GOP redistricting commissioner claims mapping contract invalid

Evan Wyloge//August 18, 2011

GOP redistricting commissioner claims mapping contract invalid

Evan Wyloge//August 18, 2011

Richard Stertz, one of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's appointed Republicans. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

One of Arizona’s Independent Redistricting commissioners says the contract with the group’s mapping firm is invalid.

Richard Stertz, one of the commission’s appointed Republicans, said Wednesday that the IRC never gave authorization to its executive director to actually execute the contract, only to negotiate it.

Executive Director Ray Bladine did both soon after the commission voted in a contentious 3-2 split on June 29 to hire Strategic Telemetry, a mapping firm with ties to Democratic campaigns and causes.

Stertz’ claim came to light during the commission’s Wednesday’s meeting, when the group voted on two amendments to Strategic Telemetry’s contract. Stertz uncharacteristically abstained from the vote, and briefly stated that he felt he had to abstain because there was question as to the actual validity of the contract.

Later, he said he’s sure that a careful inspection of transcripts and minutes from the June 29 meeting validates his belief.

“It states in the minutes that he wasn’t given authorization. Just look at them. It says he was given authorization to negotiate,” Stertz said.

The minutes and transcripts from the June 29 meeting confirm that Bladine was given explicit authorization to negotiate the contract with Strategic Telemetry, but there was no similar authorization to execute the contract.

What the practical effect will be to Stertz’ objection remains to be seen. The commission could always put the contract up for a formal vote. Strategic Telemetry has the support of a majority of the commissioners – the two Democrats and independent Chairwoman Colleen Mathis.

Jack LaSota, a former Arizona Attorney General, said he believes the issue could be problematic, but didn’t say the contract is necessarily invalid without further investigation.

“If they tell him to negotiate a contract, I think implicit in that, is that it be brought back to the body to make sure the changes conform to that which they thought they were approving,” LaSota said. “They have the final sign-off. That’s the norm.”

LaSota said there is room to argue that Bladine was acting under implicit authority as the group’s procurement executor, which could mean Stertz’ assertion doesn’t hold up.

“I don’t know that that totally invalidates the contract, though. That is a completely other legal argument,” LaSota said. “You can’t really say for sure until you see more facts.”