It’s a bit late for Senate President Karen Fann to act like she sincerely cares that public records held by a private company — Cyber Ninjas — will be difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve.

Sen. Fann sent a letter last week to the company hired by the Senate to conduct the partisan 2020 election audit of Maricopa County ballots. She’s demanding the company turn over thousands of records related to the audit which a judge has ruled are public,and therefore are subject to the state’s Public Records Law.

Cyber Ninjas has refused and stated numerous time to media outlets that it has no intention of turning over the records.

How did we get in this situation?

Blame Sen. Fann. When a public watchdog group, American Oversight, requested all records related to the audit months ago, Sen. Fann hired an attorney and challenged the request. The lawyer’s first, and most ridiculous, argument focused on the idea that the Senate wasn’t subject to the Open Records Law because they crafted the measure.

Wha?

That argument held up like water in Lake Mead. A judge quickly ruled that even though Cyber Ninjas is a private entity, it was working on a government contract and generating public records, therefore the company and the Senate must comply with the Open Records Law.

The last course of action will be for a judge to impose sanctions on the Senate and Cyber Ninjas if they continue to refuse providing the records. We doubt the threat of sanctions will be enough to change the current situation, and in the end, both Sen. Fann and Cyber Ninjas will get away with the crime of hiding records from the public.

Assuming this outcome, there needs to be changes in the Arizona Open Records law to compel public officials and private companies doing business with the government to keep public records, public.

The process of collecting those records can’t be delayed until the work is done, or a media outlet or a citizen requests copies. Contracts, emails, text messages or any and all other correspondence should be filed as soon as possible on a public website.

That’s true transparency.

The delay that has happened in this situation defeats the intention of the law, which is to assure elected officials are accountable. Sen. Fann’s continuous objections to turning over the records, and her lack of effective enforcement for Cyber Ninjas are evidence that our Legislature is not committed to that accountability.

We support reforming the law to increase the consequences for government officials who flaunt the intention of true transparency and seek to conduct the public’s business out of plain view.