A defiant Cochise County board may face criminal investigation for failing to certify election

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 7:46 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Facing two civil lawsuits and a possible criminal investigation, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors remained defiant, hiring outside legal counsel rather than certify their 2022 election results as required by law.

The board members say they are concerned with the machines used to count the ballots although they have been certified by the state elections department.

Republican Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd say they don’t trust the state process as their reasoning for not certifying the election.

Arizona’s other 14 counties certified the election by the Nov. 28, 2022 deadline. Cochise is the only holdout.

Today, the board voted to hire outside council to represent them in the case but there is some dispute as to who will pay the legal fees.

The supervisors are hoping for outside sources to pay the fees but it’s not guaranteed they can legally.

“If this private funding doesn’t come through, is not paid for, it is still due and has to be paid for and has to be paid for by general funds,” County Administrator Richard Karwaczka told the members. “There’s no way around that.”

Despite the warning the fees may have to be paid by taxpayers, the board voted unanimously to hire the firm, The Valley Law Group in Phoenix for a $10,000 retainer and up to $400 a hour for services. It’s a group which also participated in the Cyber Ninjas ballot counting operation in Maricopa County last year.

The county is facing two civil suits, one from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs who reminded the board their job is to certify the election. It’s totally ministerial meaning they don’t have another option.

She’s asking a judge in Bisbee to force the certification on Thursday. If the county does not comply it will face contempt of court charges as well as civil penalties and court fees.

The other civil suit was filed by the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans on behalf of Stephani Stephenson.

And late in the day, former State Attorney General Terry Goddard and former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley sent a letter to outgoing AG Mark Brnovich asking him to conduct a criminal investigation into Crosby and Judd.

They say the supervisors broke at least three laws by not certifying the election.

Brnovich’s office has not responded yet to the request.

Several members of the community expressed their displeasure with the board during a call to the audience.

Jennifer Druckman of Bisbee told the board “as the secretary of state has reminded the board, the vote to certify the canvass is not discretionary. Your job is to certify the election results in Cochise County, this is your job and your duty and you are failing.”

Another, Jeff Sturgis of Sierra Vista told the members “in so many ways you have demonstrated your leadership deficiencies while you have made our county’s government a national joke.”

Cochise County’s refusal to certify has made headlines across the county in most major new outlets.

The hearing in Bisbee on Thursday is at 1 p.m.