An attorney for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission said the host of allegations lobbed at the panel by Gov. Jan Brewer are not grounds for removing individual commissioners, and that the governor is not following the constitutional process for ousting members of the IRC.
Mary O’Grady, an attorney for the IRC, refuted Brewer’s accusations in letter to the governor on Monday. The letter, written on behalf of the entire IRC, was a unified response from the commission to Brewer, who initiated the removal process last week with a formal letter detailing various allegations of “neglect of duty” and “gross misconduct in office.” Four of the five commissioners also submitted individual responses, and Republican Commissioner Scott Freeman said he would hand-deliver his response to the Governor’s Office as well.
Brewer’s Oct. 26 letter, which is the first step that must be taken in order to remove a commissioner, does not meet constitutional muster because the governor did not make any accusations against individual commissioners, O’Grady wrote. Instead, the governor leveled seven “general allegations” at the IRC as a whole. The governor’s letter was addressed to all five commissioners.
O’Grady said Brewer overstepped her constitutional authority by attempting to resolve questions that are currently being investigated in the court system. Brewer accused commissioners of violating state open meeting laws during the hiring of the IRC’s mapping consultant, which is the basis of an investigation initiated by Attorney General Tom Horne.
“A court, not the governor, should determine in the first instance whether the commission has violated constitutional open meeting requirements,” said O’Grady, a former Arizona solicitor general. “Until a court resolves the pending constitutional issue regarding open meeting requirements and determines that a violation of the open meeting law has occurred, you have no basis for even considering the removal of any commissioners for open meeting violations.”
O’Grady said Brewer’s accusations that commissioners failed to cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation are unwarranted because they were following statutory procedure. Furthermore, she said, three commissioners’ refusal to be interviewed for the investigation was backed up by the courts when Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink on Friday removed Horne from the investigation, citing a conflict of interest.
The governor also jumped the gun on her allegations that the congressional and legislative draft maps do not follow constitutional criteria, O’Grady wrote. And O’Grady once again accused Brewer of intruding on the court’s judicial review function. The accusation that commissioners did not properly use constitutional criteria are unfounded, she said.
“The Constitution’s removal provisions for serious misconduct and gross neglect do not give the governor any authority to review the maps to determine whether she believes they satisfy constitutional requirements,” O’Grady said. “The draft maps are not final and the commission will take all public input into consideration when making its adjustments in order to create final maps.”
O’Grady urged Brewer to abandon any efforts to remove commissioners from office and prevent the IRC from completing its work.
“The five commissioners have done nothing to justify a notice from the governor threatening to remove them from office,” she said. “The commission welcomes your comments as it welcomes comments from all Arizonans. But we urge you not to take part in any effort to prevent this commission from fulfilling its constitutional duties.”
See all the responses from the redistricting commission:
IRC attorney Mary O’Grady’s response
Chairwoman Colleen Mathis’ response
Republican commissioner Scott Freeman’s response
Republican commissioner Richard Stertz’ response
Democratic commissioner José Herrera’s response
Democratic commissioner Linda McNulty’s response