Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, August 14, 2015

Does the Arizona Legislature DARE to attempt limiting Public Records access?

Once looked to for sound reasoning in the ongoing saga of Trash Burner Bob Stump and his dubious (and clandestine) communications with Koch-addict Sean Noble, Arizona Public Service president Don Brandt and Brandt's newest wholly-owned corporation commissioners Little and Forese -- Bob Burns now says it's time to shut down public records access for pains in the government bee-hind like the Checks and Balances Project.
After three months of fighting with the Washington DC-based Checks and Balances Project over records of an Arizona Corporation Commission member’s text messages, emails and call logs, a fellow commissioner was fed up.
“When does too much become too much?” Commissioner Bob Burns wrote in an email to Jodi Jerich, executive director of the Corporation Commission.
Burns proposed the commission compile a report on the man-hours spent and labor costs of complying with public records requests – and then take the matter up with the Governor’s Office and legislative leadership in the hopes of changing the law to restrict public records access.
He suggested a good starting point for changing the public records law would be to model the law “after the method used to acquire a search warrant.” Obtaining a search warrant requires a judge’s approval.

Hey Burnsie, have you at all considered that the expense incurred as a result of the Stump records request skyrocketed discretionarily, based SOLELY on the fact that Trash Burner Bob has illegally refused to disclose the content of the requested records?

Wouldn't you LOVE to see TWO expenditure reports on this situation? One with ONLY the costs related to initial compliance; the other including and clearly identifying those expenditures incurred to prevent disclosure of what rightfully belongs to Arizona citizens.

How many legitimate journalists would drool over the possibility of a public debate over the cost of government agencies spending heavily to HIDE their ongoing illegal activities? 

Of course, if it was all illegal, we'd be having other discussions. Think Paine's Common Sense, wherein he emphatically makes the point that government is a necessary evil. Why would there be so much controversy over government whistleblowers if this was NOT a problem?

The lead blurb in the August 13 Yellow Sheet cites Burns and the ever bombastic state senator from Fountain Hills, John Kavanagh,
Burns’ suggestion yesterday that lawmakers consider narrowing access to Arizona’s public records laws got Kavanagh’s wheels spinning. He said he is mulling legislation to allow public officials some semblance of privacy when dealing with electronic communications, even if they are exchanged between public officials discussing public business. “I think we have to draw a reasonable line between when a public official, even discussing public things, can say something off the record to somebody, as opposed to having every utterance in every venue be a public record. It’s becoming concerning,” Kavanagh told our reporter yesterday.
It appears both Burns and Kavanagh have too soon forgotten the 2013 drama over the Voter Suppression Act -- HB2305.

Perhaps the folks at the YS were thinking of more than just whether they would be able to maintain their (financial lifeline) access to the legislature when they reported on this extensively yesterday.
Prior to the controversy surrounding Checks and Balances Project and its efforts to obtain Stump’s text messages, Kavanagh had already been thinking about a way to crack down on a Yuma man long known to legislators for his excessive records requests to his city. Jack Kretzer is the bane of Yuma City Hall, and the two-time target of lawmakers. Kretzer files hundreds of records requests per year, and city officials contend he does it just for the sport of harassing elected officials. For the past two years, lawmakers have sought to crack down on “burdensome requests.” Stevens first introduced legislation aimed at Kretzer in 2014
YS says HB2419 was (state Rep. David) Stevens' his first attempt, but Kavanagh offered a strike-all amendment to HB2414, which got through the House but died a quiet death on Third Reading in the Senate.

Of course, Kretzer hadn't stirred up corporate media and government accountability activists in our state nearly as much as C&BP director Scott Peterson has over the last few months. So, Kretzer's situation and Stevens' legislation didn't capture the imagination of the Arizona public.

But Michele Reagan's Voter Suppression Act DID capture the imagination of the public.

Apparently, Scrooge McDucey is open to the idea of CLOSING public records. Again, from YS,
Ducey is keeping an open mind on whether he’ll support legislation that would impose stricter requirements on public records requests. Ducey declined to comment about what Burns said yesterday, saying he just learned about Burns’ idea this morning and hasn’t had a chance to speak with the commissioner about it, but he wouldn’t rule out supporting a bill that would make public records laws less permissive... Ducey told reporters today.
For his part, Scott Peterson noted, in response to questions from this blogger, that he hasn't even requested any records from Burns, but maybe he should.

Peterson also indicated:
Consider this about Burn's comments about needing to curtain Arizona's freedom of information act [Public Records Law]:
  • In our original March 11 records request, along with the text messages, we asked for Commissioner Stump's public meetings calendar, and the calendar belonging to his Policy Advisor Amanda Ho. In return, we received his calendar in which 28% of his meetings had been blacked out. 32% were redacted from Ms. Ho's public meetings calendar.
  • On August 5, we sent a letter to Commissioner Stump asking for an explanation. We're still waiting. By law, there needs to be an explanation for each and every redaction. (Did they break the law? Well, he deleted his text messages in which he may have been conducting public business, so he wouldn't have to delete his photos, or so he said. Just what are so special about those photos?)
  • Why does this matter? The July 2014 period is when Checks and Balances Project has uncovered powerful, circumstantial evidence that Stump could have been coordinating the election of winning, pro-APS GOP candidates.
The Yellow Sheet quote of the day for August 13,
“We’re slowly approaching the point where whispers are going to be conceivably public records.”
- Kavanagh on what he views as a troubling evolution of public records laws to include more communications by government officials.
Does Kavanagh have the cajones to try to push through a measure to mollify Bob Burns' bee in his bee-hind? PLEASE, John, I SOOOOO hope you do. It would be SUCH a lovely gift to voter registration activists.


By the way, LD26 state Rep. Andrew Sherwood penned an op-ed published on the Arizona Capitol Times website this week calling attention to the cheesiness of AZ GOP chair Robert Graham commissioning a video ad that tries to convince people that Bob Stump is a... oh, wait, that's not what the ad did. Instead, the ad villifies local attorney Dan Barr, for representing C&BP in the ongoing (unfulfilled) public records situation with the Arizona Corporation Commission.


So, Scrooge McDucey, Andy Biggshot, John Kavanagh, David Gowan -- Go ahead, MAKE MY DAY!

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