DES Director Tim Jeffries Troubles

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Following some controversial firings, Arizona Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries has been relieved of his ability to fire employees without approval from an official appointed by Governor Doug Ducey. Arizona Republic reporter Craig Harris, who has been following the story, will bring us up to date.


TED: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. HILLARY CLINTON'S APPEARANCE IN THE VALLEY THIS WEEK HAS BEEN CONFIRMED. THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT WILL SPEAK WEDNESDAY EVENING AT A RALLY ON THE ASU CAMPUS IN TEMPE. DOORS ARE SCHEDULED TO OPEN AT THE STUDENT FITNESS COMPLEX AT 3:30 WITH A RALLY TO BEGIN AT 6:30. CLINTON'S RUNNING MATE TIM KAINE WILL SPEAK IN PHOENIX AND TUCSON ON THURSDAY.

QUESTIONS REGARDING DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY DIRECTOR TIM JEFFRIES ARE ON THE INCREASE. THIS IS AFTER GOVERNOR DUCEY REMOVED JEFFRIES ABILITY TO FIRE DES EMPLOYERS AND IS TOLD TO MONITOR TO TAKE OVER THOSE DUTIES. JOINING US NOW IS CRAIG HARRIS WHO'S BEEN COVERING THIS STORY FOR THE REPUBLIC. WHO IS TIM JEFFRIES?

CRAIG HARRIS: HE'S THE DIRECTOR FOR DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY ITS ONE OF THE BIGGEST INDUSTRIES IN THE STATE. GOT 7500 EMPLOYEES, THE AGENCY IS RESPONSIBLE FROM EVERYTHING TO FOOD STAMPS TO DISABILITY SERVICES AND BASICALLY TAKE CARE OF THE MOST VULNERABLE ARIZONANS. HE MADE HEADLINES BACK IN MARCH OF LAST YEAR, BY COMING OUT AND SAYING HE WAS GOING TO FIRE BULLIES AND BAD FOLKS AT DES AND CLEAN HOUSE. THAT GOT GOOD PUBLICITY AND FROM THERE, HE KEPT FIRING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE AND COME UNDER CONTROVERSY FOR SENDING OUT RELIGIOUS EMAILS. HE ALSO SENT OUT I BELIEVE AN ANTI-MARIJUANA EMAIL. SO HE'S A LITTLE BIT OF A CONTROVERSIAL PERSON.

TED: AND APPARENTLY A FRIEND OF THE GOVERNOR'S WITH NO, SIR REALLY GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE AT ALL.

CRAIG HARRIS: NO, COME FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR, HE'S A DONOR TO THE GOVERNOR, GAVE THE GOVERNOR AT LEAST $1,500 FOR THE CAMPAIGN. AND CLOSE TO GOVERNOR DUCEY AND ALLOWED TO RUN A SOCIAL SERVICES AGENCY WITH REALLY NO BACKGROUND IN THAT SECTOR.

TED: AND PREVIOUS PROBLEMS OR SITUATIONS, WE'VE TALKED ABOUT ON THE SHOW AND HAD HIM ON THE SHOW TO ASK HIM ABOUT IT, BUT YOUR LAST STORY HERE IS THAT HE APPARENTLY CREATED A DO-NOT-HIRE LIST. EXPLAIN.

CRAIG HARRIS: EMPLOYEES TOLD ME, AT LEAST FOUR, TOLD ME THAT HE CREATED A LIST OF -- KIND OF AN ENEMIES LIST OF EMPLOYEES HE FIRED AT DES AND WENT OUT OF HIS WAY TO MAKE SURE THEY COULDN'T GET OTHER STATE JOBS. HE DENIES THAT LIST EXISTED BUT FOUR ON THE RECORD SAID, INCLUDING A FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR SAID HE DID CREATE THAT LIST AFTER HE FIRED HUNDREDS OF EMPLOYEES AT DES AND TRIED TO BLOCK THEM FROM GETTING STATE JOBS.

TED: HOW WOE TRY AND BLOCK THEM?

CRAIG HARRIS: WHEN YOU GET HIRED, THEY WILL CALL OVER AND YOU CAN MAYBE SAY, SOMETHING LIKE, OH, THIS PERSON DID THIS OR THAT, AND IT WOULD BE EASY TO PREVENT THEM. I'VE HAD THREE OR FOUR PEOPLE, YANKEE I'VE APPLIED FOR DOZENS OF STATE JOBS AND I WAS QUALIFIED AND KNOCKED THE INTERVIEW OUT THE PARK BUT NEVER GOT HIRED.

TED: INTERESTING. NOW, IS THIS -- BASICALLY, I COULD BE DOING THE SAME, DON'T HIRE THIS PERSON. IS IT AGAINST THE LAW TO HAVE A DO-NOT-HIRE LIST IF YOU'RE AN AGENCY MANAGER?

CRAIG HARRIS: THAT'S QUESTIONABLE. THE STATE DOES HAVE A DO-NOT-HIRE LIST IF YOU DO SOMETHING INCREDIBLE REPLY EGREGIOUS, IF I BURNED DOWN A COUPLE OF BUILDINGS, I WOULD GET ON THE DO-NOT-HIRE LIST FOR EGREGIOUS BEHAVIOR. IF YOU JUST FIRE SOMEONE BECAUSE YOU DON'T LIKE THEM OR THE TIE THEY WORE, THEY PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BE ON A LIST LIKE THAT.

TED: 475 WORKERS DISMISSED AT DES SINCE THE START OF LAST YEAR, MANY OF THESE WERE WITHOUT CAUSE AND YOU WRITE THAT AT LEAST HALF OF THESE FOLKS WERE DESERVING OF MERIT INCREASE, CORRECT?

