Dispute Arises Within Maricopa County GOP Over Member-at-Large Revealing Who Voted Against Censuring Recorder Stephen Richer

After the Maricopa County Republican Committee (MCRC) censured Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, over election integrity failures including denying there was election fraud in 2020, the author of the censure has found himself in hot water. Member-at-large Brian Ference responded to an inquiry in a Telegram channel for Maricopa County precinct committeemen (PCs) asking who voted against the censure. He provided a list of names in the channel — but also included their email addresses and phone numbers, prompting a stern email from the MCRC’s attorney.

Ference issued an apology for including the contact information, but told The Arizona Sun Times he didn’t regret sharing the names, because it exposed “Entrenched establishment Republicans who have proved again and again they offer little to no opposition to Democrats, but instead fight like hellcats against America First MAGA Republicans.”

A source with knowledge of the PCs who voted against the censure said some of them didn’t vote for it because they were not present for the vote, and others said they didn’t want to pick a fight with Richer because he is a key figure they need to deal with since he oversees elections.

The Sun Times asked Ference about this explanation. He responded, “Most voting no are establishment or weak.”

The censure passed with 13 voting in favor of it. Of the 11 who voted against it and two who abstained, 13 were members of the MCRC executive board and legislative district (LD) chair members.

MCRC General Counsel Ken Sampson emailed Ference to cease and desist. “It is clear that the individuals listed in this post are acting contrary to your personal political beliefs, and the disclosure of their private information is an attempt to elicit third parties to contact these members directly and express similar opinions,” he stated in his email. “Please be advised that this conduct appears to violate A.R.S 13-2916; Use of an electronic communication to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass.”

Ference responded to Sampson in an email:

Thank you for your email. I have deleted that post.

Sorry, I should have looked more closely to make sure it was not just a list of names before forwarding in response to a posted question on the vote.

However, Ference told The Sun Times he doesn’t believe he violated the law. “The statute mentioned in the cease and desist is for cyberstalking, harassing and bullying. Simply publishing an email or phone number (particularly of elected public officials that have this information publicly available on the recorder and Maricopa County websites) is not incitement or pursuit of either of those and in this case unwarranted and taken completely out of context.”

He provided The Sun Times with a link to publicly available phone numbers as well as addresses of registered voters on the recorder’s website and pointed out that the MCRC posts email addresses for leadership on its site.

One of the PCs who voted against the censure, Second Vice-Chairman Michal Joyner, told Republican Briefs about Ference, “I have been the personal recipient of his bullying for the last 2 years. … This is the exact behavior he has exhibited for the entire time I have known him. … After this was issued, Brian immediately changed his ‘handle’ on social media to hide his identity, yet he and his followers continue to harass.”

Ference told The Sun Times that this was inaccurate, since he only became a PC serving in his position a year ago.

Another source who preferred not to be identified told The Sun Times, “Of all the board, Michal Joyner is the one consistently voting and acting the most like a RINO.”

Ference said there have been other questionable actions taken regarding voter integrity measures within the MCRC. One involved MCRC Chair Micki Niland failing to appoint an early ballot challenger for the 2022 election. Niland issued a statement on July 20 explaining why she did not. She said she only had a small window of time whether or not to choose that option, and had received conflicting advice.

“I am caught between two different legal opinions on what the proper course of action is in this situation,” she stated. “One level of the political party is for it and the other against it. Although they differ vastly in their advice they are equally passionate that their position is correct.”

The other controversy involved LD 12 Republicans censuring Niland for not providing raw voter registration data to PCs. She cited privacy concerns as the reason. Several prominent Republican officials disagreed with the censure and issued a proclamation calling to revoke it.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]

 

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