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APS parent company again discloses grand jury subpoenas in filing

(Deposit Photos/Tasha Tuvango)

(Deposit Photos/Tasha Tuvango)

Editor’s note: This story and headline has been revised to clarify that the February 2019 report to the Securities and Exchange Commission was not the first time the company disclosed it received federal grand jury subpoenas related to the 2014 election.

Arizona Public Service’s parent company first received federal grand jury subpoenas in 2016 for documents related to the 2014 elections.

APS admitted March 29 to giving $10.7 million to dark-money groups that spent heavily in the 2014 race to elect two statewide utility regulators.

Pinnacle West has made the disclosure of the grand jury subpoenas in each of its quarterly reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission since June 30, 2016, and most recently in an annual report filed in February.

According to the February report, first noticed by the Arizona’s Politics blog, the subpoenas namely sought information related to the 2014 secretary of state and Corporation Commission races, including records involving Pinnacle West’s CEO Donald Brandt and communications between company personnel and “a former ACC Commissioner.”

“Pinnacle West is cooperating fully with the United States Attorney’s office in this matter,” according to the SEC report.

APS and Pinnacle West fought for years to keep commission Chairman Bob Burns from forcing them to disclose their spending in 2014. They even took the fight to court and won when a judge said Burns alone had only limited authority to issue and enforce subpoenas.

That changed when Democrat Sandra Kennedy was elected to the commission in 2018, and Commissioner Boyd Dunn signed onto their fight to get the information.

That gave the trio a working majority on the five-member commission, increasing the likelihood that the company could be forced to hand over the long-sought documents.

APS finally turned them over on March 29.

But the February SEC filing  and the previous filings go further than that.

The federal grand jury subpoenas are evidence of an investigation that led to the federal court case known as “Ghost Lobby” last year.

Former Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce, his wife Sherry Pierce, lobbyist Jim Norton and water utility owner George Johnson were indicted for allegedly cooking up a scheme in which the Pierces were paid for commission votes that favored Johnson.

The case ended in a mistrial after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict, and the feds opted not to try the case again.

At the time, Gary Pierce’s attorney, Pat Gitre, said the FBI’s investigation was rushed and inadequate.

“I think there were other forces in play… which we’re not allowed to talk about,” Gitre said.

But documents filed in the lead-up to the trial and conversations in court revealed the case stemmed from a larger investigation dubbed “Operation High Grid.”

Gary Pierce has already acknowledged talking to federal investigators about the 2014 secretary of state’s race, in which his son, Justin Pierce, was a Republican primary candidate.

Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer contributed to this report.


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