Attorney General Tom Horne announces redistricting commission investigation

Jim Small//July 21, 2011

Attorney General Tom Horne announces redistricting commission investigation

Jim Small//July 21, 2011

Attorney General Tom Horne (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Attorney General Tom Horne has announced his office has opened an investigation into the Independent Redistricting Commission in response to an investigation by Arizona Capitol Times and its sister publication, Yellow Sheet Report, that uncovered possible violations of the state’s open meeting and procurement laws.

“All that writing you guys did seems to have led to something,” Horne said. “I would say you played a role. We’ve also gotten lots of calls and emails. There’s a general public concern.”

He said his office will immediately begin interviewing IRC commissioners and requesting documents to see if there were any violations of state law, saying the matter was “a high priority.”

Horne noted that the investigation is still in its preliminary stages and that his office has no evidence there was any wrongdoing.

“We don’t’ have any real reason to think anything was done wrong, but there’s a general public concern,” he said. “The public has a right to know if anything was done wrong, and they need to know that someone’s looking into it.”

The investigation raised questions about the process the commission used to hire Strategic Telemetry, a firm with strong ties to Democrats and liberal groups, as its mapping consultant. Although state law bars commissioners from voting or taking polls in closed-door executive sessions, members of the IRC emerged from three-hour executive session in late June and made statements indicating they knew which firm would be hired.

It also appears that some scoring evaluations used to narrow down a list of mapping consultant applicants are missing. In response to a public records request, the IRC provided tally sheets for the four finalists, but did not turn over any documents relating to how the commission selected the finalists from the seven firms that applied. However, the final score sheets from the two Republican commissioners refer to an earlier round of scoring.

The documents that were obtained under public records law showed that three of the commissioners – Democrats Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty and independent Colleen Mathis – all gave Strategic Telemetry perfect scores during the final round of scoring.

Herrera told Arizona Capitol Times he “had to” give the firm a perfect score, even though he actually preferred another applicant, because there were concerns that the Republicans would give the company poor marks because it caters to Democratic candidates and unions.

Sen. Frank Antenori, one of the loudest critics of the IRC process, praised Horne’s decision to open an investigation and said the contract with Strategic Telemetry should be voided.

“They weren’t supposed to do the selection in executive session. That should have been done out in the open,” the Tucson Republican said. “If they want to play games with their scoring, let them do it in the public.”

The IRC’s decision to hire Strategic Telemetry has angered Republicans across the state and has led to calls from some GOP legislators that its chair, Mathis, be removed or that the panel be abolished outright.

Last week, Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, began circulating an online petition aimed at currying public support for a special legislative session in which lawmakers would call a special election later this year to repeal a 2000 ballot measure that created the Independent Redistricting Commission. Under Proud’s proposal, the power to draw political lines for legislative and congressional districts would be returned to the Legislature.