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Ethics committee rejects Stringer’s request to provide documents in secret

Rep. David Stringer (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Rep. David Stringer (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The House Ethics Committee denied Rep. David Stringer’s request that he be allowed to present documents in the investigation against him in private.

That effectively means that whatever Stringer turns over in the course of the ethics investigation against him will eventually be made public.

Only Rep. Gail Griffin voted in favor of Stringer’s request. Ethics Chairman T.J. Shope and Reps. John Allen, Kirsten Engel and Diego Rodriguez voted against the request, arguing the committee must be transparent to preserve public confidence in the investigation.

“The issues that are before us warrant following through on a subpoena that I was loathe to have to sign,” Shope said in explanation of his vote.

Stringer did not return a call seeking comment.

The committee went into executive session to obtain legal advice on the request and returned after less than an hour of discussion for the vote, which was swift. The committee did not hear from any witnesses, including Stringer and his attorney Carmen Chenal, nor did the members inspect any documents today.

Before going into executive session, Shope put the present situation into context. Investigators asked Stringer to sit for an interview and turn over documents. The request was not met, so Stringer was subpoenaed, Shope said.

Shope declined to provide any details regarding what documents had been requested following the committee’s vote. However, he noted the subpoena would be provided in the investigative report, which is expected at the end of the month. Stringer has until March 27 to comply with the committee’s request.

But some of the documents the committee has requested are “allegedly sensitive” but nevertheless must be presented, Shope explained.

Enter Stringer’s request to keep those records away from the public.

Arizona law does allow a public body to hold an executive session under specific circumstances, such as the discussion of records exempt by law from public inspection.

Stringer has also been asked to submit for an interview with the committee’s special counsel, Joe Kanefield of Ballard Spahr, by March 29. If Stringer does not meet the committee’s deadlines, he could be found in contempt of the Legislature, but Shope declined to say what consequences he could face in that case because that is “an extreme hypothetical” at this point.

“We do want him, obviously, to cooperate,” Shope said.

The complaints against him include allegations that Stringer was indicted in 1983 on multiple sex offenses, including child pornography, which the Phoenix New Times received documentation of despite Stringer’s record having been expunged in 1990. A spokeswoman for the Maryland Judiciary later contacted New Times to say the microfilm of the case had been provided in error.

Stringer also sought – and was granted – protection for records reviewed in the Arizona State Bar’s investigation into whether he had made all appropriate disclosures when applying to practice law in Arizona.

Chenal sought a protective order that allowed a letter of dismissal related to the District of Columbia Bar’s investigation of Stringer to be disclosed to the State Bar but not the public. Chenal successfully argued the letter was connected to a sealed investigation and contained “sensitive personal matters” that should be kept from all government agencies, media and the general public.

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