The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is investigating an open-meetings complaint filed by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry against an advisory group overseeing the county election process.
Huckelberry filed the complaint against the Pima County Election Integrity Commission on May 20, more than a week after a meeting where the commission discussed an item during call to the audience that was not on the regular agenda.
Huckelberry sent the Attorney General’s Office a CD containing a video of the interaction between the commission and Sunnyside recall chairman Richard Hernandez, who spoke during the call to the audience at the May 9 meeting.
Assistant Attorney General Debra Sterling sent a letter to commission Chairman Tom Ryan on June 20, asking the commission to review the complaint and send a response within the 30 days.
The commission is scheduled to discuss the complaint and receive legal advice at its meeting today, according to the meeting agenda.
The Attorney General’s Office confirmed the investigation but declined to offer further comment.
Huckelberry was unavailable for comment.
At the meeting, Hernandez complained of the county’s intention to conduct an early ballot count for the school district’s recall election, which was held on May 20.
Hernandez asked the commission to support the recall campaign by requesting county election officials count the ballots on election night.
Mickey Duniho, a member of the commission, asked Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson if there was a logical reason for not waiting until election night.
Nelson was hesitant to answer the question, expressing concern about whether he would violate the open-meetings law if he discussed an issue not on the agenda.
The commission members debated among themselves, with one member saying it was a violation and the group should attempt to schedule an emergency meeting if they wanted to discuss it.
However, Nelson answered questions from the commission after receiving direction from Ryan.
“The chairman is in charge. I was halfway expecting him to think about it, but I was given the green light,” Nelson said Wednesday. “The member of the public never posed the question to me.”
Duniho said he didn’t believe it was a violation because he was asking county staff to review Hernandez’s complaint.
“The members of the body may respond to a complaint and ask staff to review the complaint,” he said.
Everything appeared fine after Nelson answered the questions and the county eventually decided to count the votes on election night, he said.
But that changed when commission members were notified of the complaint last week.
“I thought everyone was happy,” Duniho said. “Then Chuck went to the attorney general.”
He referred to the complaint as “intimidation,” saying Huckelberry just wants to bring “pressure to our commission.”
“Huckelberry’s complaint is completely invalid,” he said. “I believe once the attorney general listens to the recording, they will dismiss it.”