The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors violated state law by not fully responding to a subpoena from the Arizona Senate related to the ongoing review of the 2020 election, Attorney General Mark Brnovich has concluded.
The finding means the supervisors have until Sept. 27 to comply or face the prospect of losing hundreds of millions of dollars of sales-tax revenue the state shares with the county.
The supervisors contended they broke no laws because the Senate had no ability to enforce its subpoena powers once the legislative session ended on June 30.
But the Attorney General investigation found that argument only speaks to a remedy to enforcing a subpoena and does not address the fact that ignoring a subpoena is illegal.
“That argument, which addresses only the possible remedy for violating a legislative subpoena, is irrelevant to whether (the board) is in violation of state law in the first place,” Solicitor General Brunn “Beau” W. Roysden III wrote in the report.
The investigation, launched in response to a state senator’s request, pointed back to a lawsuit the supervisors lost earlier this year.
In that case, early in the battle between the Senate and the supervisors over 2020 election materials and procedures, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge found the Legislature’s subpoena power was correctly used. The supervisors did not appeal that decision.
In the current case, the supervisors did not fully comply with a July 26 subpoena for election materials the board had earlier withheld from the Senate. The materials include routers, passwords and various log books.
The Attorney General’s report suggested there are ways to remedy the standoff without the prospect of losing tax revenue. For example, the supervisors could reach a negotiated settlement with the Senate, hand over the materials or take the matter to court.
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he’s prepared to go to court to protect the county’s routers from the risk of hacking.
“The integrity of our technology infrastructure, the privacy of our citizens, the ability of a hacker to use that information to corrupt our system is devastating,” Penzone said.
Router access wouldn’t just affect county law enforcement operations, but also any other agency the Sheriff’s Office works with, Penzone said.
This echoes concerns he voiced earlier this year, when the Senate demanded the routers that are used to connect county computers to the internet.
In addition, the routers affect other areas of county operations, potentially exposing confidential medical and personal information, county officials have said.
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County elections officials have repeatedly said the vote-tabulation machines are not connected to the internet, so scrutiny of the routers would not help in the ongoing election probe.
Penzone said he had not yet discussed his intent to fight the subpoena demand with the board of supervisors Thursday.
The board’s spokesman, Fields Moseley, said the supervisors will meet with their attorneys to determine their next steps.
Senate praises attorney general finding
Senate President Karen Fann, who issued the subpoena, applauded the finding.
“The Senate is pleased to see the attorney general stand strong enforcing the laws of our state, regardless of who is breaking those laws,” said Fann, R-Prescott.
The inquiry was launched earlier this month after the supervisors refused to turn over everything sought in the July 26 subpoena.
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State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, used a power lawmakers created several years ago that triggers an investigation into possible violations of state law by cities, towns and counties. If found in violation, the local governments face the prospect of losing state-shared revenue.
In this case, Maricopa County gets a share of state sales tax that last year amounted to $715 million.
Republic reporter Jen Fifield contributed to this article.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
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