Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commissioners split along party lines Friday over who will serve as the group’s legal counsel, with the commission’s independent chair siding with the Democrats to select the firms Ballard Spahr and Osborn Maledon.
Ballard Spahr is the new home to Joe Kanefield, whose final day as chief counsel to Gov. Jan Brewer was today. His co-counsel for the IRC will be another prominent former state government attorney: Mary O’Grady, who served as the state’s solicitor general under former Attorney General Terry Goddard from 2002 until March of this year. She now works at Osborn Maledon.
The choice to select two attorneys, one with a perceived alignment with Republicans and the other with perceived alignment with Democrats, has been a goal the commissioners have said they would like to achieve since they first convened in March.
And although that goal was seemingly reached with Kanefield and O’Grady, the two Republicans on the commission objected to how the selection was carried out, and Maricopa County Republican Commissioner Scott Freeman said after the meeting that the wishes of him and fellow GOP commission member Richard Stertz were disregarded by the rest of the panel.
“It boils down to this: The Democrats vetoed the Republicans’ selection,” Freeman said.
Freeman and Stertz wanted the two Democrats on the commission to select an attorney. In turn, the Republicans would then select their favorite, with IRC chair Colleen Mathis, an independent, acquiescing to those choices.
“The attorneys represent the commission, not individual commissioners. We know that. It’s in the law,” Freeman said. “But if you let the Democrats pick one and the Republicans pick one, then at least each commissioner can feel like they have someone they have had trust in since the beginning.”
That was how Freeman said he understood the IRC selected its attorneys 10 years ago, and he thought it would have worked well again this time.
But instead, Mathis made a motion to hire Ballard Spahr and Osborn Maledon as soon as the commission began their public meeting.
Freeman objected, saying he would rather the panel select Republican attorney Lisa Hauser of Gammage & Burnham, and let the Democrats select whomever they liked. Pima County Republican commissioner Richard Stertz agreed and offered a substitute motion to choose attorneys with that method. However, in a roll call vote, the two Democrats and Mathis voted Stertz’s motion down.
The panel then voted 3-2 for Mathis’ original motion.
Commissioner José Herrera, a Democrat, defended the selection procedure before the meeting adjourned, saying he preferred Mandell Law Firm over Osborne Maledon, but all four partisan members had to forgo their first choice.
“I sacrificed. We all did,” Herrera said. “This is the nature of negotiating.”
Tim LaSota, an attorney with Rose Law Group who had also been considered for the group’s counsel, said Friday’s vote bodes poorly for the way the commission will settle disputes moving forward.
“We basically saw the two Democrats got to pick the attorneys, because Mathis sided with them,” he said. “It’s still early, but maybe that’s how things will be decided for this commission.”
Lisa Hauser, the attorney that Freeman and Stertz both wanted to select, echoed LaSota’s evaluation.
“The Democrats picked both attorneys,” Hauser said, before adding that Kanefield had only switched his party affiliation to Republican within the past year.