Hearing on Ballot Preservation in Pima Election Fraud Case (Jan. 14 '09)

Source: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Currents/Content?oid=oid:121108 From the Tucson Weekly, Jan. 22, 2009

The Skinny

By Mari Herreras

Election Integrity Update

Some say that attorneys, like cactus, grow in Arizona.

A Wednesday, Jan. 14, court hearing regarding the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election ballots proved that statement may just be true. At the front of Judge Charles Harrington's courtroom, there were certainly enough attorneys to represent everyone involved. Somehow, there was just enough space to make sure every attorney had a place to sit.

On one of end of the courtroom sat Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford with the attorney from the DeConcini McDonald Yetwin and Lacy law firm hired by Pima County to represent the public official. At the next table were attorneys from the Pima County Republican Party and the Regional Transportation Authority.

In the middle--which was kind of like center stage--sat Pima County Democratic Party attorney Bill Risner, with two attorneys from the Pima County Libertarian Party serving as co-counsel, and newly elected Pima County Democratic Party chair Jeff Rogers, who also happens to be, yes, an attorney. At the final end of the attorney spectrum sat Ronna Fickbohm, another private attorney from Gabroy, Rollman and Bossé hired to represent Pima County. She sat with John Moffatt, Pima County's strategic planning director.

The hearing was Risner's chance to convince Harrington that he has the legal authority to take control of the ballots. Fickbohm, however, was there to remind Harrington that he was there to follow the law--a law that she insists doesn't give the judge any legal authority to take control of the ballots to facilitate a recount. He is, instead, obligated to dismiss Risner's request, she claimed.

Legally, the ballots are required to be destroyed--which is what caused this clump of attorneys to grow on the fourth floor of the Pima County Courthouse in the first place. In June, Ford announced to all party officials that she had to destroy the 2006 RTA ballots as required by state law.

Fickbohm told Harrington that what Risner really wants is the opportunity to contest the results of an election he doesn't agree with; she reminded Harrington that Arizona law only allows an election to be contested within five days of the canvas by the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Risner countered by telling Harrington he was not there to contest the election and reminded the court his party happened to endorse the RTA. He also added that he doesn't believe he needs the ballots to find out whether the RTA election was rigged--he already knows the election was rigged. He then went over evidence he feels is enough to show that something just wasn't right with that May 2006 election, such as an affidavit from a former Pima County employee who claims that a Pima County elections employee told him he fixed the RTA election, and other evidence that shows election equipment was manipulated to change results.

Risner said he wants to prevent any future shenanigans with ballots. "It's the next election," he said. "And we don't believe the court is powerless."

Just when it seemed that the hearing might get a bit boring, Risner told Harrington that the court can't wash its hands of Pima County's election problems and what happened with the RTA vote. That remark didn't sit so well with Harrington, who did not take Risner's words in the metaphorical, legal-community way Risner said he intended. He pointed to Risner and told him not to accuse his court of washing its hands, adding that he took this case and the future of elections in Pima County very seriously. A collective sigh of relief may have been heard by every attorney in the room. Harrington didn't rule on the matter; Risner and the other attorneys are slated to return to court in February to continue the battle for the ballots.



John Brakey and Mike Hayes write:

Much happened Jan 14th in court. Links to video are below to see for yourself. The litigants are still litigating and Bill Risner is still fighting for truth, transparency, and justice. A new suit for additional public documents has been filed because the county refused to give us the poll tapes from the precincts. You would think that they have learned from the last suit. The county attorney is nowhere to be seen! But the county is paying for these big private attorneys.

The current suit over destruction of the ballots has been continued to Feb 23.

JOHN C. RICHARDSON is the plaintiff's attorney, representing Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford. RICHARDSON is with DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy, P.C., one of Arizona's largest law firms with offices in Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, and Washington, D.C.

RICHARDSON made some interesting arguments. He said, let's assume it (the RTA election) is rigged and there is nothing you can do about it (because it is not possible to challenge an election more than five days after it is certified). Showing proof that it is rigged "pretty much destroys a sitting body."

That body would be the RTA, which would thus be proved to have no right to be sitting. He concludes that it is just inappropriate, under such circumstances, to do something that would have such a dramatic effect. I'm guessing, with proof the election was rigged, citizens would demand that a way be found to do something about correcting that.

RONNA L. FICKBOHM , the attorney representing the Pima County Board Of Supervisors, is with the law firm of Gabroy Rollman & Bosse. FICKBOHM stated that regardless of what happened in the RTA election, there is no present and clear risk to a future election. She says there is no way to fix (repair) a rigged RTA election and no evidence that it could happen again. I wonder if there is evidence it couldn't happen again. In any case, it was interesting to hear her admit, “Nobody is going to stand here and tell you that those elections were perfect." What constitutes a less than "perfect" election? One that was rigged, or one where the riggers didn't pull it off unnoticed?

Court Videos: Attorney's Arguments

Complete Hearing:


Risner's Argument:


Richardson's Argument:


Fickbohm's Argument: