Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Today's Redistricting Commission meeting

There's not a whole lot to report from today's meeting of the Independent Redistricting Commission at the Carnegie Library in Phoenix.

The commission hopes to hire an executive director by the end of April.  Commissioner Mathis said she wanted, if possible to accelerate that process. But Dept. of Administration personnel specialists discussed the importance of checking references of candidates, a process that typically takes at least two weeks. Commissioner Stertz said he wanted to be involved in advising ADOA on candidates.

Asst. Attorney General Jim Barton said that while the IRC may deviate from the standard State Procurement Code, to keep from opening up the possibility for litigation, he recommends adhering to the Code.

Discussion of options for renting office space focused on available locations in the Capitol Mall area (W. Washington St.).  Because of concerns with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, the Evans House (the old house in front of the Dept. of Environmental Quality) was not the sole focus this time.  No decisions were made on this item today.

Commissioners approved moving forward with taking over the old IRC's azredistricting.org website.  That site is still online and currently is funded by the Legislative Council.  Change in management can be taken care of before the next meeting.

Joe Whitmer, Controller at the Arizona Dept. of Administration told the commission that the current year appropriation (FY2011) for the commission is $500,000 and the expected appropriation for FY2012 is $3Million.  He was unsure, however, whether the current year appropriation lapses or rolls over.  One staffer from the Arizona House of Representatives told me that the amounts are $.5Million non-lapsing for FY2011 and an expected (because the FY2012 state budget has not been approved yet) $2.5Million will be in the next year's budget.

It's oddly intriging that the state controller would come to brief the commission and NOT be able to answer such basic questions.  It's also my understanding that Whitmer provided, at the March 9th meeting, a spreadsheet with expenditure data from the first commission.  That report only showed expenditures for calendar year 2005 and then only for 11 months.  For the Dept. of Administration, which maintains accounting data for all state agencies, to not be able to produce a comprehensive accounting for the entire first ten years of the commission is troubling.

The last agenda item prior to adjournment was discussion on a request by the Council of County Farm Bureau Presidents for a commissioner to speak to their meeting on April 6th.  Commissioner Mathis noted that the Council wanted a briefing on the IRC but she thought they might want just as much to give the commission their thoughts on the upcoming redistricting process.

The IRC will meet next at 1pm Friday, April 8 at a location to be determined in Tucson.  The agenda (and location) should be available by Wednesday.

Okay, maybe there was a lot to report.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UPDATE: ACC hearing on Palo Verde

April 7th UPDATE:

Reuters is now reporting that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has "privately expressed doubts that some of the nation's nuclear power plants are prepared for a Fukushima-scale disaster, undercutting their public confidence since Japan's nuclear crisis began, documents released by an independent safety watchdog group show." 

According to an April 6 press release, the Union of Concerned Scientists said in documents obtained as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed a month before the Japan earthquake, NRC technical staff doubted the effectiveness of key safety measures adopted after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Perhaps that is why the NRC declined an invitation to address the Arizona Corporation Commission at its hearing last week on safety procedures at Palo Verde.

This also seriously calls into question the public position of each of Arizona's three Republican Corporation Commissioners, Gary Pierce, Bob Stump and Brenda Burns, who each favor adding more nuclear reactors in Arizona. 

On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this week, one comedy segment was entitled "Polish that turd!"  TDS correspondents put remarkably positive spin on blatantly disastrous events that had occurred in recent news.  Those comedians immediately brought to mind the claim Brenda Burns made in the Palo Verde hearing that Three Mile Island was a success story.

Please, WAKE UP Arizona.

--------------------------------

Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, roughly 50 miles west of Phoenix, is the largest nuclear generating facility in the US.  Understandably, concerns about the plant's safety were reawakened after the recent 9.0 earthquake and the resulting tsunami devastated Japan's east coast and compromised the Fukushima Daiichi generating facility.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates privately owned utilities in our state, held a hearing ostensibly on safety procedures and precautions at Palo Verde.

However, in opening statements by each of the five commissioners, it became obvious the hearing instead would be a time for Arizona Public Service, the largest IOU (investor owned utility) in the state, to claim that what happened in Japan could not happen here.

Commissioners Gary Pierce, Bob Stump and Brenda Burns all made it clear they would like to see Palo Verde expanded from 3 reactor units to 5.  Brenda Burns went so far as to declare the Three Mile Island disaster a success story.  Commissioners Paul Newman and Sandra Kennedy instead expressed concerns and asked hard questions to try to get beneath the surface of the happy talk. 

