Arizona’s Senate must release documents related to the state’s controversial report on the 2020 election after the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld a decision made by a lower court earlier this month, the Washington Examiner reports.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp ruled on Aug. 2 that the state Senate must turn over documents, invoices, and various other documents related to the report to the liberal watchdog organization American Oversight after the group filed several requests for the records.
Attorneys for the Arizona Senate argued that because the documents are in the possession of Cyber Ninjas, the private company hired to review the 2020 election, they are not required to release the records under public disclosure rules. However, the courts rejected this argument.
“Defendant [Arizona Senate President Karen] Fann has the authority, and the statutory obligation, under the [Public Records Law], to compel [Cyber Ninjas] and its subvendors to produce all internal emails and correspondence outlined in the proposed order,” Kemp wrote earlier this month in his order.
Fann told the Washington Examiner at the time that the Senate has “already complied with the FOIA requests as required by law between government and entities we do business with,” and said that they “cannot produce documents we do not nor ever had possession of.”
However, the three-judge panel on the state Court of Appeals found that “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. 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.”
The judges added: “Nothing in the plain text of the [Public Records Law] suggests that physical possession of the public records by the Senate is required. The requested records are no less public records simply because they are in the possession of a third party, Cyber Ninjas.
“We find no error with the superior court’s determination that the requested documents are public records that must be disclosed,” the court concluded.
The controversial report on the 2020 election has been under scrutiny since its inception, with many Democrats and some Republicans criticizing Cyber Ninjas over their lack of experience and their reviewing process. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs wrote that the “secretive and disorganized” review did not follow the proper procedures of an election audit.
Maricopa County recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, wrote an open letter to members of the state GOP on Thursday criticizing the credentials of the people conducting the review.
The Arizona Mirror reports that the Senate will likely appeal to the state Supreme Court. Fann did not respond to the Examiner’s request for comment on the Thursday ruling.