Maricopa County Officials Say Senate Subpoena Enforcement Puts Public Safety At Risk

Published: Friday, August 27, 2021 - 3:30pm
Updated: Sunday, August 29, 2021 - 8:46am

Efforts by Senate Republicans to enforce what critics call unnecessary subpoenas for their review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election have now put the county’s operating budget at risk, officials warn.

The county has so far refused to comply with the Senate’s latest demands to turn over routers, user names, passwords and other information related to Maricopa County’s election equipment. On Thursday, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich concluded the county was breaking the law by not complying with the subpoena.

Maricopa County officials now have until Sept. 27 to turn over records and equipment to the Senate, or face a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues shared with the county by the state.

The county’s top law enforcement officers, County Attorney Allister Adel and Sheriff Paul Penzone, issued statements criticizing the Senate’s ongoing demands for records as “reckless and irresponsible.” 

And while Adel declined to comment on the merits of Brnovich’s decision — the county may yet appeal the attorney general's conclusion to the Arizona Supreme Court — she made it clear that a loss in revenues would be disastrous.

“As the individual elected to keep the residents of Maricopa County safe and represent them in the criminal justice system, I can say that withholding state funds from Maricopa County would be catastrophic to public safety and my office’s ability to hold criminals accountable and protect the rights of crime victims,” Adel said in a statement.

Maricopa County officials have long held that the Senate’s demands are unnecessary, and in some instances impossible to fulfill. 

For example, certain passwords subpoenaed by Senate Republicans aren’t in the county’s possession — only Dominion Voting Systems, which leases election equipment to Maricopa County, has those records. Dominion executives have rejected efforts by the Senate to obtain those passwords, and county officials say they’re not needed to conduct elections, anyway.

As for the county’s routers, Republicans who deny the 2020 presidential election results, including former President Trump, have latched onto the networking device as possible evidence that the county’s election was tampered with, or hacked.

Maricopa County officials say those routers aren’t connected to election equipment, and multiple audits have proven voting systems were never connected to the internet.

The routers are, however, connected to multiple county agencies, including the sheriff’s department. Penzone has warned that turning over Maricopa County’s networking devices to contractors hired by the Senate could put sensitive, confidential information at risk.

In a statement, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said the county is unlikely to comply with the subpoena, despite Brnovich’s decision.

“Brnovich’s legal position is not the final word,” officials said in a statement. “Sheriff Penzone is prepared to pursue legal action if necessary to protect the integrity of the Sheriff’s Office technology infrastructure and ultimately to prevent the opportunity for third parties to access confidential and personal information of our private citizens.”

Political consultant Chuck Coughlin said Adel and Penzone have highlighted the political risk for Senate Republicans still pursuing more avenues to extend their controversial review of the 2020 election. By getting the attorney general involved, Republican senators can now be criticized for jeopardizing vital services in Maricopa County.

“So it will be Republicans defunding the police over, over this audit, which is not supported by a majority of the county electorate,” Coughlin said.

Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) said the Senate has offered to work with Maricopa County officials to get the information they believe is needed to conclude their election review while ensuring that confidential data remains secure. And she blamed the county for refusing to answer “any of our simple questions.”

“The auditors and the Legislature would never want any of our public safety officers (sic) private information made public, much less anyone else’s,” Fann wrote to KJZZ.

Fann also raised questions about Maricopa County’s network.

“If there is any chance of anyone hacking the routers the sheriff’s department uses then why are they sharing the same router as other departments?” Fann wrote. “We already know by FBI reports there was a problem with hacking last November.”

Fann was referring to reports of stolen voter data. Maricopa County officials previously dismissed those concerns, noting that voter registration data is kept separate from the county’s voting systems — and reiterated that post-election audits proved that voting systems were never connected to the internet.

When asked what relevance the sheriff’s department’s shared network had with the election review, Fann said she was referring to “bad people out there who try to hack all computers and systems.”

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