KTVK Channel 3 senior reporter Steve Bodinet filed this (video) report on the hearing.  Bodinet asked me to respond.

APS' Chief Nuclear Officer Randy Edington spoke for about an hour straight, describing the design differences between Palo Verde and Fukushima.  He also explained the regulatory agency structures in the US and internationally.

Several times, Edington mentioned taking "aggressive action to implement lessons learned" from Fukushima.  Which is, of course, a good thing.  But having said it repeatedly, it came off as just another tactic to convince everyone that there can be no such disaster at Palo Verde.

One of the main problems at Fukushima has been loss of power to the cooling units, which normally operate on regular alternating current (AC) to keep from causing a Chernobyl scale disaster.  US nuclear facilities are built with backup systems in the event something disrupts the normal power supply for cooling the reactors.  For backup, Palo Verde has diesel generators.  The facility also has batteries intended to last for three days as a redundant backup.

Nobody believes Palo Verde is at risk of damage from a tsunami.  However, there is always the possibility of unforeseen catastrophe.  State geologist Lee Allison explained the (very remote) likelihood of seismic activity that could impact Palo Verde.  He said that most earthquake activity in Arizona has been in or near Flagstaff and Chino Valley.

According to Allison, the most likely cause of seismic activity near Palo Verde would be from earth fissuresThese are "pervasive ground cracks measuring up to a mile or more in length, and up to 15 feet wide and 40 feet deep."  He said the fissures are caused by overpumping of groundwater.  Though his website cites that the state legislature in 2007 recognized that fissures presented a hazard to people, property and infrastructure, Allison specifically downplayed this threat to Palo Verde.

Representing Don't Waste Arizona, Steve Brittle testified that he has reviewed the disaster plans for both Palo Verde and for Maricopa County and believes both are seriously inadequate.  To put yesterday's hearing in perspective, Brittle noted that anti-nuclear activists in Japan, decades ago, foresaw and publicly noted the vulnerability of Fukushima to the kind of disaster now unfolding.

Executive Director of Arizona Pirg (Public Interest Research Group), Diane Brown, also testified.  Earlier in the day, AZ Pirg posted a new report on near misses at US nuclear generating facilities.  Brown says that "these incidents – like the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan – illustrate that nuclear power carries with it risks that are simply not worth taking." (emphasis mine)

Comments they made in opening remarks also highlight this blogger's concerns about both Gary Pierce and Brenda Burns (in Burns' case, I expressed those concerns before the November election and before the first published post of the Arizona Eagletarian).

In spite of the dramatic support by three of the five Arizona Corporation Commissioners for expanding an inherently dangerous technology for electricity generation, the time is now for genuine renewable power sources (solar and wind) to expand.  And for the public to demand vigilance in maximizing the safety of existing nuclear generation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Next meeting of the Redistricting Commission

As expected, the next meeting of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will be held at Thursday at 9:30 am in the Carnegie Library 1101 W Washington St, Phoenix.

In addition to essentially the same agenda as last week (e.g. office space, hiring an executive director and legal/mapping consultants), the commission is expected to discuss more detail on website issues and a presentation on budget and appropriations for the commission.

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 28, 2011

John McComish attacks Clean Elections in Arizona

You may read the transcript of today's oral arguments before the SCOTUS in state Sen. John McComish's attack on the cleanliness of elections in Arizona. Thanks to new friend Phoenix Justice for providing the link.

Phoenix Justice believes it's already a done deal, that the Roberts court will strike down the VOTER APPROVED matching funds provision in Arizona's Clean Elections Law.

He might end up being right in his prediction.  However, for now and even if it does happen, the Arizona Eagletarian will focus on advocating for the right of voters to have maximum available information, especially from candidates who are NOT bought and paid for.

Will McComish (R-Fat Cats and Corporations, not necessarily in LD20) recognize the shame that rightfully belongs to him for this?

Some have expressed concern about whether Clean Elections funding is responsible for the move of Arizona's state legislature so far to the right.  Implementation of Clean Elections does coincide with the rise of, for example, Russell Pearce's "Tea Party Senate."   However, other factors are probably more responsible.

