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Mathis refutes open meeting allegations

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chairwoman Colleen Mathis (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Chairwoman Colleen Mathis responded Monday for the first time about allegations that she violated open meeting laws, acknowledging that she spoke with two Republican commissioners about a mapping consultant but denying that the conversations were illegal or improper.

Using carefully parsed wording in a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer, Mathis said she did not have any conversations with fellow commissioners outside of public meetings to pre-arrange voting for the contract the IRC awarded to Strategic Telemetry, a mapping consultant with strong ties to Democratic candidates and causes.

Mathis said she spoke with Republican Commissioners Scott Freeman and Richard Stertz, but denied that the purpose of the calls was to persuade them to vote for Strategic Telemetry, as the two commissioners have alleged.
“I adamantly dispute this characterization,” Mathis wrote in response to Brewer’s Oct. 26 letter detailing a handful of allegations of misconduct against the IRC. The letter is the first step in the process for removing a commissioner from office.

However, in a somewhat contradictory rebuttal, Mathis said she spoke with Freeman and Stertz in an attempt to “pursue consensus among the commissioners” in her dual role as both chairwoman and the IRC’s chief procurement officer. She said State Procurement Office protocol requires a consensus to award a contract.

“I was obligated to pursue consensus among the commissioners as I hoped the commission could comply with the State Procurement Office’s standard protocol requiring a consensus contract award decision,” Mathis wrote. “I also viewed achieving a consensus on a mapping consultant vendor, whichever mapping consultant vendor that might be, as important for instilling public confidence in our process.”

The IRC voted 3-2 to award the contract to Strategic Telemetry, with Freeman and Stertz dissenting.

Mathis also denied allegations made by Freeman and Stertz that she offered a “quid pro quo” to the duo in exchange for their votes for Strategic Telemetry. “There was never any quid pro quo, nor did I ever make any attempt to coerce, buy or rig any bid or vote,” she said.

But Freeman and Stertz reiterated statements they made to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in which they said Mathis not only contacted them to urge “yes” votes for Strategic Telemetry, but that she indicated she would repay them in future IRC votes if they did.

“There was an attempt by Chairwoman Mathis to garner my vote to obtain … a 5-0 vote to hire Strategic Telemetry outside of open meeting,” Stertz wrote. “Chairwoman Mathis confirmed that if I were to vote with her in regards to the selection of Strategic Telemetry, she would provide a favorable vote for me in the future.”
In his 18-page response to Brewer, Freeman said Mathis “alluded to a willingness to listen to me on future votes if I voted in favor of Strategic Telemetry,” and said he was “unsettled by the conduct of the chair.”

Freeman also elaborated on allegations that the IRC destroyed or withheld public documents related to the hiring of Strategic Telemetry. He said he submitted his scoring sheet for the firm – commissioners scored all seven companies that applied to be the commission’s mapping consultant – to IRC Executive Director Ray Bladine in response to a public records request. But the form was never posted on the commission’s website and Freeman said he was unsure whether it was ever made available to the public.

The first round of scoring sheets, which Freeman and Stertz spoke about in their statements to the Attorney General’s Office, were missing from the IRC’s response to a public records request from the Arizona Capitol Times.

Mathis’ response provides at least some of the answers unsuccessfully sought by Attorney General Tom Horne, who launched an investigation into allegations that Mathis violated open meeting laws. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge disqualified Horne from the case due to a conflict of interest, and Horne transferred the investigation to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

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

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