The Arizona Attorney General continues to receive complaints alleging Cochise County officials violated the state’s public meeting laws, but an investigation into previous allegations of these violations is ongoing.
The Arizona Attorney General’s office has sent two letters to the Cochise County Oversight Board notifying them of possible violations this year, but the complaints continue. recent letter From Attorney General Chris Mays to the Board, dated July 31.
“The evidence considered to date strongly suggests that certain board members violated the public meeting law on several occasions going back more than a year,” Mays said in the letter. “Unfortunately, my office continues to receive complaints even as these investigations are pending.” Additional and ongoing violations. “
The state’s public meeting law stipulates that all public meetings shall be public meetings, and the public may attend and hear the deliberations. It also states that it will provide notices and agendas, as well as information necessary to inform the public of the matters to be discussed.
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the county had previously been warned of violations
However, according to one attorney general, previous letter to bulletin board, according to the complaint, two of the supervisors met privately in November to discuss legal action without public notice. The allegation accuses directors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, who make up a quorum, the minimum number of people required to hold a public meeting, to discuss legal action.
They eventually filed a lawsuit in public against former election director Lisa Mara. The complaint also alleges that he hired attorney Brian Brem to represent the lawsuit without holding a public meeting and then held a meeting to drop the lawsuit.
The complaint also alleges that in April and July 2022, Crosby discussed topics outside the scope of the meeting’s agenda despite being warned by the acting county attorney that he may have violated the Open Meeting Act. He also claimed to have asked questions.
The Attorney General’s Office found further potential violations in a March letter. That included a working session in February where Crosby sought a vote against the advice of the board’s general counsel, but no such proposal was on the agenda.
As another possible violation, the board discussed an agreement with the Cochise County Elections Authority, but referred to another version of the draft agreement that has not been made available to the public. Supervisor Anne English raised the issue with the board, according to the letter.
In its latest letter to the Board, the Attorney General’s Office said continued disregard for the Open Conference Act could be used as evidence of knowledge of violations aimed at “depriving the public of information.” said there is.
The letter said he could be removed from office if found guilty.
“I will pursue all penalties permitted by law for such misconduct, including, in some cases, ‘dismissal of public officials,'” Mays said in the letter.
Cochise County’s list of legal issues continues to grow
This isn’t the first time a board has faced legal troubles. In March, the Attorney General’s office filed charges against Cochise County officials for consolidating election affairs with the county registrar.
That same month, Rep. Raul Grijalva wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting an investigation into Cochise County’s new election administration policy regarding delegating nearly all election duties to the county registrar.
The commission was also sued by a group that would prevent the county from manually counting all ballots in the November general election. Despite warnings of legal ramifications, the Board voted in favor of manually counting the ballots. The effort was blocked by a judge, and an appeal of the ruling was dismissed after the Arizona Supreme Court did not accept the county’s claim.