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Arizona Senate President Karen Fann is asking contractors who led the largely discredited audit of Maricopa County's election results if public records are being stored at a data center.
In a two-sentence letter Thursday, sent to lead contractor Cyber Ninjas and three other companies that worked on the audit, Fann said Senate lawyers learned the company might have leased a data center.
"We recently learned that a data center, possibly leased to Cyber Ninjas, Inc, or StratTech Solutions, may be housing records concerning the Arizona State Senate's audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County," Fann wrote.
"Please confirm as soon as possible whether this information is correct and, if so, when and on what terms the Senate may access the facility or its resources."
Fann said Thursday she has little information about the data center. She said it's unknown where it is located, why it might have been leased or what records could be stored there.
"There's not a lot I can say," she said. "I received info that possible records were stored in a data center."
Fann's inquiry comes as the Senate defends itself from two lawsuits, now combined, over access to records in the partisan election review.
The Arizona Republic and a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group called American Oversight both sued the Senate to make the records public. The Republic also sued Cyber Ninjas.
The Republic's special action sought emails, texts and other documents from the election review from the Senate and Cyber Ninjas, the contractor hired to lead the work. The news organization had been rebuffed when it requested the records under the state Public Records Law.
American Oversight also sued after not getting the records when it requested them.
Judges in both cases said the Cyber Ninjas' documents related to the election review are public records because the contractor was an agent of the Senate. But Cyber Ninjas has refused, even after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah on Jan. 6 found the company in contempt for its refusal to turn over records and fined it $50,000 a day.
Fann's letter was addressed to Cyber Ninjas and three other information and technology firms that worked as subcontractors: StratTech of Scottsdale; WakeTSI of West Chester, Pennsylvania; and CyFIR of Ashburn, Virginia, which was acquired in June by the cybersecurity company eSentire.
Fann, who launched the hand count of 2.1 million ballots over unfounded claims the presidential election was rigged, told the same companies on Jan. 9 to turn over all "emails, text messages, social media postings, and paper files that are within your custody or control."
Officials with the companies did not respond to calls or emails Thursday. Emails to Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan prompted an automatic reply saying the company "has gone out-of-business and is no longer taking on new work."
Logan told Fann in a series of texts on Jan. 3 that he closed the company and that "all employees" were let go on Jan. 2. He said he was unable to find a buyer for the company because of its notoriety and hoped to open a new business soon.
ARIZONA ELECTION REVIEW: A timeline of how we got here
Fann is withholding $100,000 of a $150,000 contract from Logan. She accused the company in October of breaching its contract by not turning over audit records. Two months later, in December, Fann said she would pay in full once the audit is completed.
She said the Senate is still waiting on an independent examination of the county's routers and internet-activity logs to answer questions raised by the contractors about whether vote-tabulation machines were connected to the internet.
Cyber Ninjas has turned over some records to the Senate, but it remains unclear how many documents the company still has related to the audit that are subject to court orders. At one point in the long-running case, the company suggested it might have 60,000 responsive documents.
Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cybersecurity firm, had almost no election-related experience when Fann tapped it to lead the review, which she has called "the most detailed, demanding, and uncompromising election audit that has ever been conducted."
Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors got millions more from nonprofits set up by former President Donald Trump's allies and prominent figures in the “Stop the Steal” movement.
Logan announced at a Sept. 24 Senate hearing that the hand count showed President Joe Biden beat Trump in Maricopa County, and the numbers closely matched the county's certified election results from November.
Logan's reports to the Senate, however, skimmed over the outcomes and focused on perceived voting irregularities. His analysis sowed doubts about results of the election process that his company's hand count had just confirmed.
If public records are being stored at a data center, it would not be the first instance of material from this election review turning up in an unusual spot.
In June, a contractor hired by the Arizona Senate reviewed Maricopa County's 2020 election data from an undisclosed location in Montana, with no oversight from state or county officials.
Ben Cotton, founder of tech firm CyFIR, made copies of the county's election server and other election data and then drove the copies to a "secure lab" in Montana, according to Ken Bennett, who served as Senate liaison to the election review. The Senate was given county voters' private information, but Bennett said he didn't know if Cotton has copies of that in Montana.
It appears that the "secure lab" might be a home owned by Cotton in the northern Montana wilderness. Bennett said he didn't know, and Cotton and Cyber Ninjas, the Senate's main contractors, did not answer questions.
Includes information from Republic reporters Ryan Randazzo and Jen Fifield.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Senate asks Cyber Ninjas if audit files stored in data center