Because of the lack of competitive districts enacted in the 2001 redistricting process, I have been following the process as it begins again this year.  Clean Elections and Independent Redistricting were both voter initiatives.  There's plenty to debate about the motives of the voters and the authors, not to mention the ramifications of these ballot measures.

But let's get redistricting done right in Arizona this year.

The next meeting of Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission is scheduled for Thursday, March 31, at 9:30am.  At the end of the last meeting, the commissioners expressed desire to meet at the Carnegie Library, 1101 W Washington, Phoenix.  If the location changes, I'll update the blog.

Palo Verde Nuke-u-lar generating station; the next Redistricting meeting

As many Americans know by now, radiation from one of Japan's troubled nuclear generating stations has reached the mainland US already.  We just don't know enough about how much of this radiation it would take to cause health concerns.

In light of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused the disastrous situation with Japan's nukes, the Arizona Corporation Commission will hold an open meeting at 1 pm tomorrow (Tuesday, March 29) to discuss safety procedures and precautions related to the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.  Palo Verde is located about 55 miles west of Phoenix. 

Tomorrow's hearing, at the ACC, will take place at 1200 W. Washington, Phoenix, 85007.

Also, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will meet at 9:30am on Thursday, March 31.  Tentatively, the location will be the Carnegie Library at 1101 W. Washington, Phoenix.  I expect to have an agenda for the March 31 meeting sometime on Tuesday and will update at that time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Learning curves...

Last I reported, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission emerged from deliberating in executive session to vote, without public discussion, to appoint Colleen Mathis the fifth commissioner and IRC chair.

Since then, the IRC held another meeting on March 9th, the first I heard of which was after today's meeting was called to order at 1pm at the Arizona Medical Board's offices in Scottsdale.  Among the things accomplished at the March 9th meeting, Commissioners Freeman and Herrera were named vice-chairs.

Of course, had not the Associated Press picked up the story to report that the commission would meet today, I wouldn't have known that either.  It seems that the IRC really didn't have a way to make sure the public was made aware of meetings 48 hours ahead of time, as required by law.  The IRC relied on Secretary of State Ken Bennett to "post" the agenda on his website.  Of course, who knew to look there?  And Bennett's public information liaison, Matt Roberts, sent the agenda out to his press email list.  And even though I gave him my card at the March 1rst meeting, and he sent me information that I had requested of him, he still had no idea who I was when I called him after reading about today's meeting in news stories yesterday.  Some communication director, eh?

Okay, I'm done whining about that. LOL.

Early in the meeting, in the call for public comment, local attorney Manny Bustamante put the commission on notice, if I heard him correct, on behalf of the Hispanic Center for Constitutional Law, that he was concerned about the potential dilution of minority voting rights in Hispanic Congressional Districts (right now, those are CDs 4 and 7, represented in Congress by Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva).  Bustamante cited recent SCOTUS decision in Bartlett v Strickland which dealt with claims of dilution of minority voting rights in section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Assistant Attorney General Christopher Munn provided training on the Open Meeting law and Parliamentary procedure.

In considering RFP language for hiring mapping and legal consultants and position description language for hiring an executive director and possible other staff, and selection of office space, the commissioners sounded pretty comfortable in conducting public discussions.  Clearly, they know they will be under a microscope for several months and they've all been doing homework, study and research on related law and the history of the first IRC ten years ago.

I'm working on obtaining documents presented at the March 9th meeting and after doing some research, I will post further detail on both meetings.
 
So far, it looks like they are making good progress on learning curve issues and hopefully all future deliberations on material (significant) issues will take place along the way in accordance with the Open Meeting law.  If so, I'm cautiously optimistic we'll get a good final result.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Legal is legal, political is...

State Rep. Daniel Patterson's wife, Jeneiene Schaffer filed a complaint in December 2010 against Pima County Superior Court Commissioner Margaret Maxwell.  Commissioner Maxwell had conducted temporary orders hearings in October and November in Schaffer's divorce case against Patterson.

The Judicial Conduct Commission no doubt receives many complaints from divorcing spouses who believe they've gotten a raw deal.  So, why would this one be any different? Read the letter issued by the Commission.



