Wed, June 26

40 DES employees fired to get state jobs back

PHOENIX -- Forty workers let go by the now-fired head of the Department of Economic Security got an early Christmas gift Friday: They’re going to get their jobs back.

Or at least something close to that.

But they’re not going to get the pay they missed.

Megan Rose, spokeswoman for the Department of Administration which runs the state’s personnel system said her agency had received 267 requests from former DES workers to review their firings. That came after Gov. Doug Ducey set up the procedure on the heels of reports that Tim Jeffries had let go about 500 workers out of more than 7,000 at the agency since the governor appointed him last year.

Rose said after each of the 267 were “carefully evaluated’’ it was determined there were 40 who “were separated in a manner that did not follow the best practices of (the agency’s) Human Resources Division.

“These individuals will be contacted over the next week, before the end of the year, with an offer to re-hire at DES into their previous positions, if available,’’ she said.

“If that position is filled or no longer exists, we will work to place them in a comparable position for which they are qualified,’’ Rose said. “At a minimum, they will receive their previous salary.’’

The workers also will come back with the sick time they had accumulated before they will let go. But Rose said they will not get the money they would have earned had they not been fired.

Friday’s action could finally be the end of what has been a controversial end to Jeffries reign at the agency.

Ducey hired Jeffries shortly after taking office, saying he would help streamline the huge agency which oversees a host of programs from food stamps and welfare benefits to unemployment insurance. It also is responsible for investigating cases of adult abuse; the child abuse functions had previously been taken from the agency, then under a different director, because of mismanagement.

Jeffries began weeding people out almost immediately.

“We have already exited scores of legacy bullies in our great agency, and we will not relent until we have finished this task to honor, protect, and care for you,’’ he wrote last year in a memo to employees.

He generated headlines with emails to DES staffers to take their messages in his trip to the Catholic holy shrine of Lourdes and other emails promoting only the opposition to Proposition 205 which would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

But the scrutiny intensified after it was revealed that Jeffries had fired close to 500 workers, including many who had previously received high evaluations and even raises. That raised allegations that the director was targeting women, minorities, older workers and gays.

It got to the point that Ducey removed Jeffries’ power to fire workers. And he set up a process allowing those who already were let go to petition to get their jobs back.

The apparent last straw for the governor came last month on reports Jeffries had flown to Nogales on a state plane to take several staffers out drinking at a Nogales restaurant during business hours. Jeffries was celebrating the fact these workers had agreed to become “at will’’ employees who could be fired for no reason at all.