The wrangling now is over who gets to review the contents.
Here is a report from Howard Fischer at Capitol Media Services reprinted in the Daily Star this morning.
State utility regulator Bob Stump has surrendered his state-issued cellphone to see if long-deleted, and potentially improper, text messages can be retrieved.
At issue is a series of texts — listed on a commission log — between Stump and Scot Mussi, executive director of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.
The Free Enterprise Club spent more than $300,000 last year to get Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little nominated for the Corporation Commission over GOP foes who supported solar energy.
Republican Stump was chairman of the Corporation Commission at the time and is still a member.
There also were texts with Little and his wife as well as texts with Barbara Lockwood, an executive at Arizona Public Service, a utility regulated by Stump and the other commissioners.
Arizona law says any effort to influence an election has to be done independent of any candidate.
Stump — who has not returned numerous calls and messages seeking public comment on the issue — not only routinely deleted texts, but had since thrown out his state-issued iPhone3, Barr was told.
Barr said it is possible that the texts still survive. He said when Stump upgraded to his iPhone5 he transferred not only the contacts but "metadata" containing the texts that the commissioner believes he deleted. Barr said his expert can retrieve that data if he’s given access to the current phone.
The commission is going to hire a retired judge to mediate and "supervise a forensic examination of the phone by a properly qualified expert to see if any deleted text messages can be retrieved". So what's the problem? Barr is the lawyer for the Checks and Balances Project which is investigating Stump's email and wants a separate expert to conduct his own review of any deleted emails recovered. But that's not OK with the commission.
But [Barr's] request for everything found on the phone is not acceptable to the commission. Cantelme [lawyer for the commission] said if any texts can be recovered, the commission’s legal staff will review them to determine whether they are public records. Only then, he said, will the agency produce any records "as appropriate."
That ensures that private messages are not made public, said Jodi Jerich, the commission’s executive director. "I don’t understand why that’s not good enough," she said, adding of Barr, "He’s questioning the integrity of the commission’s legal staff."
And that is the problem. Damn right the integrity of the commission is being questioned. the staff works for the commission and the ex-chair of the commission is charged with wrong-doing.
The way to get out from under the cloud of suspicion is to have both sides review the emails. If only the commission's staff does the review, the issue will never be settled and the commission will continue on with its credibility damaged.
The emails should be made available in full to both parties.