still like to view the documents, send me an email at ArizonaEagletarian (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll see about sending it to you.

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