GOP senator cancels hearing over Maricopa County subpoena
Bill Gates, vice chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, discusses the details of an agreement that ends between the county and the Arizona Senate over a Senate subpoena for routers and digital logs on Sept. 17, 2021. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
Stating that it’s unnecessary because the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has complied with her recent subpoena, Chairwoman Kelly Townsend canceled a planned hearing of the Senate Government Committee, while the county said its compliance with the request had nothing to do with her.
Maricopa County says it was already complying with a request for records from the Attorney General’s Office, which had sought the same information as Townsend, and said the subpoena itself was completely unnecessary.
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Townsend, an Apache Junction Republican, had scheduled a committee hearing for Monday afternoon. In the subpoena she issued last week, she’d ordered the supervisors or their representative to appear before her committee. Board Chairman Bill Gates informed Townsend in a letter on Friday that the supervisors “do not feel the need to attend” the hearing, and that they would send Ed Novak, an outside attorney representing the board, as their representative who could answer any questions.
Instead, Townsend declared victory on Monday, saying the supervisors had complied with her subpoena, which sought the same records that the Attorney General’s Office requested as part of its investigation into the so-called “audit” that Senate President Karen Fann ordered into the 2020 general election in Maricopa County.
“The Government Committee scheduled for later today is therefore no longer necessary, as its intended objective has been achieved,” Townsend said in a press statement.
The subpoena was prompted by a March 9 letter from Jennifer Wright, the head of Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Elections Integrity Unit, to the Board of Supervisors and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer seeking new information and records related to a new phase of her investigation. She also asked for records she said she’d previously requested, which she said the county hadn’t provided. The letter stated that it was the attorney general’s third request for information from the county.
Townsend said she was “tired of waiting” for the attorney general to compel production of the records, so she issued her subpoena.
However, the county said the letter was not the attorney general’s third request for information that had been previously requested. Rather, it was the third overall request for information of any kind from the county.
“The March 9 letter was the first time that Mr. Novak and therefore … the board and the recorder were aware that there was something missing from the previous request. And then, of course, the new things that were in there then needed to be researched and processed,” Fields Moseley, a spokesman for Maricopa County, told the Arizona Mirror.
The only information that hadn’t been provided in response to an earlier request was a few policies that had been inadvertently left out of more than 4,400 pages of policies and procedures the county turned over to the attorney general, Gates told Townsend.
“There has been no complaint from the Attorney General about delay and that is not surprising given the case law related to public records requests and the County’s previous history of accommodating the Attorney General’s requests. Case law requires a prompt response, but that is determined on a case-by-case basis; and no specific timeline has been set by the courts,” Gates wrote.
“Consequently, the Board finds it difficult to understand why you think a short delay in responding to a March 9, 2022 public records request from the Attorney General should require a legislative subpoena from you on March 21, 2022,” Gates added.
Moseley said Townsend’s subpoena had nothing to do with the county providing the materials to the Attorney General’s Office, and that county officials were already working on Wright’s request.
Moseley said those three policies have been provided to the attorney general. Gates’ letter said the county has also turned over 51 voter registration files that Wright requested. Moseley told the Arizona Mirror that the county is still working on Wright’s request for the new materials sought in her letter.
Regarding the county’s assertion that the attorney general’s letter wasn’t the third request for the same information, as opposed to the third request for information in general, Townsend told the Mirror, “that is between the AG and Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.”
Townsend said she is researching whether there are other materials requested of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors that it hasn’t yet turned over, and if there are, she will issue more subpoenas.
It’s unclear if the Attorney General’s Office has requested any information or records that Wright didn’t mention in her letter to the county. Moseley said previous subpoenas by Fann and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen are settled matters.
The attorney general’s investigation revolves around the largely debunked findings of Fann’s review of the 2020 election, which was led by organizations with no background in elections-related work and who had deep ties to the “Stop the Steal” movement that has promoted the false allegation that the election was rigged against former President Donald Trump.
Wright’s letter and Townsend’s subpoena also cited the purported findings of Shiva Ayyadurai. Fann’s “audit” team hired Ayyadurai, at a cost of $50,000 in taxpayer money, to conduct a discredited review of voter signatures on early ballot affidavits. That review was riddled with false claims and misleading statements, and he appeared unfamiliar with basic policies and procedures surrounding signature verification.
Ayyadurai has since conducted an independent review of signatures, outside the scope of the “audit,” which he claimed found many signatures that should have never been verified by because they do not match other signatures for those voters.
However, Ayyadurai admitted that he did not use the signatures that county election officials use to compare and verify voters’ signatures on their ballots, and instead used other signature examples he was able to find from documents that are publicly available on the Maricopa County Recorder’s website, which severely undermined the reliability of his alleged findings.
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