The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct did something about it.  In case the image of the document is too small to read, here's what it says:
The complainant alleged that a superior court commissioner made erroneous decisions and improperly considered political affiliations in resolving divorce and custody issues. The commission reviewed the complaint and the response and decided to issue a private warning to the commissioner. By taking certain actions, the commissioner appeared to have a personal interest in the case which gave the impression that the court was biased. Rule 1.2 requires a judge to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
According to the complaint, at the first hearing, just days before the 2010 general election, Maxwell told attorneys for both Schaffer and Patterson, in her chambers, that she is a Democrat and was concerned that the litigation would jeopardize Patterson's re-election bid.  By the way, Schaffer is no longer represented by that attorney.

At temporary orders hearings, generally child support orders are issued.  Maxwell delayed more than two months before issuing support orders.  Maxwell also dismissed the Order of Protection that had been issued against Patterson. 

Most people, I suspect, who have been through divorce in Arizona know that when a woman, in a divorce petition, details domestic violence incidents she is generally given the benefit of the doubt.  Maxwell apparently gave Patterson the benefit of something in this situation.

Is the Commission's "private warning" a strong rebuke?  Even though the letter states that the Commission's order may not be used to disqualify the judge, Commissioner Maxwell today recused herself from this case.

It's now late March 2011 and there is still no evidence that Patterson is complying with support orders issued in January.

It's time for Daniel Patterson to man up and take care of his financial obligations to his family.

And if he doesn't do so -- STAT -- Democrats in Arizona should do something (political) about it.

UPDATE:

Apparently, Patterson has made a child support payment for March 2011.  I understand he is still in arrears for two months.  Schaffer's unemployment benefits ran out some time ago. For Patterson to be two months in arrears (not to mention the two months that he was allowed to skip when Commissioner Maxwell just didn't issue the child support order), it's really still a very big problem.

Redistricting Commission to meet on Thursday

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will meet on Thursday, March 24th at 1pm at the office of the Arizona Medical Board, 9535 E Doubletree Ranch Rd, Scottsdale. 

The agenda is posted here.

I plan to be there and will post about it afterward.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Daniel Patterson

As of today, my post about state Rep. Daniel Patterson's situation has gotten more hits than any other on the Arizona Eagletarian.

Marshall MacFarland of the Desert Rat Blog posted a link to it in this forum.  A couple of comments there about Patterson are provocative, though I'm not sure to what degree they are credible.  However, it seems that the old adage, "where there's smoke, there's fire" might apply.  People who know Patterson politically or professionally seem to share a consistent impression that he has anger management issues.

The Arizona Guardian also recently wrote about Patterson.  I'd share the link but one has to have a subscription to read it anyway (and I am also not currently a subscriber).

I have to wonder when the other shoe is going to drop for (or on) Patterson.  There's apparently still no evidence he is complying with court orders for child and spousal support.

While Patterson will likely avoid any legislative ethics investigation because he hasn't pulled rank or invoked legislative privilege like Bundgaard did, he still deserves to be scorned publicly, at least until he makes good by financially supporting his child and estranged wife.

Oh, and there's also that minor detail about where Patterson lives.  He (and his divorce attorney) have been very coy about Patterson's residence.  I've been told that investigators have documented him living outside of his district.  Yet, because the house his wife lives in (for now) is in his name (and in LD 29), he probably thinks he can skate (or dance) around any claims that he is violating provisions in state law requiring him to reside in his district.

Monday, March 14, 2011

If you're in Southern Arizona this Friday

Don't miss former state Rep. Ken Clark's presentation and demonstration of Redistrict America at 5pm at the Shanty, 401 E 9th Street, Tucson.

Redistrict America is the free online mapping tool being developed for the Arizona Competitive Districts Coalition to provide everyday Arizonans the opportunity to propose legislative and Congressional districts for the state for the upcoming decade.

Learn more on facebook and at the Arizona Competitive District Coalition's website.

Bring your questions for Ken this Friday 5pm.

Let's make sure we get redistricting done right this year!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bundgaard we know, but what about...

Then there's Daniel Patterson.

State Rep. Daniel Patterson (D-LD29), by all accounts a passionate environmental activist in Tucson, is currently embroiled in his own domestic situation.

Both Patterson and his wife, Jeneiene Schaffer filed for divorce last summer.

Schaffer sought an Order of Protection based on a history of domestic violence in their marriage.  Patterson has also, in the past, been charged with assault and disorderly conduct in situations not involving his wife.

There are a number of issues to sort out regarding the Pattersons' divorce and Daniel's temper, but some things are clear and evident.  At minimum, it appears Daniel has anger issues which have gotten him in trouble on multiple occasions and in a variety of situations.

