The public drama began around the start of September, roughly three and a half months ago.
On November 30, for Susan Bitter Smith, soon to be former chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, things got very real. That's when Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed the petition for special action in the Arizona Supreme Court for a writ of quo warranto, asking the court to remove her from office.
On Wednesday, December 16, Bitter Smith's attorney filed a response (with an extensive appendix) to Brnovich's petition. From early September until today, Bitter Smith never wavered (publicly) in her claim that she does not now nor has she ever had any conflict of interest that would disqualify her from office.
Then, earlier today, she announced her resignation effective January 4, 2016. December 16 apparently was the deadline to file the response. The Supreme Court is (was?) scheduled to first review the petition and decide what to do next, on January 5.
Republic columnist EJ Montini immediately assessed the scenario,
Corporation Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith talked a good game. She talked tough. She wasn’t going to be intimidated.
Then, boom, she resigns.
She’s the Ronda Rousey of politicians, a blustery fighter knocked out in the early rounds.Regular Arizona Eagletarian readers know the story. But what happens now? Gov. Ducey, after Bitter Smith vacates the office, will have to appoint a Republican to serve the rest of her term, though 2016. The seat would have been subject to election next year anyway. That will still be the case.
Chandler attorney and political activist Tom Ryan told the Republic (and said essentially the same thing when I spoke with him),
"I’m calling upon Gov. Ducey to appoint a former retired judge from either the Supreme or appellate court, who has no connection to any of industries regulated at the ACC, and who will agree not to run for re-election in 2016," Ryan said. "We need to reestablish trust in the ACC and re-establish integrity at the ACC, and appointing a partisan to fill this position will undermine that process."Though many Arizonans are skeptical of Ducey and expect him to make a hyper-partisan selection for Bitter Smith's successor, he did demonstrate willingness to step away from such a posture during the spring legislative session. So, if the public makes a concerted effort to express sentiments similar to Ryan's, we could be pleasantly surprised. Readers can get word to the governor by calling 602-542-4331.
Bitter Smith claims to want to have the Supreme Court rule on the petition and her response anyway. Ryan says that's not going to happen because once she's out, the petition is entirely moot.
In the meantime, you can expect that I will continue to keep my eye on the ACC and my fingers close to the keyboard to let you know what's going on. That IS, after all, the essence of Machiavellian Democracy.
Yes, Bob Stump, that means I'm not going to let up on you.