Arizona Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries has followed up the recent controversy over his Lady of Lourdes e-mails by sending an e-mail to all DES staff calling out his "haters."
In an e-mail he sent out on Saturday to all 7,000-plus DES employees, the former businessman, whom Governor Doug Ducey appointed more than a year ago, makes no apology for his beliefs. Rather, he wants the haters to stop their "covert attacks" and reach out to him instead.
Never mind that Jeffries is also well-known for purging the agency of dozens of employees he publicly deemed "bullies," "liars," and "slackers."
"Your ongoing distrust, dislike and discounting of the beautiful things in play at our great and noble agency weigh very heavy on my heart," he writes in the e-mail, timestamped August 13 at 7:32 a.m. "Yet, it is my constitutional right to say that I believe this is also the Good Lord's Work. I am very sorry this vexes some of you. I hope and will pray that someday you will see that my personal foundation and 24x7 frame of reference are what fuel my 70+ hour work weeks."
Jeffries angered secular and atheist groups back in April, when he sent an e-mail to all employees, also on a weekend, announcing his upcoming pilgrimage to the Massabielle Grotto in Lourdes, France. At the shrine, which draws more annual worshipers than Mecca, believers leave messages for the Virgin Mary at a spot where she is said to have appeared to a peasant girl in 1858.
In the April 10 e-mail, Jeffries offered to collect letters from staffers that he'd print out and deliver to the grotto in their stead. He had a DES employee help him with the project, which amassed more than 200 "special intentions" letters.
After the national Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter of complaint, the state Attorney General's Office responded with an official decision by Paul Watkins, head of the agency's civil-litigation division. In an August 10 e-mail to Madeline Ziegler of the FFRF, Watkins wrote that Jeffries' e-mails violated no state policy or law, and that to restrict him from sending such e-mails would violate the director's First Amendment Rights. Referencing a New Times article about the flap that was published in April, Watkins pointed out that Jeffries printed out the letters at home and that the use of his assistant was minimal.
Published comments from people who disagreed with the AG's finding spurred Jeffries to take to the keyboard once more last weekend.
The second section of his lengthy screed, subtitled "To the Haters in Our Great DES," closes with these words:
"As I am immensely happy that Our Great DES blesses you, I would hope you would also be happy for me," he wrote. "In fact, I also hope you will cease your covert attacks, and simply engage me directly so we can learn from each other. Many others have done this. The conversations, the give and take, the back and forth have been awesome. Take a leap like others, and reach out to me."
(Scroll down to read the August 13 e-mail in its entirety.)
New Times contacted Jeffries to ask whether he thought it was appropriate, in hindsight, to call DES employees who disagree with him "haters."
The answer: He has no regrets.
He urged New Times to check out photos and videos from a recent DES leadership summit.
"There you can find and behold the striking values-based juxtaposition of true and good public servant leaders in action vis-a-vis the 'several people' that mischievously seek your regular favor and have no problem wasting precious taxpayer dollars on their ill-gotten pursuits," he responded. "I do not regret one iota my use of the term HATERS just like I do not regret my use of plain-spoken terms such as bullies, racists, harassers and liars."
He signed off, "With hearty irritation, Director J."
Jeffries followed up that e-mail up with at least two more to all DES employees, referring them to recent media coverage about his e-mails and the AG Office's finding.
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Tory Anderson, lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for Arizona, called the director's latest e-mail blasts "ludicrous" and said they create a hostile work environment.
"In the same message, he accuses anyone who doesn't like his proselytizing as 'haters of our great DES,' and then goes on to talk about what a privilege it is to work there," she said. "How hard is it to just leave your religious beliefs out of your work e-mails?"
Read the full text of Tim Jeffries' August 13 e-mail below:
From: Jeffries, Timothy
Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2016 7:32 AM
To: *All DES Employees
Subject: Regarding this Week
Dear Colleagues in Our Great DES,
As you know, it is always a busy week for me, particularly because I love engaging you and serving you so passionately. The press interest and coverage of my ardent and unflinching love for Faith, Family, DES, Arizona, America and Freedom remain interesting, fascinating, humbling and a bit exhausting for me. The exhilarating part of all this continues to be your amazing support, encouragement, kindness and love. I received well over 200 emails from you yesterday during my wonderful travels to the Navajo and Hopi Nations. I also saw all of the colleague-generated activity on social media. Thank you for this. Thank you so very much. Yesterday was yet another beautiful day for me in service to you. I am in your debt.
To the Haters in Our Great DES,
Your ongoing distrust, dislike and discounting of the beautiful things in play at our great and noble agency weigh very heavy on my heart. We can humbly disagree on my ardent and unflinching love for Faith, Family, DES, Arizona, America and Freedom. However, hopefully (though I'd prefer surely) we can agree that our agency has come a long way in the 530 days that I have passionately served as your servant leader director. I fully understand that we have a long, long, long way to go. My predecessors left us several megatons of things to do after 43 years of decent intentions and bureaucratic minimalism. I also fully understand and accept that this is a grand secular venture of our state. Yet, it is my constitutional right to say that I believe this is also the Good Lord's Work. I am very sorry this vexes some of you.
I hope and will pray that someday you will see that my personal foundation and 24x7 frame of reference are what fuel my 70+ hour work weeks. I do NOT expect NOR would I ever expect that my personal views would alter yours. I simply ask you to respect my deeply-held views, including my constitutional rights, as much as I respect that you may differ on this. I am not sure nor do I care if there are 5, 10, 25, 50 or 100 of you who gripe and grumble about these quintessentially America things. I only care that we work as a team rooted in our agency values with a desire for goodness to befall all of us. As I am immensely happy that Our Great DES blesses you, I would hope you would also be happy for me. In fact, I also hope you will cease your covert attacks, and simply engage me directly so we can learn from each other. Many others have done this. The conversations, the give and take, the back and forth have been awesome. Take a leap like others, and reach out to me.
To Everyone in Our Great DES,
I fully support and often celebrate our vast differences on any number of grand and important things. It is our Diversity in Our TRIAD Values that help fuel our greatness. Alas, we are a wonderful reflection of whom we serve and those who fund us in Arizona. We are truly Arizona in action. TRUST ME, I am actually grateful everyone is different than me. If everyone were just like me that would be exhausting. Heck, I know just one of me is a bunch to take already. :-)
So, let me remind everyone again that as your servant leader director, I care about you deeply and love you and your families in the way I believe I am made to love. As it pertains to our noble and consequential work, I only ask that everyone do their job well and honor Our TRIAD Values everyday. We are privileged to work for Our Great DES and every day we must earn the privilege to serve another day. No one, myself included, is entitled to work at our great agency. We must earn the right to work for our agency. Subsequently, as you diligently earn the right to work for Arizona DES, you are entitled to the great treatment that we are incessantly laboring to provide you. Hopefully, this makes perfect sense to you. If not, reach out to me, and I will schedule time with you.
In closing, I care for you and I love you regardless of where you may be in our agency, your life and whatever beliefs or non-beliefs you may hold. We are privileged to work for Our Great DES, and it remains one of my life's greatest privileges to serve you. Although I have never been more spent on a daily basis, I have also never been so happy so consistently so joyfully my entire life. I have ALL OF YOU to thank for this, and that includes those whom I obviously vex. I wish you a wonderful, restful and blessed weekend.