Arizona Attorney General Kristin Mayes has filed a lawsuit against the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, claiming the board overstepped its authority by delegating election duties almost entirely to the county recorder.
“Suing other public officials is not something I take lightly—but it is my job as attorney general to bring action when public officials unlawfully exercise their power or act outside the confines of their authority,” Mayes announced in a statement on March 7.
“The agreement is essentially an unqualified handover from the board to the recorder, not one that would allow both entities to work hand in hand to fulfill their statutory duties openly and transparently.”
The suit names as defendants the board’s three members, chairwoman Ann English, vice-chairwoman Peggy Judd, Tom Crosby, and David Sanders in his capacity as county recorder.
The suit accuses the board and recorder of acting beyond constitutional and legal limits, the misuse of public funds, and asks a judge to declare the agreement illegal and unenforcible.
The 19-page document claims, among other things, that in adopting the agreement Stevens “aggrandized his power” and the board “unlawfully and almost completely offloaded the statutory duties over elections.”
Mayes said that while Arizona counties “may enter into cooperative agreements with their recorders to manage elections, Cochise County’s agreement steps far over the legal line.”
“In addition to this broad transfer of power, I am deeply concerned this move might shield or obscure actions and deliberations the board would typically conduct publicly under open meeting law.”
The board voted 2-1 in favor of the one-year agreement, signed on Feb. 28, in which the board and recorder agreed to combine all election functions under one department to promote efficiency, cost savings, and public confidence.
English cast the lone dissenting vote, stating that the board was “acting in an inappropriate and unadvised fashion,” according to the attorney general’s lawsuit.
Under the pact, the recorder would be responsible for all election functions including oversight of election workers, voter registration, and early voting.
As the plaintiff in the case Mayes, a Democrat, said the agreement threatens the lawful administration and running of elections and may threaten residents’ right to vote.
“In shifting all election duties to the recorder—a distinct constitutional county officer—the agreement says not a word about how or whether the public may still have access to deliberations on matters that the board would normally consider in open meetings.”
“Without legislative authorization, a county body or officer may not give away its statutory powers or duties to another constitutionally established county body or officer, nor may it obtain the duties of another public body or officer or ‘assume power not conferred by statute,” the complaint reads.
On Feb. 27, the attorney general’s office sent a letter to the Cochise County attorney expressing “serious” concerns over the agreement’s legality.
“Cochise County did not provide any legal authority in response,” the lawsuit states.
“This is not the first time that defendants have disregarded the law governing elections,” it adds.
“The board and recorder repeatedly flouted the law with respect to the November 2022 general elections, first by attempting to engage in an illegal hand count of ballots and then by the board violating its duty to canvass the election within the statutory timeframe.”
“In both cases, the board and recorder ceased their unlawful conduct only after a court ordered them to do so.”
Judd and Crosby did not respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
“As a defendant in this lawsuit,” English told The Epoch Times in an email that “it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.”
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