Arizona Corporation Commissioner's Phone To Be Examined This Week For Deleted Texts
After months of sparring with the Arizona Corporation Commission, a nonprofit watchdog group may get one step closer this week to recovering hundreds of controversial text messages that were deleted by Commissioner Bob Stump.
Under the supervision of former Superior Court Judge Stephen Scott, the metadata from Stump’s phone will be extracted Friday and eventually handed over to the watchdog group, Washington, D.C.-based Checks and Balances Project, according to a June 2 letter the commission’s attorney David Cantelme sent to the group’s attorney Dan Barr.
The extraction will be conducted by a forensic laboratory under the state Department of Public Safety’s Arizona Counter-Terrorism and Information Center, Cantelme said. After a commission review, Checks and Balances will receive whatever data is determined to be public record.
Checks and Balances Project has been hounding the utility regulator for such access to Stump’s phone in hopes of recovering hundreds of deleted text messages he had exchanged during last year’s election between an Arizona Public Service executive, the head of "dark money" group Arizona Free Enterprise Club and current Commissioners Tom Forese and Doug Little, who were running for office at the time.
The commission has provided the watchdog group with text message logs since the initial records request in March, but said it couldn’t provide the messages themselves because Stump had deleted them.
Extracting the phone’s metadata could be the solution. But Checks and Balances and the commission have been at odds as to how that would be conducted and by whom. Scott Peterson, executive director of Checks and Balances, had previously said that each side’s experts should be allowed access to the phone to ensure that “public records have not been hidden from view.”
Despite Cantelme's June 2 letter, the watchdog group may still follow through with its threats of a lawsuit.
“Because there is significant likelihood that the text message content and metadata will be the subject of a third-party subpoena to Verizon in the near future, we are writing you now to requests that Verizon preserve all of its data concerning the 602-647-0433 phone number until such a subpoena is issued,” Barr wrote in a letter sent to Verizon Monday.