A few weeks ago I pointed out how the Department of Economic Securities was being run like a cult by then-director Tim Jeffries.
Some days, employees were forced to watch Jeffries’ inspirational videos when they turned on their computers; minor deviations from doctrine were punished by firings; the director held pep rallies and encouraged line workers to report their “bully” supervisors. He called out “haters” in emails to the entire staff.
It turns out we still didn’t know the most mind-blowing details.
The Arizona Republic’s Craig Harris revealed Wednesday that the Arizona Department of Public Safety found 50 handguns and 80,000 rounds of ammunition in the basement of the DES offices in Phoenix.
Again, this is for the state’s welfare agency, not a Branch Davidian-style cult.
Jeffries explained the gun-and-ammo purchases to Harris by pointing out that the agency had hired additional security officers for its offices and was planning to hire 14 more. As of now, the agency has 44 employees armed as part of their jobs — 13 sworn law-enforcement officers, 28 armed security guards and three retired officers.
So why 50 guns and 80,000 rounds sitting in a locked room?
I asked Mia Garcia, spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, for a comparison, and she told me that office has 50 special agents, all sworn officers, and it keeps 10,000-15,000 rounds of ammunition on hand.
But what really got me about the report was this. Some of the security guards at DES offices sport a patch on their uniform sleeves with the state motto —Ditat Deus — and a patch on their back ... of a big yellow smiley face.
The smiley face was Jeffries’ preferred symbol for his DES campaigns.
Yes, it’s creepy, especially when used by a man who seemed to relish firing hundreds of workers.
Harris also revealed that Department of Public Safety officers were present for the firings of Jeffries and five of his top aides. Four of the six, including Jeffries, were in the habit of carrying DES-purchased firearms.
Now, there is no doubt that government offices have security needs. Jeffries justified the increased security by the fact that “jihadists” in San Bernardino massacred employees in a California social-service office.
No doubt, the employees and customers merit protection. But there is definitely something creepy and in-character about the fact that Jeffries aspired to have a growing police force within the state welfare agency, well-stocked for whatever food-stamp Armageddon might come about.
Just another reason it was good Gov. Doug Ducey got rid of him, but should have fired him long before — before the stockpile reached 80,000 rounds.
Lucid car doubts
Congratulations are due to the Pinal County and Arizona officials who helped persuade Lucid Motors to choose Casa Grande as a location for its planned electric-car plant. If it turns out as advertised, those 2,000 new jobs will make the Big House boom and could benefit all of Southern Arizona.
And yet ... some squirrelly aspects of the deal jump out and raise doubts:
Like the fact that the deal is still so undercooked that Pinal County has not yet bought the land for the plant, as it promised it will, and the terms of the state’s up to $46.5 million in incentives have not been agreed to.
And the fact that this is a startup company planning to sell luxury cars in competition with a bigger, more established company, Tesla. When Pima County cut a much cheaper deal with another startup, World View Enterprises, earlier this year, the Goldwater Institute called it “risky” and sued.
And the fact that the company claims its cars will go 400 miles on a single charge but acknowledges it’s still working on its battery technology.
And the fact that the company says it wants to source parts from Sonora, the state whose governor attended the Lucid announcement, but has made no firm plans or commitments.
And the fact Capitol Media Services reported Thursday that the company doesn’t have the money to build the $700 million plant and must raise hundreds of millions from investors and from sales of its first produced cars to pay for the plant.
So, as I said, there’s plenty of reason for hope and excitement, but it ought to be tempered by the realization the plant may not materialize as advertised.
We need McCain, Flake
After Donald Trump’s victory became apparent, there have been a couple of worrying signs from our two Republican U.S. senators.
The day after the election, Sen. Jeff Flake said via Twitter “Now back to eating crow,” a reference to the fact that he feuded with Trump and refused to support him throughout the campaign. This week, Sen. John McCain got frustrated when asked by a CNN reporter to comment on Trump’s comments about flag burning.
“I do not comment on Mr. Trump’s comments. I am not and will not,” he said. “Because that’s my choice.”
I get that, but I also worry. As Trump names his Cabinet, he may come up with some bad picks. For example, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is a dubious pick for U.S. attorney general for anyone concerned with voting rights. Yet Flake has already signaled his likely approval of his Senate colleague, which was disappointing.
What if Trump picks the extremist sheriff of Milwaukee County, David Clarke, to lead the Department of Homeland Security? This is a person Trump has interviewed who is wholly unqualified but was a firebrand Trump supporter.
I don’t expect Flake and McCain to become permanent opponents of the president, but we are lucky to have Republicans with a bit of independent spirit in the chamber that approves presidential appointees.
We need a McCain and a Flake with backbone to serve as a check on his power.
Gowan testing a run
House Speaker David Gowan is leaving office on troubled terms, but that isn’t stopping him from entertaining thoughts of a return to the Capitol.
The Sierra Vista Republican has filed paperwork to run for state Senate from Legislative District 14 in 2018. That district covers all of Cochise County and reaches up to southeasternmost Tucson.
Gowan served in the state House for eight years, the maximum allowed under state law. He served the last two years as speaker.
Gowan remains under investigation by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for taking thousands of dollars in reimbursements for travel he did while running for office or on personal time. Gowan self-reported to the AG and paid $12,000 back to the state, but that doesn’t mean the speaker, who was notorious for enjoying the perks of office, shouldn’t have been investigated long before.