An Arizona judge ordered the state’s Republican-led Senate to produce records related to its audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, delivering a big win for critics of the controversial review.
The documents, sought by left-leaning watchdog group American Oversight, are subject to Arizona’s public records statute and must be provided to the organization “immediately,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp ruled Monday.
American Oversight sued Republican state Senate President Karen Fann in May, listing state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen and the state Senate itself as additional defendants, and invoked the Arizona Public Records Law in search of access to communications and other records between the Senate and its lead audit contractor, Cyber Ninjas.
The Senate’s attorneys argued in a subsequent motion to dismiss the suit that such documents, which included information about donors who have funded the audit, are not subject to public disclosure rules because they are in the possession of Cyber Ninjas, a private company, and other subcontractors.
Kemp denied the Senate’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit on July 14.
“Nothing in the statute absolves Senate defendants’ responsibilities to keep and maintain records for authorities supported by public monies by merely retaining a third-party contractor who in turns hires subvendors,” Kemp wrote.
In his Monday ruling, Kemp said that to accept the defendants’ argument that the records are exempt under the law’s immunity clause would render the statute meaningless.
“Defendant Fann has the authority, and the statutory obligation, under the [Public Records Law], to compel [Cyber Ninjas] and its subvendors to produce all internal emails and correspondence outlined in the proposed order,” Kemp wrote.
Kemp added a rejection of the defendants’ defense that they hadn’t seen the records in question themselves.
“Willful blindness does not relieve Senate Defendants from their duties and obligations under the [Public Records Law],” he wrote.
The Washington Examiner reached out to Arizona Senate Republicans for comment on the ruling.
American Oversight is not the lone body to take Senate officials to court over audit records. The Arizona Republic, a Phoenix-based newspaper, sued the body and Cyber Ninjas on June 30 in demand of access to financial and other audit records. Attorneys for the paper similarly invoked the Arizona Public Records Law.
Cyber Ninjas separately released a donor list on July 28, which revealed that it received millions of dollars in donations from conservative-leaning groups to fund the audit. However, the list did not reveal details about who gave individual contributions and how much money per donation.
That list was made public two weeks after leading Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives’s Oversight Committee requested documents from Cyber Ninjas and announced an investigation into the company, accusing it of mismanaging the audit.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman
Original Location: Judge orders Arizona Senate to produce Maricopa audit records