Tucson blogger Three Sonorans wrote about this situation a couple of days ago.  Patterson left a comment on that blog saying:

This one-sided wrong blogger, who regularly attacks Arizona Democrats and pretty much everyone, has never attempted to contact me for the truth.
My wife and I agreed to get a divorce. This is a hard time for me and my family.
Sadly, there are some rumors around that have no merit. Don’t believe the hype.
I have always supported my family, I still do and I will continue to.
Divorce is a difficult private personal family matter and I am asking people to please respect that.
The Arizona Eagletarian interviewed Schaffer and has made several attempts, by phone and email to get Patterson's side of the story. 

The ONLY response from Patterson sounds eerily the same as his comment to Three Sonorans AND like it was written by an attorney:

My wife and I have agreed to get a divorce. This is a hard time for me and my family. Sadly, there are some rumors around that have no merit. Don't believe the hype. I have always supported my family, I still do and I will continue to. Divorce is a difficult private personal family matter and I am asking people to please respect that.
However, Patterson is a public figure.   He has had multiple police reports filed which clearly reflect the fact that his temper/anger have gotten him in trouble.  There should be no question that this has become a matter of public concern. 

IF Patterson and his wife had AGREED on the divorce, having filed last summer, the litigation would not have been drawn out, it would be over by now.  As of today, there is no divorce decree, several hearings have taken place and a trial date has been set.  Those facts do not support a claim that he and his wife agreed on anything except that they needed to get a divorce.

Patterson further claims that he has always supported his family, still does, and will continue to do so.  What does Patterson mean when he uses the word "support?" 

Patterson's employer (other than the Arizona House of Representatives) is Washington, DC based non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  PEER was served with wage assignment orders from the Pima County Courts in January. 

According to documents issued by the Pima County Child Support Clearinghouse, PEER has not yet responded to the order or forwarded any support for the Pattersons' daughter.  Schaffer's situation clearly shows that Patterson has not provided financial support as required by Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-320 and ordered by Pima County Superior Court.

Is the irony in Patterson's comments along with the fact that whistle-blower organization PEER appears to be stonewalling on Patterson's behalf lost in the shuffle?

Anyone who has been through a divorce with children involved knows it puts a tremendous amount of stress on the family and on the children.


Many of Patterson's colleagues in the state legislature are aware of his anger issues.  Some have noted as much in communications with Schaffer.

While there are parallels between Bundgaard and Patterson and their situations, there are also major differences.  Bundgaard doesn't, as a result of his freeway encounter with Aubry Ballard, have to deal with supporting a child.

I can speculate as to why Tucson area Democrats didn't deal with Patterson's situation last summer.  It was election season.  Patterson represents a "safe" (another irony, perhaps?) district for Democrats in state legislative races. 

The Arizona Coalition against Domestic Violence has called for both Bundgaard and Patterson to resign.  In that call, the Coalition states:
Media reports and public statements about the current cases send a dangerous message to victims suffering through abuse that their calls for help may not be believed or answered.   
If they were to resign, Arizona law provides that those appointed to replace them would have to be from the same party as the resigning official.  What is the downside, from the perspective of the voters or political parties?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Have people forgotten the lessons of history, or did they ever learn in the first place?

In December, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls," at the beginning of his essay on the American Crisis.   

Was that the first time that tried men's souls?  Or the last?

Not only did Paine foment the American Revolution, he rebutted, in the Rights of Man, Edmund Burke's attack on those responsible for the French Revolution.   Burke wrote Reflections on the Revolution in France to dissuade Brits from getting any idea about doing the same thing.

 From EarlyAmerica.com:

When The Rights of Man was printed in America, it created a new sensation. Not because of the principles outlining American Jeffersonian democracy, but because the publisher had printed in the front of the book remarks from a letter from Thomas Jefferson, in which Jefferson pointed a finger at Vice-president Adams.

In England The Rights of Man encountered a response like no other in English publishing history. The poor pooled their pennies, supplementing it with meager savings to buy the book. The Rights of Man became an underground manifesto, passed from hand to hand, even when it became a crime to be found with it in one's possession.


The book became a bible to thousands of citizens who dreamed of a free England. Time after time, when men were tried for treason, invariably the Crown offered as evidence to the jury the fact that these men possessed a copy of The Rights of Man.

Outlawed for treason, Paine fled to France in 1792, never to return to England again.

