Thu, Nov. 21

Editorial: Firing elected officials easier said than done

The question of what the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors should do with its disgraced elected assessor has spun its way to the hallowed halls of the Arizona Legislature.

It is there that a Glendale House representative hopes to pass a new law that would give the county supervisors the right to fire the assessor – or the treasurer for that matter.

That’s probably easier said than done. After all, in the matter of Maricopa County Assessor Paul Peterson, he was hired by the voters of the state’s largest county.

There is also this matter called innocent until proven guilty.

Peterson is currently incarcerated in a federal detention facility on federal and state charges relating to an alleged illegal adoption scam. For that, Peterson is currently on a 120-day paid suspension.

No doubt, that rubs a lot of people the wrong way, namely those of us who must work in order to be paid.

But this is a tricky area in the world of personnel law with government agencies. It’s much like the situation we just had in Cottonwood with a police detective indicted on domestic violence charges.

In the case of the Cottonwood officer, the police department at first placed him on paid administrative leave. In other words, he would be paid to not work.

Later, Police Chief Steve Gesell opted instead to give the officer a desk job so he would at least be getting some work out of him. In the end, upon his conviction, the officer resigned.

Whether you agree or not with the way this was handled, it was, in government job circles, pretty much done by the book.

It’s hard to imagine Maricopa County officials being able to have much more leeway with what to do with its assessor than Cottonwood PD did with how it handled its police officer problem.

But one thing Arizona lawmakers should give careful consideration to as it relates to the Maricopa County assessor situation is the very framework of county government in Arizona.

Instead of an elected assessor, wouldn’t it make more sense for county governments throughout the state to hire professional land appraisers? They would certainly be easier to fire than their elected counterparts. Ditto for the elected county treasurer; doesn’t it make more sense for a professional business manager to be hired and fired based on job performance?

You can go down the list of the elected offices we have in county government and question why do we elect so many different people to do jobs that we don’t even understand.

Admit it, do you know what a county recorder is or does? How about your county constable? Do we really need a county school superintendent when each individual school district employs its own superintendent?

Does the judiciary really need an elected clerk of the Superior Court?

The history of how we got into this mess dates back to territorial governance in Arizona. When Arizona became a part of the United States of America in 1912, it basically just transitioned its territorial government structure into the new county system.

In other words, county government in Arizona – ditto for state government – is an archaic system that has not been modernized in 107 years.

That change is long overdue.

Then, at least, elected officials could define the manner in which they fire employees they hire as opposed to those elected by the people.

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