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Senate, Maricopa County reach deal on audit dispute

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates said Friday he believes that settling the dispute with the state Senate was preferable to the potential loss of nearly $700 million in state funds should the case wind up in court. With him is supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Maricopa County will avoid losing nearly $700 million in state-shared revenue and the Arizona Senate will be able to pose the questions it has about previously withheld materials that it subpoenaed for its review of the 2020 election results in the county. 

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Arizona Senate came to an agreement Friday to resolve the state attorney general’s finding that the county violated state law by not turning over routers, splunk logs and certain administrative passwords subpoenaed by the Senate in January and July. 

The settlement, signed by Senate President Karen Fann, board Chairman Jack Sellers and their legal counsel, states that the county and the senate selected a special master to handle the process of answering the Senate’s questions about the routers and splunk logs. That’s in lieu of turning the materials over to the Senate and its contractor, Cyber Ninjas. 

The whole purpose behind obtaining the routers was to see if the election equipment had been connected to the internet at any time during the tabulation, a situation that could have resulted in vote tallies being altered. Fann said the routers, which direct computer traffic, would show if that had occurred. 

Fann and the county each claimed victory. 

Fann said it is no longer necessary to give the routers to Cyber Ninjas, the private firm she hired to audit the 2020 returns in Maricopa County. 

The supervisors, in turn, believe it is a victory because it ensures that the routers won’t wind up in the hands of Cyber Ninjas, a firm headed by Doug Logan who said even before the audit began that he believes the election results were fraudulent. More to the point, the supervisors said giving that access to an outside firm could result in sensitive private and law enforcement information being compromised. 

“It’s very important for people to understand that the Cyber Ninjas will not have access to the routers,” board Vice Chairman Bill Gates said during the supervisors special meeting, which started at 4:45 p.m. Friday. 

Gates said that the settlement avoided costly litigation while also keeping data on the county’s routers safe. The county has repeatedly withheld the routers over security concerns. 

In exchange, Fann, R-Prescott, will inform Attorney General Mark Brnovich that the county has fully complied with the Senate’s subpoenas and no further action is needed from him. 

They chose former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, a Republican, to serve as the special master. He will hire a team of one to three computer technology experts to help answer the Senate’s questions, according to the agreement. Those team members will have to sign a confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement.  

The county will pay all costs for Shadegg and his team’s employment. The board also agreed that the county would drop its efforts to have the Senate reimburse $2.8 million the county spent to replace voting equipment that may have been compromised during the Senate’s audit. 

The final report from the Senate contractor Cyber Ninjas is set to be released on September 24. 

“We’re certainly not giving up the rights to take action once the audit report is released next week. We will always protect the rights of our voters,” Sellers said. 

Fann painted the agreement as a victory for the Senate, saying it gave them the data needed to complete its review. 

“We got everything we need and more,” she wrote on Twitter. “Maricopa County goes home with its tail between its legs.” 

Supervisor Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the board, was the only supervisor to vote against the settlement. He said he didn’t think this was the end of the dispute between the county and the Senate and that the board was “dealing with unhinged people” who couldn’t be trusted. 

“The folks that are trying to find a smoking gun — if it’s not in the routers, they’re going to go somewhere else,” he said. “But this whole issue of trying to challenge the election will not stop.” 

The supervisors faced a September 27 deadline to resolve the subpoena issue or face loss of state-shared revenue, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in an August decision. Their options were to either turn over the requested materials or negotiate a settlement with the Senate or through the courts. 

Brnovich’s involvement was spurred by a request from Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, to investigate the county’s noncompliance. Borrelli’s request took the form of a 1487 complaint, the mechanism lawmakers have to seek investigations of local governments when lawmakers believe the latter’s actions contradict state laws. 

Capitol Media Services contributed to this report. 

2 comments

  1. This has never been about possible election fraud. It’s always been about hate. “Maricopa County goes home with its tail between its legs.” is not a statement that an honorable negotiator makes. It’s simply designed to stir up a little more hate, and keep the Trump image alive in the minds of some voters.

  2. Why the ^%*)&%^*& is this taking so long? When will arrests be made? Biden has destroyed this nation in 8 months and you are arguing about routers, when they supposedly “had everything”

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