Cochise County officials may go to court Thursday without an attorney to represent them against charges that they broke the law by failing to certify the results of the Nov. 8 election.
County supervisors on Tuesday voted to hire attorney Bryan Blehm to defend them and the county government against two lawsuits, even though they had not discussed the matter with him. On Wednesday, they were caught flat-footed when Blehm declined the offer, as did another attorney he had recommended.
The three supervisors are due in a Bisbee courtroom at 1 p.m. as a judge considers requests from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, as well as a retiree group, to order the board to certify election results. That certification, by law, was due Monday. But on a 2-1 vote, the board voted to delay a decision until week’s end.
Board chairwoman Ann English, who dissented from the motion to delay, said she will be in court, as she was subpoenaed to appear. So were her GOP colleagues, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby, who voted in favor of a delay until they can convene a special meeting Friday.
‘This craziness has to stop’:‘This craziness has to stop’: Ex-prosecutors recommend charging Cochise County supervisors
“It would be my wish that we at least would have an attorney to represent the county,” English said, somewhat wistfully, on Wednesday. She said she told county administrators to ask Crosby and Judd for further attorney recommendations, since those two are the ones that have chosen to disregard state law and triggered the lawsuits.
The county also was hit with a claim seeking $25,000 in damages for the board’s inaction on certification. Paul Sivertsen, a Cochise County resident, said the board’s failure to certify dismissed his vote and disenfranchised his rights as a voter.
Hobbs has said if Cochise does not submit its certification in time for Monday’s statewide canvass, the county’s 47,000 votes will not be counted. A court order could avert that scenario.
Sivertsen is seeking the compensation because, he said in a news release, he believes monetary fines are the only way to prevent “future anti-democratic and unlawful maneuvers.”
He also suggested the claim could be the opening salvo in an attempt to file a class-action lawsuit.
The lawsuits brought by Hobbs and the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans will be heard before Pima County Judge Casey McGinley, who on Nov. 7 ruled that the board had broken the law by pursuing a 100% hand count of every ballot cast in the Nov. 8 election.
The proceedings will be held in Cochise County Superior Court in Bisbee. Details on whether the hearing will be livestreamed were not immediately available.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.