This article by Howard Fischer was published in the Arizona Daily Star June 19th, 2015.

_-9aHXUq_400x400PHOENIX — A watchdog group has been told it can’t examine state Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump’s text messages because they were deleted and the phone used to send and receive them was destroyed.

The texts in question are believed to be between Stump and political candidates and the head of a “dark money group.”

David Cantelme, an attorney hired by the Arizona Corporation Commission, told the group that the agency can’t comply because the records “do not exist” — at least not any more. He said Stump “routinely deleted” messages of state business from his commission-issued phone “once their administrative or reference value ended.”

Attorney Daniel Barr, who represents the Checks and Balances Project, which wants to review the messages, said that practice “shows a clear disrespect and disregard for the Public Records Law.”

But Barr said what Stump did — or thought he did — doesn’t matter, saying technology is available to retrieve deleted information.

Cantelme, however, said the phone Stump was using at the time — up to the 2014 election — is not available, because the commissioner has since opted for a more modern iPhone5.

“His iPhone3 had deteriorated and become damaged and disabled, and he disposed of it as unusable after he began using the iPhone5,” Cantelme wrote to Barr. “Thus the iPhone3, first issued to Commissioner Stump in 2010, no longer exists.”

Barr, however, said there’s still a way to retrieve the information. And on Friday he told the commission to give him access to Stump’s iPhone 5 by this coming Friday or face a lawsuit.

“The commission can get these messages,” Scott Peterson, executive director of the Checks and Balances Project, said in a prepared statement. “They just don’t want anyone to see them.”