LaJuana Gillette, a Mohave County planning commissioner who came under fire in August for saying U.S. residents should "stop minorities from coming here and trying to change us," also serves as a member of the Arizona State Board of Nursing, Phoenix New Times has learned.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, who appointed her, denounced her views in a statement to New Times. But the governor's spokesperson said Arizona law does not grant him the authority to fire Gillette for her inflammatory comments.
Residents of Mohave County called for Gillette's removal from a public zoning and development board after she wrote a Facebook post expressing her view that the United States, a "Christian nation," should stop minorities from immigrating here.
Gillette's August 2019 post specifically criticized two municipalities in California with majority Asian and Latino populations. She lamented that the two communities have streets lined with storefront signs in languages other than English.
"If you drive thru Arvin you would think you are in Mexico. All the signs in Mexican. Monterrey Park, all the signs are in some Asian language. What happened to the melting pot?" Gillette wrote. "We actually have Muslim communities now in the U.S. And they are using Sharia law. We had better wake up before we lose America for our children and grand children."
Despite pressure from community members, Mohave County Commissioner Ron Gould, the only official who could remove Gillette from the county's zoning board, refused to fire his appointee. Gillette's racist comments drummed up local media attention.
It turns out that Gillette, in addition to her public role in Mohave County, also sits on the Arizona State Board of Nursing. The nursing board, whose 11 members are appointed by the governor of Arizona, reviews complaints against nurses and has the power to dole out discipline, including revoking nursing licenses.
Ducey appointed Gillette to the nursing board in 2018 for a term set to expire in 2023. While most of the board appointees are required to have nursing-related experience, Gillette serves as one of two public members.
In an emailed statement to New Times, Ducey spokesperson Patrick Ptak said: "These comments are not aligned with our views — we denounce them."
Ptak suggested Ducey does not have the authority to fire Gillette from the board and said the administration supports any legislation that would make it easier for the governor to "remove appointed board members who's [sic] actions and views are not reflective of our state."
He added: "This instance is yet another example of the urgent need for this reform."
Arizona law does not have a standard process for the governor to remove board appointees. Currently, board members under the executive branch serve "at the pleasure" of the governor "unless otherwise specified by law."
But the rules for removing members of each board varies. For example, Arizona law does not outline a process for removing members of the Arizona State Parks Board. That means Ducey can fire whoever he wants on that board for any reason.
However, according to state statute, Ducey can only fire members of the nursing board for "neglect of any duty imposed by law or for incompetency or unprofessional or dishonorable conduct." Ptak did not respond to a question on whether Gillette's comments outside her professional capacity could fall under those categories.
Ducey has had mixed reactions when other public officials have expressed sentiments similar to Gillette's. He twice called for former State Representative David Stringer to resign after the disgraced Prescott Republican said there "aren't enough white kids to go around" in Arizona public school and that African-Americans "don't blend in."
But he defended Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen when she remarked that the United States will "look like South American countries very quickly" due to a "flooding" of immigrants arriving at such a rate that they won't be able to learn "the principles of our country."
Gillette did not respond to request for comment. In an interview about her racist comments in August, Gillette told New Times that the only reason she was being criticized is because she is a conservative.
She clarified that she should have said that the United States should stop "immigrants" from coming here, rather than her chosen word of "minorities." Asked about her comment criticizing business signs that use languages other than English, Gillette said: "Is this America? Is this the United States, and do we speak English?"