Maricopa County Threatens Lawsuit Over Allegations By Senate Contractors

Published: Friday, May 21, 2021 - 4:38pm
Updated: Saturday, May 22, 2021 - 8:42am

In letters to state Senate President Karen Fann and others participating in the Senate’s controversial election review, Maricopa County attorneys demanded that those involved preserve documents related to that review. It’s a clear sign the county is preparing to sue the Senate, and perhaps its private contractors.

The legal letter — a litigation hold and preservation notice — requires those involved in conducting the Senate’s review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election to “preserve all documents related to your ‘audit.’”

The threat of a lawsuit comes after a bipartisan group of Maricopa County elected officials demanded a retraction of statements accusing county employees of deleting election data from voting systems subpoenaed by Fann. 

On May 13, Fann sent a letter to Maricopa County Board Chairman Jack Sellers suggesting that a database directory was deleted from election equipment before the machine was turned over to the private contractors performing the Senate’s audit. That same day, an official Twitter account for the Senate’s audit posted that “Maricopa County deleted a directory full of election databases,” and accused the county of spoiling evidence.

It appeared contractors walked back the claim on Tuesday — Tom Cotton, the head of a computer forensics firm hired by Fann, told senators the database was “recovered,” suggesting it was never deleted to begin with. But Thursday, both Fann and her contractors doubled down on the accusation that the data was deleted, in tweets from the audit’s official account and Fann’s personal account.

County officials debunked the claim, which they described as false, ill-informed and a sign of the “incompetence” of the private firms conducting the Senate’s election review. Critics say Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company hired to lead the audit whose CEO has spread conspiracies about the election, is unqualified to review the 2020 election. 

The legal notice to Fann noted the “false claim” has spread rapidly, and was even cited by several congressmen in a letter to the U.S. Justice Department.

“Because of the wrongful accusations that the County destroyed evidence, the county or its elected officers may now be subject to, or have, legal claims,” the notice from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office states.

In a statement, Sellers again demanded a retraction of an accusation that shows the Senate and its contractors “clearly intend to disparage the county and call into question the integrity of the 2020 elections.”

“Since that seems unlikely to happen, I will repeat what I said … on Monday: finish your report and be prepared to defend it and your actions related to this ‘audit’ in court,” Sellers said.

Fann did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A lawsuit could add to the Senate’s audit-related expenses. Yesterday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told county officials that any voting equipment turned over to private firms by the Senate should no longer be used in future elections. Fann signed an agreement to cover the cost of replacing that equipment that’s “damaged, altered or otherwise compromised while in the Senate’s custody and control.”

The audit and hand recount of Maricopa County ballots has been on a one-week hiatus. The Senate’s contractor fell far behind schedule and had to vacate Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the venue at the state fairground in Phoenix where the audit is being conducted, to make way for high school graduation ceremonies.

Ballots and equipment are expected to be moved back into the coliseum over the weekend, and the recount is scheduled to resume on Monday.