The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an attempt by the Republican-led state Senate to evade compliance with public records requests for documents related to its audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.
The court declined to overrule lower court decisions affirming the Senate's responsibility under state law to provide requested records and ordering the documents to be released to left-leaning watchdog group American Oversight. The ruling on Tuesday also dissolved a stay the high court issued on Aug. 24 that paused enforcement of the order demanding the records be released.
American Oversight sued the state Senate and Republican Senate President Karen Fann in May, seeking access to communications and other records between the Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the lead contractor overseeing the controversial audit.
The Senate’s attorneys argued such documents, which included information about donors who funded the audit, are not subject to public disclosure rules because Cyber Ninjas, a private company, have them, as well as other subcontractors.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp rejected the Senate's arguments and ordered it on Aug. 3 to produce records related to its audit.
Fann said at the time the Senate had "already complied with the [records] requests as required by law between government and entities we do business with," adding, "We cannot produce documents we do not nor ever had possession of."
The Senate appealed Kemp's ruling.
A three-judge panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals later unanimously rejected the Senate's appeal, ordering the records to be released.
"There is no dispute that the audit is being conducted with public funds, and that Cyber Ninjas and its sub-vendors are agents of the Senate," the court wrote. "In this case the Senate has argued no exemption that, if properly recognized, would shield itself from the responsibility to inform the public of activities regarding the audit."
Austin Evers, American Oversight’s executive director, praised Tuesday's ruling, saying Arizonans "can look forward to much-needed transparency."
“The Arizona Senate’s legal maneuvering to conceal these records from the public matches the outrageousness of their so-called audit. That ends today," Evers said in a statement.
The Washington Examiner reached out to Fann for comment.
The court's order comes days after news the audit team expects to submit a full draft report on their findings to the Senate as early as this week after weeks of delays.
For months, state and local officials of both parties have defended Maricopa County against allegations from former President Donald Trump and sympathetic Republicans that its election results were fraudulent. In August, Republican Maricopa Supervisor Jack Sellers called the review an "adventure in never-never land," while Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has insisted it is a "political stunt."
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman