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.
The complaint argued that all documents relative to the audit are public record because Cyber Ninjas was engaged in a “core governmental function” partly funded by taxpayer dollars.
In another ongoing lawsuit requesting similar transparency to the audit, American Oversight v. Fann et al., the Senate argued in a motion to dismiss that Cyber Ninjas wasn’t subject to the state’s open records laws because it’s a private corporation serving as a vendor.
“The crux of this dispute is discrete and straightforward: private corporations that serve as vendors to the state government are not ‘public bodies’ within the meaning of A.R.S. § 39-121.02(2),” read the motion to dismiss. “It follows that any document in their possession, custody or control are outside the scope of The Arizona Public Records Act[.]”
In the last court document filed, the Senate added that it doesn’t possess Cyber Ninjas’ corporate records.
The Senate-instigated audit began with a lawsuit. On the same day that the audit was to begin, April 22, Arizona’s Democratic Party and Maricopa County Board of Supervisors member Steve Gallardo filed suit against the state Senate and Cyber Ninjas to stop the audit in Arizona Democratic Party et al v. Fann et al. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, We the People AZ Alliance PAC, and Maricopa County Libertarian Party joined in with their endorsements; the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona joined as an intervenor in the case.
The court dismissed that case with prejudice.
Although the Arizona audit has moved from its primary location at the coliseum, it is ongoing.
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