Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Redistricting -- What does the AIRC have to say about AG investigation?

Have you have been following the public hearings?  If so, you have heard tea partiers complain about Arizona Independent Redistricting Commissioner Jose Herrera stating in last Wednesday's business meeting that he will not cooperate with the Attorney General's investigation into possible public meeting and procurement violations. 

However, on Friday, the AIRC sent out a press release (that I only received this evening).


Redistricting Panel Cooperates with AG’s Office on Probe
PHOENIX (Aug. 5, 2011) – The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has been, and will continue, cooperating with the state attorney general as he pursues his open meeting law and procurement investigation. Chairman Colleen Coyle Mathis stated: “In order to instill public confidence in the process and to put this matter behind us, I look forward to answering questions and will continue to fully cooperate with the inquiry.”
Although the attorney general suggested in an Aug. 4 news release that the commissioners must testify at his request, the statute he cites also indicates that he is not entitled to question commissioners with respect to privileged matters. It also applies only to open meeting law investigations and permits inquiries only into matters that are relevant to the open meeting law investigation and supported by reasonable cause.
In its first business meeting since the attorney general announced his investigation, the commission met Aug. 3 and received a briefing from its counsel, in open session, regarding the scope of the legislative privilege enjoyed by each commissioner as established by the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2003. (Video is available at azredistricting.org.) The meeting, however, was cut short because the commission had to leave for a previously scheduled public hearing. It is scheduled to continue its discussion with counsel on the attorney general's inquiry in a meeting the week of Aug. 15.
The commission first learned of the attorney general's inquiry on July 21, when his office announced it in a news release. During the past two weeks, the commission's attorneys have been in regular communication with the Attorney General's Office in an effort to work together to resolve this matter as quickly as possible – but within the scope of the law and respecting the commission's constitutional role. During this same time, the commissioners conducted 15 public hearings throughout the state about the redistricting process. There has been no delay or "stonewalling" by the commission. It will continue to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to establish new legislative and congressional districts while working to address the attorney general's concerns.
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The press release makes important points.  Horne's press release from Thursday is just more bluster.  
My office will be relentless in pursuing the facts, and no commissioner will succeed in attempting to hide relevant facts.”
If Horne was operating from a position giving him legitimate legal leverage, he would not have had to try to intimidate the AIRC with a pissing contest in the press.  

Also on Friday, at the Phoenix hearing, I learned that some public records will be released, likely in a few days, that will portray the AIRC in an unflattering and potentially embarrassing light.  However, even if that proves true, unless those documents constitute evidence of violations of law, the ramifications will be limited to fanning the flames of tea party frustration.

The coming week will, no doubt, be interesting even though the first round of public hearings has been completed.  The next meeting of the AIRC is tentatively scheduled for Monday, August 15.  At that time, Strategic Telemetry plans to submit the first step in the actual mapping process -- Grid Maps.

A good deal of public testimony up to this point has contained pleas from vested interests for various towns, counties and regions to "keep our district intact."  However, the Grid Maps are required by the Arizona Constitution, as amended by voters, for the specific purpose of wiping the slate clean.  All Congressional and legislative districts will be drawn from scratch, by making adjustments to the Grid Maps.

We've seen and heard plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth already, mainly by GOP and tea party interests fearing the loss of their supermajority in the state legislature.  I suspect, however, that "we ain't seen nothing yet."

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