Rogers asks court to bar reporter from contacting her

Rogers asks court to bar reporter from contacting her

Rogers, Senate, reporter, injunction, residency
State Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, speaks at a Save America Rally prior to former President Donald Trump speaking on Jan. 15, 2022, in Florence, Ariz. Rogers is asking a court to stop a reporter who is investigating claims she resides outside of the northern Arizona district she represents from contacting her. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona state Senator Wendy Rogers is asking a court to stop a reporter who is investigating claims she resides outside of the northern Arizona district she represents from contacting her.

Rogers, R-Flagstaff, filed a petition for an injunction against harassment yesterday in Flagstaff Justice Court asking the court to bar Arizona Capitol Times Senate reporter Camryn Sanchez from entering the Arizona Senate building.

The court ordered Sanchez to not contact Rogers at her residence.

Sanchez was in the process of investigating whether Rogers lives in Flagstaff or other homes she has owned outside of her district in Maricopa County. The investigation included an examination of publicly available property records that show Rogers and her husband bought a home in Chandler in January and signed a trust document that said she resides in Tempe.

Neither city is located in Rogers’ Legislative District 7, which includes Payson, Williams, Flagstaff and Show Low but not Maricopa County. State statute around lawmakers’ residency uses the word “intention” and maintains that a lawmaker’s home is where “his habitation is fixed and to which he has the intention of returning when absent.” In past residency lawsuits, challengers have struggled to prove that defendants don’t intend to return to their district if they’ve been living somewhere else.

Where legislators live can have financial implications.

Between March 31, 2022, and Jan 6, 2023, Rogers collected $19,754 in per diem subsistence payments on top of her $24,000 salary as a lawmaker.

Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, collected just $3,010 in the same time period because he lives in Maricopa County and represents a district in that county.

In each pay period, senators sign their name on a subsistence and mileage report their assistants prepare, and that is submitted to the Senate Accounting Office. Senators are paid for subsistence and mileage “on a bi-weekly basis with their paycheck.”

Lawmakers can opt out of getting per diem money, but Rogers has not.

Rogers did not respond to requests for comment.

On her nomination and elections forms, Rogers lists a Flagstaff address, and Rogers frequently mentions Flagstaff both on social media and at the Senate.

On Jan. 21, Rogers tweeted, “So good to be home in Flagstaff!”

On Jan 27, she signed the warranty deed for a house in Chandler. On a title document for the Chandler home, Rogers and her husband signed in January, they stated they were “currently residing” at a Tempe home.

Property records show that Rogers and her husband owned the Tempe home until March 5, 2021 – well into Rogers’ first term representing a Flagstaff-area district in the Senate. Records show they sold the home to an LLC owned by Ohio resident Vincent Abel. Another LLC owned by Abel currently owns a small plane that Rogers owned until November 2017, according to flight tracking website Flight Aware.

Rogers and her husband Harold Kunnen are both pilots. Their new neighborhood in Chandler is close to an airfield and inhabited by many pilots. The $750,000 house’s layout shows that it includes a hangar for planes.

A neighbor who lives near the Tempe house, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she saw Rogers and her husband at the Tempe house frequently until recently and that the house is now for sale. The neighbor was under the impression that Rogers still owned the Tempe house.

The ARMLS database, a service used by real estate agents, shows that a sale is pending at the Tempe house, but shows no record of the 2021 sale.

The neighbor said Rogers has been in the Tempe house for more than a decade.

“She’s been here forever; I don’t know how long. … That has been her house for a long time,” the neighbor said.

The home Rogers lists as her address in Tempe is in District 8, one of the most liberal districts in Arizona represented by three Democrats: Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, and Rep. Melody Hernandez, D-Tempe.

The home Rogers and her husband bought in Chandler is in another blue district controlled by three Democrats: Sen. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe; Rep. Patty Contreras, D-Phoenix; and Rep. Stacey Travers, D-Phoenix.

Sanchez went to both the Chandler and Tempe homes in an attempt to speak with neighbors and ask Rogers why the January title document states that she resided in Tempe.

In her petition for the injunction against harassment, Rogers alleged that when Sanchez went to the Tempe and Chandler homes, she violated direction from Arizona Senate leadership that she not speak to Rogers.

Gregg Leslie, executive director of the First Amendment Clinic at Arizona State University, said Rogers’ justification “seems completely inadequate to justify a lawsuit.”

“Normally, if you say somebody’s looking into you too much, that alone is not the harassment; it’s really saying that that’s gaining evidence or gaining information so that they can harass you,” Leslie said. “And yet in this case, it’s pretty clear you’re gathering the information so that you can see if this public official is behaving honestly, so it seems like an absolutely meaningless claim to me.”

Rogers previously asked Arizona Senate leadership in March to revoke Sanchez’ access to the Senate floor. Petersen declined, but Senate leadership directed Sanchez not to approach Rogers on the floor. At the time, a Senate Republican spokeswoman clarified that Sanchez was still allowed to contact Rogers in other areas of the Arizona Senate.

In her petition, Rogers alleged she filed for the injunction “at the urging of the Senate President.”

“Senator Rogers had expressed fear and concern to President Petersen that a reporter had shown up at her private residences, so he suggested filing an injunction against harassment as a remedy,” a Senate Republican spokeswoman said. “At this point, the Senate does not plan to revoke the reporter’s credential for floor privileges.”

This article includes reporting conducted by Camryn Sanchez before the lawsuit was filed regarding questions surrounding Sen. Wendy Rogers’ residency. Wayne Schutsky reported on the court action.