Judicial Watch: Court Opinion Ordering Release of Mayor Phil Gordon's Security-Detail Logs a Victory for Transparency
"Judicial Watch is excited by the ruling because it creates more transparency within government," says Greg Collins, an attorney with Kercsmar & Feltus, representing the government watch organization. "This is why Judicial Watch gets involved in these sort of cases."
The Arizona Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling, and now says that Phoenix has to release at least portions of Mayor Phil Gordon's security-detail logs that don't deal with confidential or security-related issues.
It's unclear whether the city will appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Assistant City Attorney Sandra Hunter tells New Times that she has not had time to review the court documents or discuss it with the parties involved, namely, the security detail -- a team of four Phoenix police officers charged with protecting the mayor.
Hunter says that the detail is presently dealing with security issues for both Mayor Phil Gordon, who has about a week remaining on his term, and Mayor-elect Greg Stanton, who will be sworn into office on January 3.
As far as how much money the city has spent on trying to keep these records out of the public eye, Hunter says that no outside legal council has been used in this matter. She says that as a salaried employee, she receives the same amount of pay regardless of her caseload.
Hunter earns about $122,000 a year.
And, regarding whether the city will continue their legal defense of the records after Gordon is out of office, she says that it has never been the city's policy to "abandon" an employee or an elected official after they are no longer with the city.
Sounds like good news for Gordon.
But the records are already more than two years old. And, the mayor's security detail no longer maintains detailed records of the mayor's comings and goings. It was a practice that ended shortly after reporters asked for the records. Phoenix said no.
Judicial Watch stepped in after it became apparent that Phoenix wasn't going to release the records -- which ironically no one disputed were public records.
Arguments against making the security-detail logs were more centered on Gordon's privacy, his right to conduct city business confidentially and reportedly grave security risks to the mayor if details about how the security detail operated were made public.
Judicial Watch argued the city should just black-out security-related and confidential information and then release the records.
Phoenix's response was that it was too burdensome a task for the city to undertake. And, unnecessary because after removing the confidential bits and entries that revealed security patterns and practices, there would be very little left for the public to view.
In fact, Phoenix argued that the remaining information was the same information contained in Gordon's public calendars, which the city has already released to Judicial Watch.
While the lower court accepted that argument, the Court of Appeals did not, citing the city's own witnesses who testified the logs were created by the security detail to show their supervisors how their time was spent. There were apparently many stops that Gordon made that were left off of his public calendar.
Hunter, Phoenix's attorney, says it will be at least a couple weeks before the individuals involved in the case will be able to sit down and figure out the next steps.
Check back for updates.