CRAIG HARRIS: ABSOLUTELY. WE'VE GOT RECORDS FROM DES, SHOWED HALF OF THE PEOPLE WHO WERE FIRED IT RECEIVED MERIT BONUSES WHICH MEANS THEY HAD TO HAVE MET OR EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS AND QUITE A FEW OF THEM EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS AND GOT THE BONUSES IN THE ONE, TWO, THREE, NOW, $5,000 RANGE AND A FEW GOT THE MAXIMUM OF A $1,000 BONUS BECAUSE THEY KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK ON THEIR REVIEW AND YET THEY WERE FIRED WITHOUT CAUSE.

TED: FIRED WITHOUT CAUSE AND BASICALLY BECAUSE OF THIS NEW LAW, MANAGERS CAN DO THIS?

CRAIG HARRIS: IN ARIZONA, A 2012 LAW THAT GOVERNOR BREWER PUSHED THROUGH INTENDED TO MAKE THE GOVERNMENT ACT MORE LIKE A BUSINESS, YOU COULD HIRE AND FIRE PEOPLE AT WILL. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO REWARD THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST. GIVE THEM RAISES AND KEEP THEM ON BUT IT ALSO MADE THE ENTIRE WORKFORCE AT WILL. BOOM! YOU CAN BE FIRED AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE.

TED: THE MONITOR COMES IN BECAUSE THE GOVERNOR GETS WIND AND SAYS, UH-OH, AND WERE NOT GOING TO LET JEFFRIES FIRE MORE PEOPLE, THE MONITOR IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN FIRE NOW, CORRECT?

CRAIG HARRIS: THE GOVERNOR HAS TAKEN A PERSON FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIONS, THE NUMBER TWO H.R. DIRECTOR OF THE STATE AND PUT HER AT DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC SECURITY AND SHE'S IN CHARGE AND THE GOVERNOR HAS STRIPPED TIM JEFFRIES IN THE ABILITY OF FUNCTION, A MAJOR PURPOSE OF HIS JOB, BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE FIRINGS HE'S DONE.

TED: BUT JEFFRIES SAYS IT WAS HIS IDEA TO BRING IN A MONITOR.

CRAIG HARRIS: THAT'S WHAT HE TOLD US, ON CAMERA, ON A TAPE RECORDER, BURR THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE SAID NO, WE'RE THE ONES PUTTING A PERSON IN THERE, SO MR. JEFFRIES DIDN'T QUITE TELL US THE TRUTH.

TED: THE TRUTH?

CRAIG HARRIS: YES.

TED: THE PAPER IN WRITING, THE GUY WAS LYING. SOMEONE IS NOT TELLING THE TRUTH, THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OR TIM JEFFRIES.

CRAIG HARRIS: ONE OF THEM, YEAH. SO THEY'RE BOTH TELLING DIFFERENT STORIES AND THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE IS SAYING NO, WE'RE PUTTING THE MONITOR OVER THERE AND SINCE IT'S COME OUT, JEFFRIES AND DES HAS BACKTRACKED, YEAH, THE GOVERNOR DID PUT SOMEONE HERE, BUT INITIALLY, HE SAID HE DID IT, WHEN THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE SAID NO WE'VE STRIPPED YOU OF THAT POWER.

TED: SEEMED SOMEONE DOWNWIND FROM THIS GUY, THE AVALANCHE IS GROWING. IS THERE ANY WORD OUT THERE THAT HE'S BASICALLY TOAST?

CRAIG HARRIS: THE GOVERNOR TODAY SAID HE'S STILL THERE. HE'S HIS MAN.

TED: HOW CAN HE BE HIS MAN IF HE CAN'T EVEN FIRE ANYMORE?

CRAIG HARRIS: I JUST REPORT. I JUST COVER THE NEWS. I'M NOT SURE. YOU KNOW, THE GOVERNOR -- TRUSTS HIM, MR. JEFFRIES MAKES ALMOST A QUARTER OF A MILLION TO RUN THE AGENCY AND THE GOVERNOR PUT HIM THERE AND HE'S MADE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE GOVERNOR AND WHAT'S INTERESTING, THE GOVERNOR WASN'T SO FORGIVING WHEN IT CAME TO ANOTHER AGENCY HEAD AT THE DEPARMENT OF -- CORRECTIONS. HE FIRED DONNA MARKLEY AFTER SHE DID A LOT OF THE SAME THINGS -- FIRED PEOPLE ON QUESTIONABLE CAUSES. THE GOVERNOR REINSTATED SEVERAL EMPLOYEES, INCLUDING A WOMAN FIGHTING BREAST CANCER AND FORCED OUT THE AGENCY DIRECTOR.

TED: THE GOVERNOR IS SAYING THAT THE PEOPLE LET GO AT DES CAN REFILE TO GET THEIR JOBS BACK?

CRAIG HARRIS: THEY'VE SET UP A HOTLINE AND 602-542-5482 IS THE NUMBER. AND SO THERE'S NO GUARANTEE THEY'LL GET THEIR JOB BACK BUT THEY CAN MAKE THE CASE. THE LINE OPENED UP TODAY AND GOT 70 CALLS JUST IN ONE DAY AND A LOT OF FOLKS PUT ON ANSWERING MACHINE BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH FOLKS TO ANSWER THE PHONE. PEOPLE ARE CALLING IN AND TRYING TO PLEAD TO GET THEIR JOBS BACK.

TED: GREAT WORK HERE. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE, THANKS FOR JOINING US. WE APPRECIATE IT.

CRAIG HARRIS: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Craig Harris, reporter, Arizona Republic

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