And what of the revolution that Paine had started in England? Three generations would pass before even a small part of the things Paine pleaded for in his book would see fruition. Observed biographer Howard Fast: "Yet one cannot say that the book had no effect. It shook the government; it set thousands of people to thinking. It stirred the currents in what had been placid water, and once stirred, those currents never stilled themselves. And not only in England, but everywhere men longed for freedom, Rights of Man became an inspiration and a hope."

All of Paine's works reflected his belief in natural reason and natural rights, political equality, tolerance, civil liberties, and the dignity of man. (emphasis mine)
Can there be any question that Paine would have enthusiastically approved of what has taken place recently in Egypt and Tunisia?

But we are not England or France.  We are not in a repressive regime in Northern Africa.

Are these times, here in Arizona, that try men's souls?  Or women's or children's?

In the name of God, politicians at the state capitol in Arizona and Congress in DC are working to deprive women of fundamental rights to decisions that each woman must make between herself and her God.  In the name of God, those politicians declare that freedom is only for the privileged, not for all Americans. And that is but two of many issues whereby modern day theocrats are causing frustration and controversy.

Paine, "had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly." (from a link provided above).

Perhaps it's time for a refresher course on the philosophical foundation of our great nation.  And the writings of Thomas Paine would be a very good place to start.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It depends on what the meaning of the word "IS" is!

During the first meeting of Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission last Thursday, Linda McNulty framed questions to the five interviewees by saying that they (the IRC) wanted the public to be proud of both the final product (the district lines/maps) AND the process.

To that end, they voted that day to give themselves some time to reflect on the candidates, their applications and interviews.  So far, so good.  Thoughtfulness and reflection are good things.

The commission reconvened today at 1pm to complete the selection process.  After three people offered public comment (including this blogger), the commission went into executive session, for the apparent purpose of receiving legal counsel.

Emerging an hour and a half later, they promptly -- and without ANY public deliberation -- voted to appoint, by unanimous acclamation, Colleen Mathis to serve as commission chair for the next ten years.

Enter former President Bill Clinton.  "It depends on what the meaning of the word "IS" is."

Consider some of the meanings of the word, "deliberation."

de·lib·er·a·tion  (d-lb-rshn)n.
1. The act or process of deliberating.
2. deliberations Discussion and consideration of all sides of an issue: the deliberations of a jury.
3. Thoughtfulness in decision or action.
4. Leisureliness in motion or manner: The girl stacked the blocks with deliberation.

Following adjournment, the room erupted in a dull roar of many congratulations and handshakes, reporters asking questions of each of the five commissioners, and an undercurrent of concern about the complete absence of public deliberation.

This blogger asked three of the first four commissioners about this issue.

Democrat Jose Herrera flat out (emphatically) denied that ANY deliberation took place during the hour and a half long executive session.  I then asked if the entire time was taken up by the Assistant Attorney General, James E. Barton II, giving them legal advice.  Herrera claimed that was what happened.

Republican Richard Stertz described a process of discussion BY the COMMISSIONERS of each of the candidates.  When asked if that constituted deliberation outside of the public view, he denied it.  Then asked if he cared what the public thought about the fact that the deliberations were done privately, he skillfully danced (verbally) around the question, carefully avoiding any direct answer, though I posed it at least three times.

Democrat Linda McNulty also described deliberations and actually used that very word to describe what they had done.  However, when asked directly, she said that they actually had NOT made their decision about who to vote for until the motion was made to unanimously select Ms. Mathis.

Given that there was literally NO discussion after Ken Bennett struck the gavel to reconvene publicly after the executive session, prior to the motion being voted on, it seems -- on its face -- that the four commissioners DID deliberate behind closed doors for what should have been done in open, public session.

Two attorneys I spoke with gave interesting replies when I asked them about the propriety of the closed deliberations.  One said that he "could make an argument" that the selection of the fifth commissioner was a "personnel decision."  In which case, executive session would be appropriate.  Of course, when an attorney says he "could make an argument," that's a clear indication that the situation is, at best, questionable.

The other attorney expressed the belief that what the IRC had done today was illegal.

Don't get me wrong, Colleen Mathis is, by all observations, a fine person and will likely do well in her role as IRC chair.  However, in light of Commissioner McNulty declaring repeatedly last week her concern that the public be proud of the PROCESS they are about to undertake, the way the commission conducted itself today is a dubious start toward that goal.