Government Accountability

Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.

<p>Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.</p>

In a pair of reports in 2008-09, the Goldwater Institute documented a very disturbing practice in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office: a persistent habit of declaring serious crimes solved and closing cases without serious investigation, much less arrest or identification of suspects.

Two years ago, almost $1.5 billion of Arizona’s total spending was classified under a category called “Other Miscellaneous Operating.” That is, around 5 percent of Arizona’s spending was classified into a meaningless category that should never amount to more than a pittance. “Other Miscellaneous Operating” is meaningless to a manager, it’s meaningless to a taxpayer, and it’s meaningless to a member of the legislature. Last year, another $1.5 billion of spending was classified under “Other Miscellaneous Operating.”

At a restaurant, you expect to see a menu before you order--after all, you're the one paying the bill. The City of Glendale, however, doesn't care to follow that logic. Instead, City officials are refusing to disclose what deals they're cooking up during closed negotiations for the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes, or what will ultimately be put on the table for Glendale residents to eat--and pay for.

There are some decisions our elected officials can make without much public input--like where to purchase office supplies, or renewing an annual business license. Other decisions require multiple public meetings, workshops and discussions, and taking into account many perspectives.

With temperatures wavering in Arizona's autumn season, the state Supreme Court is keeping the sun shining brightly on Arizona government. The Justices ruled on October 29 that information automatically stored in electronic files, like creation date and edit history, is open to the public.

As with any proposed law, the devil is in the details of the health care bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. At 1,990 pages, 8-1/4 inches in girth, and according to Arizona Republic columnist Doug MacEachern with the word “shall” appearing 3,425 times, the bill contains devilish details aplenty.

The operators of Tucson International Airport have scrapped the use of racial preferences in awarding concession contracts. That is in sharp contrast to efforts by the City of Phoenix to preserve race-based programs at Sky Harbor International Airport.

The open warfare among Maricopa County elected officials continues to escalate. But it was taxpayers and ordinary citizens who took the shrapnel from the latest barrage.
In a shocking incident rebroadcast on YouTube, a sheriff’s detention officer, Adam Stoddard, recently was caught looking through papers in a defense attorney’s file while her back was turned as she spoke to the judge. Stoddard pulled out some papers and handed them to another officer, who left the courtroom.

How many court orders does it take for a City to comply with a court-ordered public records request? You may soon need two hands to count.

To date, a Maricopa County Superior Court has ordered the City of Glendale four times to submit uncensored records for review. The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation took the City to court because it denied our request for public records of City negotiations with the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team, which plays at the City-owned arena.

The Goldwater Institute’s constitutional challenge to the $97.4 million CityNorth subsidy was the signature test for an untried idea: a litigation center dedicated to vindicating largely unused protections of individual rights and written restraints on government in our state constitution. Monday’s decision by the Arizona Supreme Court in Turken v. Gordon illustrates the potential for such endeavors.