Judicial Watch Victory: Appellate Court Rules City of Phoenix Must Release Portions of Phoenix Mayor’s Security Detail Logs
DECEMBER 28, 2011
Judicial Watch continues pursuit of records that could determine whether Mayor Phil Gordon’s taxpayer-funded security detail was used for “personal purposes.”
(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that that the Court of Appeals, State of Arizona, Division One has reversed a ruling by the Maricopa County Superior Court that shielded from release Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s security detail logs (Judicial Watch, Inc. v City of Phoenix (No. CV 2010-015452)). Now the City of Phoenix must redact information it deems sensitive and release the records to Judicial Watch within a “reasonable timeframe.”
According to the appellate court ruling issued by the three-judge panel on December 22, 2011:
Judicial Watch, Inc. appeals the superior court’s denial of special action relief after the City of Phoenix refused to produce activity logs created by the Phoenix Police Department detail assigned to protect Phil Gordon, Mayor of Phoenix. The City cross-appeals the court’s ruling that the Mayor’s privacy interest in the worksheets did not overcome the presumption favoring inspection.
For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment to the extent it decides that on this record, the City failed to demonstrate that the Mayor’s privacy interest outweighs the public’s interest in inspecting the worksheets. We reverse the judgment, however, insofar as it concludes that the City is not required to redact security-related and confidential information and then produce the worksheets for inspection. We remand with instructions to enter a judgment requiring such redaction and inspection within a reasonable timeframe.
The City of Phoenix argued that redacting sensitive information from the records (deemed “worksheets” by the city) was not “necessary” because the resulting documents would be identical to the public annotated calendar previously released to the public. The City also argued that the process of redacting the information was not “feasible” because it would be “unduly burdensome” for city officials. After reviewing the security logs and the annotated calendar, the court concluded “that redaction of security-related and confidential information from the Worksheets would result in a document containing information that is different than any reflected in the Annotated Calendar.” The court also ruled that the City has “not met its burden” to demonstrate that the process of redaction would be “unduly burdensome.”
“This decision has a potential to increase government transparency for the entire state of Arizona. We’re pleased the appellate court has finally put an end to the run-around perpetrated by the City of Phoenix. From the beginning, this was nothing more than a simple open records request and there is no reason to conceal these records unless Mayor Gordon has something to hide,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We look forward to receiving these records and to completing the public record regarding allegations Mayor Gordon has misused his taxpayer funded security detail.”
Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on December 11, 2009, seeking “all activity logs for Mayor Gordon’s Security Detail.” After the City of Phoenix stonewalled the request, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on May 17, 2010. Judicial Watch believes these records could, among other things, shed light on possible misuse of taxpayer resources to further a personal relationship between Mayor Gordon, scheduled to leave office on January 3, 2012, and his chief campaign fundraiser Elissa Mullaney. Gordon admitted in December 2009 to a romantic relationship with Mullaney. (Both Gordon and Mullaney are married but separated from their spouses.) Press reports have suggested that Gordon’s security detail was used to transport Mullaney at taxpayer expense, which could be in violation of the law.
Since 2005, Mullaney’s company has also received more than $340,000 in fees to raise funds for Gordon’s campaigns and to work on other City initiatives. Mullaney received $200,000 of these funds after she and Gordon initiated their relationship. Former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Thomas A. Zlaket, hired by Gordon to review the matter, cleared the Mayor of any wrongdoing in this specific instance, noting the state’s conflict of interest law does not cover girlfriends, only family members.