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Redistricting officials face new allegations

Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commissioners (from left to right) Democrat Linda McNulty, independent chairwoman Colleen Mathis, Democrat José Herrera, Republican Scott Freeman and Republican Richard Stertz. (Photos by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Members of Arizona’s redistricting commission faced new allegations Thursday as the state attorney general said the panel’s chair reportedly destroyed documents and Democrats filed a complaint asking for an investigation of a Republican commissioner.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horn said Republican Commissioner Richard Stertz had told his office during an interview that the commission’s chair got rid of scoring documents from the panel’s evaluation of firms competing to be hired as mapping consultants.

Horne contended in a court filing Wednesday that the Independent Redistricting Commission may have violated the open meeting law in connection with its selection of a mapping firm, but he said Thursday he doesn’t know whether it would have violated records or procurement laws to destroy the evaluation documents in question.

“I don’t know that those scoring sheets would qualify as something that have to be kept,” Horne said in an interview.

Several hours later Thursday, the Democratic Party’s executive director, Luis Heredia, filed a complaint asking several prosecuting agencies to investigate Stertz.

The complaint said Stertz’s sworn application to serve on the commission omitted information about tax liens, court judgments and fraud allegations as well information as about his wife’s employment and his own past political involvement.

Stertz declined comment on the complaint. He also declined comment earlier Thursday when contacted about the records matter.

A spokeswoman for Horne’s office said she did not know what would be done with the Democratic complaint.

Horne’ disclosure of Stertz’s statement regarding Chair Colleen Mathis, the sole independent on the five-member commission, was reported Wednesday evening by the Arizona Capitol Times.

Horne said Stertz did not provide details of the document destruction during an interview he had with Horne’s office as part of the open meeting investigation.

Mathis declined comment about the records matter before a commission meeting. “I look forward to being able to someday,” she said.

However, commission Executive Director Ray Bladine denied that documents that should have been preserved were destroyed.

“That’s not the case,” Bladine said, adding that he wanted to consult a commission lawyer before commenting further.

Stertz is one of two Republicans on the commission, which is still in initial stages of drawing new congressional and legislative districts for Arizona to use in elections in the coming decade.

Horne’s office Wednesday filed a petition in Maricopa County Superior Court, asking for an order to compel Mathis and the two Democratic commissioners to cooperate with the open meeting investigation.

The selection of Strategic Telemetry, a Washington-based consulting firm with Democratic ties, has produced months of controversy.

Republican politicians and tea party activists contend the selection opens the door for slanting the maps to favor Democrats.

Mathis and the two Democrats voted to pick the firm, saying it was the best qualified.

Stertz and fellow Republican Scott Freeman, who both have cooperated with Horne’s investigation, wanted the commission to pick a California firm that worked for the last redistricting commission.

When Horne announced his investigation in July, he said it would focus on possible violations of open meeting and procurement laws.

Asked about its focus now, Horne said, “we’re pursuing open meeting because of the evidence that we have. That’s the direction it has pointed.”

Gov. Jan Brewer has authority to remove commission members with concurrence of the state Senate, and a spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer said Brewer so far has not seen “concrete evidence” that would warrant action.

“She’s following closely what’s going on. She’s aware of the investigation that the attorney general has launched,” spokesman Matthew Benson said.

One comment

  1. Wasn’t the Attorney General representing the Commission at the time all this happened???

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