Two Tools Track Arizona Governments, Reveal Missteps and Waste

Arizona Capitol

It is National Sunshine Week, which celebrates transparency in government, including creating awareness about requesting information from governments through FOIA public record requests. In Arizona, there are two tools provided by state agencies which allow anyone to look online at some of the government spending by state and local governments. Although it is a minimal amount of data, it reveals some missteps and waste. 

The Arizona State Treasurer manages AZCheckbook.com, which provides information about funding the state gets from all sources, including the federal government, and how much it is distributing to schools, cities, and towns. The Arizona Department of Administration operates OpenBooks.AZ.gov, which provides checkbook-level information about individual state expenditures, including on the city and county level.

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University Accused of Weaponizing Public Records Law to Harass, Intimidate Faculty

Indiana University campus

Indiana University paid a law firm to file a public records request against itself to search the emails of a law professor who was investigating its presidential search process, the professor claims, citing an invoice for the firm’s services.

Steve Sanders said he learned about the Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request made by Hoover Hull Turner, “presumably to attempt to find out how I’ve learned what I know,” on the eve of publishing his investigation on Medium in October.

The request covered any presidential search-related emails he may have sent or received with trustees, search committee members, former officials and recently departed President Michael McRobbie.

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Judge Rules Arizona Legislature Must Disclose Ballot Audit Records to Newspaper

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah, who was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Janet Napolitano, ruled that the Arizona Senate must turn over records from the Maricopa County ballot audit to satisfy a public records request from The Arizona Republic. The newspaper and left-wing watchdog American Oversight have been engaged in litigation attempting to get records from the legislature and the contractor that conducted the audit, Cyber Ninjas. 

Hannah said that while the legislature may keep conversations about legislation private, under “legislative privilege,” conversations about the audit are excluded. “This is not a confidential process,” Hannah said. “This is a highly, highly public process.” He said there is a legal presumption favoring disclosure which the Senate did not overcome. 

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Cyber Ninjas Must Turn over Records from the Maricopa County Ballot Audit, State Appeals Court Says

The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected a request from Cyber Ninjas, the company that audited Maricopa County’s ballots, to block a public records request by the media for records from the audit. Phoenix Newspapers Inc., which owns The Arizona Republic, asked for emails and other documents in its April request, which the lower trial court granted. Cyber Ninjas appealed the decision. The appellate court rejected the cyberfirm’s argument that opening its records up for public inspection would allow opening the records of any contractor that does business with the state. 

Jack Wilenchik, Cyber Ninja’s attorney, expressed his disappointment to Capitol Media Services, “The government cannot force private contractors to produce things the government does not own. He said it’s similar to a violation of the Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure.

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Business Insider Compiles Database to Track Former Trump Officials

President Donald Trump meets with (from left) U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price; Vice President Mike Pence; Speaker of the House Paul Ryan; Dr. Zeke Emanuel; and Andrew Bremberg, Dir. Domestic Policy Council, Monday, March 20, 2017, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Benjamin Applebaum)

A Business Insider list of former President Donald Trump’s officials tracks where these figures are working since departing the administration, warning that like Trump, these former staffers are “nowhere close to being gone.”

Insider said it combed through the interviews, LinkedIn profiles, and public records of over 327 former Trump staffers and compiled a searchable database “to show where they all landed.”

The publication noted that almost 100 former staffers have obtained “establishment” jobs, that over 40 of these former Trump officials still work in the government or in politics, and that at least 85 have gone “off the grid with no information available about their next move.”

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The Arizona Republic Sues State Senate, Cyber Ninjas for Election Audit Records

One of Arizona’s largest newspapers is suing the state Senate and the contracted company running the audit, Cyber Ninjas, for access to their election audit records and financial records. The Arizona Republic, part of the Gannett mass media company, filed a special action on Wednesday in the Maricopa County Superior Court – case number LC2021-000180. Reportedly, the Senate denied the paper’s request for access to the audit and financial records, saying they weren’t public record. The specific information they hope to obtain includes the process for the audit, businesses involved, funding sources, and all communications of those involved.

The plaintiffs in the case are Phoenix Newspapers and Kathy Tulumello, news director for The Arizona Republic. Including the state Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the other defendants named are Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott), Senate Majority Leader Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), and the secretary for the Senate, Susan Aceves. 

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