Maricopa County Board Goes To Court Over Legislative Subpoena

By Ben Giles, Mark Brodie
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, December 18, 2020 - 3:14pm
Updated: Monday, December 21, 2020 - 2:25pm

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Maricopa County supervisors voted Friday to refuse to comply with subpoenas issued by the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The 4-1 vote following a nearly three-hour executive session with attorneys came amid concerns that at least some of what is being demanded by Sen. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert) would expose private information on voters. There also were questions about whether the county even has the legal right to give that information to outsiders.

Sen. Eddie Farnsworth
Howard Fischer/Capital Media Services
Eddie Farnsworth

Instead, board members voted to direct their attorneys to file suit and have a judge determine whether the subpoenas are legally valid.

That paves the way for what could be a legal showdown over the rights of state lawmakers to make such demands and the rights of the supervisors, who have the information they want, to refuse.

Board Chairman Clint Hickman also took a shot at Farnsworth and the lawmakers, suggesting they are not really interested in hearing about how the election was conducted.

Hickman pointed out that he, county Elections Director Scott Jarrett and deputy Maricopa County Attorney Tom Liddy testified earlier this week for about six hours, answering all the questions from members of the Judiciary Committee. That, he said, included the machinery and the software.

"And then to be slapped with the two subpoenas," Hickman said. "That could be viewed as a slap in the face."

In fact, he said, the subpoenas are asking for information that was never part of the questions that he and the other county officials were asked.

"I had to then feel those subpoenas were predetermined, no matter what I went there to say ... and no matter what Mr. Jarrett had to say," Hickman said. "To me, that's kind of telling."

Supervisor Steve Chucri cast the lone dissenting vote.

But Chucri said it wasn't that he agrees the information should be surrendered. Instead, he wanted the refusal to be tied with an immediate vote by his colleagues to conduct their own audit.

Hickman said there will be such a review — but not until all the outstanding lawsuits challenging the election are resolved. There are still three active cases.

Senate President Karen Fann told KJZZ that it’ll be up to the court to settle what authority the Legislature has.

"I think this court case is not just about ensuring voter confidence right now. It's now added another dimension about what, what role does the legislative body play in overseeing elections of all the counties or anything else for that fact," Fann said. 

Fann said the Senate requested records that could help audit the county’s election process.

County officials say the request is overly broad and would put voters’ privacy at risk.

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