Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stumpgate saga continues to unfold

The latest move by AZ Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump is to keep the contents of his text messages hidden from public view. Given the late date in this year, Stumpgate is certain to spill over into next year. Here's the story by Howard Fischer in this morning's Daily Star.

Attorneys for Bob Stump and the Arizona Corporation Commission are trying to convince a retired judge that some of the text messages on the utility regulator’s cellphone should never see the light of day.

In a letter to David Cole, the lawyers are arguing that just because Stump sent messages from his state-owned phone does not mean they are a matter of public record. Ditto, they contend, for any messages sent to him.

Instead, they want Cole, who is reviewing the texts under a court directive, to strip out any messages of a personal nature before releasing the others.

But the "personal" messages are those Stump traded with an APS lobbyist, a dark money operative, and two Republican candidates for the Commission.

Another dodge proposed by Stump's legal team is to declare his messages are subject to legislative privilege.

Dan Barr, the attorney for the Checks and Balances Project, which went to court to seek the information, concedes that simply because a message is on a state-owned phone or computer does not automatically make it a public record. But what does bother Barr is a separate contention by the lawyers for the commission and Stump that much of what is being recovered from Stump’s phone is not public by reason of “legislative privilege.”

“We have not identified, and the defendants have not cited, any case holding that corporation commissioners are entitled to assert legislative privilege,” Barr wrote to Cole.

You can get caught up on the background for Stumpgate in the Star's report - and get up to speed on the legal arguments. This one will continue in 2016.

Cole has provided no date of when he will finish his review, and whatever he decides could lead to another round of legal filings.

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