When voters approved Proposition 106 in 2000, creating the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, they included a procedure for removal of a member of the commission. A member could be removed from the commission for “gross misconduct” or “substantial neglect of duty.” The determination is to be made by the governor, and the state Senate must sign off on the removal by a two-thirds vote.
Prop. 106 set a high bar for a person to be removed, but with all the evidence piled up, Colleen Mathis soars over that bar, and must not serve on the IRC.
The priority of the IRC and its chair is to produce constitutional maps every 10 years. Mathis presided over a process that produced unconstitutional maps. In fact, they were unconstitutional in all six criteria used to measure the validity of the maps.
Part of the sales job for the original passage of Prop. 106 was that it would take the redistricting process out from the closed doors of the Legislature and into the open for all of the public to see. Instead, the IRC faces allegations of open meetings law violations, and Mathis admits to taking the maps home with her on a weekend, making key changes to the congressional maps and then springing them on commissioners the following Monday for a vote. That is hardly the transparency Arizona voters wanted.
Mathis also apparently held clandestine meetings with Strategic Telemetry, the mapping company from D.C., without the knowledge of other commissioners. This partisan firm had no track record on mapping, never in Arizona, but Mathis made an aggressive pitch for ST outside the IRC meetings. Her husband also has reportedly attempted to broker side deals with Republican commissioners in blatant violation of constitutional transparency requirements.
The IRC allegedly shredded key bidding documents. The procurement process was so bad that the Arizona Department of Administration pulled out of it, sending a letter to the IRC saying that it was not complying with basic requirements.
Even in her application to the IRC, Mathis wasn’t completely open with information. She now admits she should have disclosed that her husband was campaign treasurer for Democratic Rep. Nancy Young-Wright.
When the IRC hired attorneys for each party, Mathis sided with the Democrats in hiring the Democrats’ attorney, and sided with the Democrats in hiring the Republicans’ attorney. That’s right – Republicans weren’t even allowed to hire their own attorney.
The Constitution requires that mapping be done by “adjustments to the grid.” Mathis appears to have ignored that requirement and used a mapping method she called a “doughnut hole.” It was an unconstitutional plan that left Arizonans looking to clean up the crumbs of that doughnut.
The evidence is overwhelming that Mathis has committed “gross misconduct” and “substantial neglect of duty.” And no matter what the Arizona Supreme Court justices may think, Prop. 106 makes it clear the determination is to be made not by men and women in black robes, but by the governor with the approval of the Senate. That has happened, and Colleen Mathis should no longer serve on the IRC.
In our own Yavapai County, we have the population to be our own district. It fits perfectly, and we are a community of interest. We all have the same issues in front of us. This commission saw fit to chop us up so we wouldn’t have the voice we now have. After all, we are a political powerhouse, and it is clear the opposition doesn’t want us to have the clout we currently have.
There is a long list of ways the Constitution has been disregarded and broken. I won’t go into further detail. The simple fact is, this extremely important redistricting exercise has been done in a very poor manner and its effects will last for at least 10 years – especially here in Yavapai County.
Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, is the Arizona Senate President-elect.