Phoenix officials are scheduled to appear in Maricopa County Superior Court on September 27 to further explain why they are refusing to release Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon's security-detail logs.
A judge recently rejected a motion by Phoenix's city attorney to dismiss the lawsuit, and the case continues to move through the legal channels.
The hearing is part of the lawsuit that Judicial Watch, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest group, filed against Phoenix to force the city to release the activity logs related to Gordon's security detail to determine whether the mayor's security detail is wasteful or is being used for "personal purposes."
Judicial Watch, whose motto is "Because no one is above the law," first requested Gordon's security detail logs in December.
The organization wants to review the records, as do New Times and several other media outlets. Judicial Watch says it wants to "shed light on possible misuse of taxpayer resources to further a personal relationship between Mayor Gordon and his chief campaign fundraiser Elissa Mullaney. [sic]"
Before next month's hearing, Judicial Watch's legal team is expected to depose key city officials under oath.
During the September hearing, a judge probably will hear arguments, review documents, and perhaps listen to testimony regarding Judicial Watch's lawsuit.
City officials maintain that they do not have to release the security-detail logs because of security concerns for Gordon. They claim that someone who wishes to harm Gordon would be able to review the records and establish a pattern of his movements. But some of the documents requested are more than two years old.
The city's argument about safety and security also falls flat given that Gordon's calendars routinely were released to the media and indicated Gordon's whereabouts, including dates, times, and specific locations. And Gordon himself "tweets" when he's heading out to public events.
City legal wonks also claim that releasing the logs would expose Gordon's "deliberative process." That is, they argue that if the public knows who the mayor meets with and what is discussed, it prohibits a free flow of discussion that would allow him to make decisions for the city.
However, Judicial Watch points out in its most recent legal brief that the Arizona Court of Appeals shot down the "deliberative process" argument in another Arizona case about a week ago. As part of its decision in that unrelated case, the appellate court stated:
"...the deliberative process privilege has not ... been adopted in Arizona but instead is a federal privilege ... Arizona recognizes a legal presumption in favor of disclosing public records. Moreover, we have held that government agencies do not ordinarily have a privilege to refuse to produce evidence unless a statute has specifically created an exemption. We will not, via decisional law, create this privilege at this time."
The pursuit of Gordon's security-detail logs started in December, after Gordon and Mullany admitted they had been involved in a romantic relationship since March 2008.
At that time, Gordon's spokesman Jason Rose said there was at least one instance in which Mullany was driven home from the airport by one of Gordon's security officers. Rose justified that trip by saying that taking Mullany home on that occasion was not out of the way for Gordon's security officer.
Inquiries were raised about the use of Gordon's security detail at the same time questions surfaced about the amount of money that Gordon was funneling to Mullany via his own political campaign and other political-action committee (PAC) accounts.
Since 2005, Mullany's company also has received more than $340,000 in fund-raising fees for Gordon's campaigns and other political-action committees linked to Gordon. She raked in $200,000 after she and Gordon initiated their relationship. In some instances, there were payments for fund raising when records show that no money was even raised. Other payments to Mullany were made from accounts that had been inactive longer than a year.
Gordon hired former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Thomas A. Zlaket to review the fund-raising payments, and Zlaket cleared Gordon because the state's conflict-of-interest law applies only to family members, not girlfriends.
Read the Judicial Watch court brief here.