IRC off to a slow, slower and painful start
Published: June 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm
You wouldn’t naturally expect people to become angry before a state commission redraws Arizona’s legislative and congressional districts, but thanks to the trending wave of dysfunction, that’s exactly what has happened.
Earlier this month, Republican attorney Lisa Hauser filed a formal complaint over her failure to land a job with the Independent Redistricting Commission. She filed her objections with state procurement officials, who technically award such government contracts. But despite who the letter was addressed to, the criticisms were also unmistakably aimed at members of the Independent Redistricting Commission, whom she all but accused of purposefully derailing her application.
And who can blame her? Hauser, who was hired in 2001 by the first IRC, defended the commission’s maps against six years of legal challenges filed by several of the state’s most able election law attorneys. She’s also a prime go-to Arizona attorney when it comes to navigating campaign finance and election law, as Brewer’s campaign utilized her services in 2010. She’s even been hired by Democrats and left-of-center interest groups eager to capitalize on her experience.
Yet, one IRC member awarded Hauser a ridiculously low 250 of 400 possible points when it came to the most important criteria for applicants looking to become an attorney for the commission: knowledge of all things redistricting, including the federal Voter Rights Act and the finer points of minority voting rights. State evaluation summaries also include the ludicrous commentary that the strikes against Hauser include “former IRC litigation concerns” and a “potential conflict of interest from the first IRC.”
Funny. One would think that winning a lawsuit that creates case law that leaves the IRC’s district-drawing discretion nearly bulletproof from lawsuits would impress a potential employer.
Figuring out who bombed Hauser (the same person also gave Hauser 150 of 300 points when measuring her “capacity,” which in English translates to “prior work experience”) is best determined by making a wild guess between the IRC’s two Democrats, José Herrera and Linda McNulty, and independent Chairwoman Colleen Mathis. Of the trio, only Herrera typically returns calls from the press, and he said he couldn’t recall what type of score he gave Hauser.
And as of now, the Department of Administration is claiming that the scoring evaluations of individual members are not public records. It’s a strange claim, given that they released the individual scoring sheet of Republican Commissioner Scott Freeman, who was actually one of three commissioners to score Hauser’s knowledge of redistricting matters a perfect 400. (He and the other Republican commissioner, Richard Stertz, both have publicly said they wanted to hire Hauser and they voted against hiring attorneys Mary O’Grady and Joe Kanefield for that reason.)
The release of Freeman’s records was explained by a Department of Administration spokesman as a valiant IRC and department decision to go “above and beyond” the usual commitment to government transparency. Ironic. This same department earlier this year refused to disclose a complete list of people who filed job applications to become the executive director of the IRC — despite facing the threat of litigation from Arizona Capitol Times and the fact that several IRC commissioners had no objections to releasing the records.
The Department of Administration also first claimed that all individual evaluations of the IRC attorney applicants were destroyed by commission members. Later, the department acknowledged it received all of the score sheets, which it used to create an evaluation summary that made all scoring and commentary anonymous, but later returned the documents to the commissioners.
Now, Hauser is awaiting word from procurement officials whom she has asked to remove a designation that marked her as “not susceptible” of winning the lucrative IRC contract.
Freeman has all but openly regretted the commission’s decision to allow the Department of Administration to supervise commission hiring of staff, including its attorneys. The process has been agonizingly slow and needlessly treated like top secret intelligence on the whereabouts of bin Laden. Now, the IRC is left with very little time to conduct its actual job: redrawing Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts.
I hear that’s when things really get interesting.
— Chrisian Palmer is the associate editor of the Yellow Sheet Report.