Best of Fife Vol. II

Fife has done much in — and to — Arizona. We've been keeping track

Best Trip in States: New York
In 1992, Fife and Annette go to New York City on "official state business." They stay at the Westbury Hotel in adjoining rooms. Fife pays for Annette's room with his personal credit card.

Best Staffing Change: Annette
After the New York trip becomes public, Fife reluctantly bows to political pressure, and Annette resigns as his $60,000-a-year foreign-trade representative. She moves into an office in the Esplanade. She is known to businessmen as the "consultant" who can bend the governor's ear.

Best Proclamation: Fraud Awareness Month
At the behest of organizers of the Western States Fraud Conference, Symington declares October 1996 Fraud Awareness Month. Arizonans are now eagerly awaiting the announcement of October 1997 as Fraud Amnesty Month.

Best Costume: Fife Goes Tropical
In honor of the signing of the so-called Veggie Hate Crimes bill, Symington dons a produce-laden hat.

Honorable mentions: Fife dresses in a gorilla suit in honor of the Phoenix Suns' 25th anniversary; aide Jay Heiler as an alien in 1997.

Best Work by State Employees: Top 10 Reasons Arizona State Employee Pay Ranks 50th

In celebration of Governor Symington's 1996 annual Employee Recognition Day, state employees show up for work wearing tee shirts that say why their average salary is 50th in the nation:

10. There are only 50 states.
9. The rankings are not compiled in Arizona.
8. Helps other states look better. "Thank goodness for Arizona."
7. Productivity and turnover costs are not a line item in the state budget.

6. State service provides free training and experience for employees moving to local government and the private sector.

5. Turnover cuts down on career workers and frees up future retirement funds for emergency repairs to Lotto.

4. Low pay will continue until employee morale improves.
3. No one likes a bureaucrat, anyway.
2. When state employees qualify for the welfare programs they administer, they are more knowledgeable about the programs.

1. Arizona State Service: It's not just a job, it's an indenture.

Best Accouterments for a Symington Exec:
Barry Aarons' Bullwhip and Handcuffs
In keeping with the Symington administration's touchy-feely attitude, Aarons keeps a whip and handcuffs on a shelf in his office when he serves as legislative director.

Best Ideologue: Jay Heiler,
Symington Chief of Staff
In the mid-'80s, Heiler is one of the postpubescent Reaganites who takes control of Arizona State University's State Press and gets ASU a reputation as a Petri dish of conservative thought.

A decade later, Heiler emerges as Fife's communications czar and philosophical salt lick. Heiler writes speeches, schmoozes the Capitol press corps and comes up with policies that made Symington the darling of the National Review set.

Best Gubernatorial Nickname:
"His Pale Badness"
Honorable mentions go to "The Fifester," "Sir Fire-a-Lot," "Vanilla Fife," "Jumpin' Jack Fife," "Fi-Fi," "Governor Three Sticks" (irate Native Americans), "J. Fife White Guy III" (Tucson Weekly).

Best Physical Description of "His Pale Badness":
Charles Kelly, Arizona Republic
In a profile during the 1994 campaign, Kelly writes, "Fife Symington, though his forebears are Scottish, has the white-blond hair, the bonfire eyebrows and the sun-flushed, translucent skin of a Teutonic knight."

Best Digs: The Governor's Remodeled Offices
The renovation, completed in 1996, features a marble spiral staircase connecting the eighth and ninth floors of the executive towers. Cost: a cool $1.7 million.

Best Half-Assed Attempt to Defeat a Governor:
Eddie Basha for Governor, 1994

Best Half-Assed Attempt to Recall a Governor:
Symington Recall Effort

Best Pork: Project SLIM
Fife says it's designed to cut costs and improve efficiency in state government. Not exactly true. SLIM is actually designed to pay about $3 million to Fife's personal accounting firm, Coopers & Lybrand.

Best Way to Repay Your Accounting Firm With Taxpayer Dollars:
Project SLIM
In 1991, Coopers & Lybrand has highest of five bids to win a $1.5 million SLIM contract--the first of a pair of million-dollar-plus SLIM contracts. George Leckie, Symington's then-chief of staff, and John Yeoman, Fife's accountant at Coopers, meet after Leckie learns of the five bid amounts. Coopers immediately lowers its bid, gets the contract. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office says nobody did anything wrong, but in 1995, the Arizona Attorney General's Office nails Coopers for $725,000 and Leckie for $25,000 for their roles in the SLIM scandal.

Then Leckie and Yeoman are indicted by the feds for bid-rigging fraud in 1996. Coopers settles with the feds for more than $2 million.

Best Unlucky Lackey: John Yeoman
After confessing his complicity in the bid-rigging scandal, he dies in a car wreck in April 1996.

Best Lucky Lackey: Leckie
He is found not guilty of bid-rigging in a federal trial in May 1997. The reason: Yeoman is dead and the judge won't allow his confession into evidence.

Best Way to Jeopardize Retirees' Money:
Arizona Real Estate
In 1994, Fife and Leckie put their pal, risky-bound-to-lose-your-money investments guru John Stiteler, on board of Arizona Retirement System. Stiteler, of course, recommends risky investments with retirees' money. After public outcry, Stiteler angrily steps down. Later, Fife's appointees decide the $13 billion retirement fund can invest in Arizona projects.

Best Pre-Bankruptcy Vacation:
Fife and Ann Do Paris
Two months before Fife files for bankruptcy, Ann takes the entire family on a trip to France, to celebrate the Fifester's 50th birthday.

Best Impersonation: Of an Impoverished Person
In September 1995, Fife files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He claims debts of $25 million and assets of $61,795.

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