One has to wonder if Erika Neuberg really believed her claims that she could keep the Redistricting Commission out of litigation. Maybe she just successfully used psychological misdirection. She is, after all, a psychologist with a doctors degree and plenty of experience.
Last week, when she cast her first controversial vote, to hire an executive director, it was apparent before hand that when she claimed she'd do a better job avoiding conflict than her predecessor, Colleen Mathis, that Dr. Neuberg had no idea what she had gotten herself into.
Notably, Brian Schmitt, who has/had a gross conflict of interest in that he performed work for Martha McSally's unsuccessful 2020 US Senate campaign for which he was paid $63,000, was appointed to the position previously held by former City of Phoenix Deputy City Manager Ray Bladine.
At 11am on Tuesday, March 23, Chicanos Por La Causa will hold a press conference on ZOOM.
This is the release CPLC sent out on Monday afternoon.
Contact: Danny Ortega, 602-697-7287
Lydia Guzman, 602-451-4462
March 22, 2021
AZ Redistricting Commission appointment ‘smacks of partisanship,’ fair elections watchdog group says
PHOENIX – The appointment last week of a partisan political operative as executive director of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is “as upsetting as it is unfair,” with the discussion and decision to bypass a more qualified finalist done secretly behind closed doors, according to a redistricting watchdog group.
To prevent the disenfranchisement of voters of color, underserved communities and certain political parties, the Committee for Independence and Diversity is calling for a reopening of the appointment process for this key role in the redistricting process.
A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m.
Redistricting, which is done after every Census, will determine how Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts are drawn to ensure a fair election process, allowing for competitive races and equitable representation for the next 10 years. Legally, the entire process must be done in a public and transparent manner, including the deliberation and naming of the Commission’s executive director.
“That did not happen with this appointment,” said Danny Ortega, an Arizona civil rights attorney and a member of the Committee for Independence and Diversity. “The IRC met in executive session behind closed doors for five hours before making this appointment. The Open Meeting Laws require transparency and deliberation in public. The length, as well as the method and content of their discussions, are potential violations of Open Meeting Laws. The ensuing behind-the-scenes appointment was a partisan political set-up that was not based on qualifications.”
By a 3-2 vote divided along party lines, Brian Schmitt was appointed IRC executive director. The chief of staff to a Republican member of the Phoenix City Council previously was a paid fundraiser for then-U.S. Sen. McSally’s Republican campaign. Schmitt was supported by Republican commissioners David Mehl and Doug York. Democrats Derrick Watchman and Shereen Lerner opposed him. Independent Chairwoman Erika Neuberg cast the deciding vote, joining the Republican commissioners in support of Schmitt.
Schmitt was selected over four other finalists, including Kristina Gomez, who as deputy executive director for the 2011 Independent Redistricting Commission and a community outreach staffer on the first AIRC in 2001 was eminently more qualified, according to the redistricting watchdog group. Gomez also was the only Latino finalist.
“The IRC process already has shown a disregard to diversity by its very make-up, which is a violation of the ‘independent’ spirit of the law that created the IRC in the first place,” said Lydia Guzman, Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement at Chicanos Por La Causa and a member of the Committee for Independence and Diversity. “I mean, ‘independent’ is in the committee’s name. But this smacks of partisanship. And there is no diversity on this committee – not in commissioners and now, not in staff leadership.”
Previously, Arizona elections and redistricting were under federal oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice due to past voting violations in disenfranchising ethnic and voter minorities. Because of changing demographics, Latinos are increasingly becoming a major force in the Arizona electorate, yet have no representation on the IRC or its decisions on how to draw districts.
The Committee for Independence and Diversity is calling on immediate action to reverse this appointment, including an Arizona Attorney General investigation into possible Open Meetings Law violations. The Committee may consider legal action if its demands are delayed or ignored, Ortega said.
The Committee for Independence and Diversity consists of several Latino groups, including LUCHA, Promise Arizona, LULAC, Chicanos Por La Causa, and Friendly House.
Please join us for a virtual PRESS CONFERENCE
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 11:00 am
To Join Zoom Press Conference click this link:
Meeting ID: 266 358 9245