Arizona Releases Reports on Sexual Harassment, Other Complaints | Phoenix New Times


Sex, Drugs, and Prairie Dogs: Arizona Releases Reports on Harassment, Other Complaints at State Agencies

The state has paid out almost $2 million in taxpayer money to settle charges at Arizona agencies
The Arizona State Capitol.
The Arizona State Capitol. Sean Holstege
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The Arizona state government this week released settlement amounts in sexual harassment cases, as well as multiple reports on internal harassment investigations that up until now have stayed hidden.

Phoenix New Times asked the state last month for records related to sexual-harassment investigations within state agencies to get a sense of how the national problem was affecting state government. In the aftermath of harassment charges at the State Capitol and the resignation of Congressman Trent Franks, on top of everything else that's occurred since the bombshell Harvey Weinstein revelations, New Times wasn't the only media outlet asking. Naturally, everything was released just before a major holiday.

On Wednesday, the Arizona Department of Administration released that it has paid out a total of $1,992,830.36 in settlements for sexual harassment claims from January 4, 2007 to August 4, 2016. The state ADOA didn't release the investigative reports that go with these claims, however, nor were the names of the settlement recipients released.

The worst offender in terms of agencies was — drum roll, please — the Department of Corrections. According to state records, taxpayers have had to shell out nearly $1 million to settle five of the DOC's sexual harassment cases in recent years. One of those, a 2009 case that was settled in 2011, cost the state $460,801.20 alone.

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Total settlements in sexual-harassment cases paid out by state agencies from 2007-2016.
ADOA / New Times
The state Department of Agriculture wins the prize for second-biggest sexual-harassment settlement — a 2007 case that settled in 2013 for $400,000. See the accompanying chart for a list of settlement totals by agency.

In addition to the settlement figures, the ADOA released 127 pages of reports on various alleged harassment and complaints against state agencies or their employees from 2015 to March 2017. If some of these reports match the settlement figures that were released, the state isn't saying. In other words, there's no telling at this time whether any of these reports resulted in settlements.

No press releases went out over these reports, which span the last couple of years. Many are complaints about average employees who bugged their fellow workers or subordinates, and generally created an unpleasant workplace. Not all the allegations panned out. But they're worth reading for the windows they open into the struggles with sexual harassment, bigotry, inappropriate behavior, and other problems that have been faced, or merely perceived, by employees at state agencies.

Some of the reports detail specific complaints, others dealt with investigations into allegations that weren't always borne out by the evidence. Almost always, the identity of the person making the complaint has been removed. Here are 12 selected reports from the stack released by the state, plus our summaries of the situations, for your holiday reading pleasure. You'll have to fight through the confusion of blacked-out lines in some cases, but the plot-lines are easy to follow.  We only included the names of department or agency heads in the texts.  But everyone investigated is listed in the documents attached to each case.

Arizona State Parks:

An Arizona State Parks employee accused her agency of swiping her idea for an app and firing her, and also claimed the agency's executive director, Sue Black, is tough to work with. Investigators found the retaliatory firing claim wanting, but in interviewing other employees they discovered that some did, in fact, find Black an abusive, fearsome boss.

The January 2016 report says one employee complained that, "If you do a good job Sue Black yells at you in a condescending way; if you do a bad job you get the same thing. She says stuff like, 'This is like explaining something to dumb and dumber.'"

Following other complaints like this one, Black, who was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey in February 2015, became the subject of a wider investigation. But besides room for improvement in "management practices," Governor Doug Ducey found no reason to fire her. In September, Black was praised when her agency won a prestigious national award for state parks.

Arizona Board of Cosmetology

State employees aren't generally allowed to use state vehicles in place of their personal cars. Donna Aune, executive director of the Board of Cosmetology, knew something about the rules because she'd been investigated in 2013 for misuse of a state vehicle. But in early 2016, the state opened a new investigation into Aune's vehicle use.

Aune and the board's compliance manager, Joanne Ayotte, admitted they "rideshare" in one of the vehicles, and have been doing so "for 30 years." Not that Aune admitted it at first: After telling investigators "I never use them," Aune reportedly then 'fessed up, saying, "I lied."

The punchline: Aune, the board director since 2009, makes an annual salary of $109,725. The agency agreed to voluntarily forfeit the use of state vehicles indefinitely.

Arizona Game and Fish Department

Arizona Game and Fish has a residential unit near Mayer called Horseshoe Ranch, and sometimes interns go on out-of-town trips there with employees. One woman intern found the quarters too close on a June 2016 work trip that involved Horseshoe Ranch. On the second night there, the woman said employee a male employee made her feel uncomfortable when he sat on her bed his boxers, "playing with his earring," and asked about her sexual orientation. Back at the office over the next few weeks, he kept trying to get her to go out with him.

Investigators found a "common theme" when they started asking questions. Other employees, male and female, called the man "Creepy Bill." Yet before state officials knew any of this, he was occasionally put in charge or recruiting new interns from college campuses. Officials recommended that he be fired.

Arizona Game and Fish Department

In more drama from the Game and Fish office, a supervisory law enforcement officer with a known penchant for flirting with women interns, wrapped up one 2015 investigation only to find himself embroiled in another later that year.

Sex, drugs, and prairie dogs — this investigation had it all. In the brief final report, a state investigator describes what happens when an Arizona officer is forced to work on a prairie-dog removal project with a woman he used to date. The man is still with the department, according to his LinkedIn page.

Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy

A man who retired from the state Department of Corrections after 20 years before joining the board of massage therapy as an investigator claimed he was considered a "sniper" at the DOC.

He likes guns, apparently, which makes him similar to many Arizonans. But according to a fellow employee, the man brought his Glock 9mm to the office repeatedly and once "played" with it by pointing its laser pointer at a wall. He denied the allegations and said he often checked his gun into a safe on the first floor of the State Boards building. Investigators found that "no guns" were checked into the safe. He was found to have violated state policy, but records don't describe any discipline.

Arizona Game and Fish Department

What's going on beyond the scenes at one of Arizona's most popular shooting ranges? In this report, find out what investigators learned behind the gossip at the Ben Avery Clay Target Center. Allegations include one supervisor as a so-called "dictator" boss and drinks out at the "Tiki Bar," which was set up outside the trailer of a part-time worker at the range.

This report is one of the more colorful of the bunch. The supervisorl allegedly yelled at a female employee until she cried, ran the place like a "fiefdom," berated employees in front of customers, and complained openly about the "idiots in the big house," a.k.a. his superiors at Arizona Game and Fish headquarters. The allegations make a range master out to be the supervisor's unflinching lieutenant, telling another range master at one point to listen to the supervisor or "you could end up in the desert."

Arizona Medical Board

In 2015, the ADOA investigated allegations of favoritism against the Arizona Medical Board, apparently at the request of the board. In a heavily redacted, eight-page findings brief, it appears that the board is indeed staffed, or was staffed, by a number of people who are related.

The investigation also seems to have proven that hiring at the state agency has discriminated against men — for instance, of 42 employees in 2015, only eight were men. The redacted report appears to conclude that no one was found responsible for gender discrimination.

Arizona Department of Gaming

Thirteen witnesses described the atmosphere at the state Gaming Department in 2016 to be "unprofessional," like a "frat party" or "three-ring circus." Inappropriate jokes, "rampant cussing" in business meetings, and "arrogance and abuse of authority by senior leadership team members" was normal at the agency.

Two supervisors were targeted as the ringleaders. They were fired in April 2016. This is the longest report of the bunch by page number, but not every page contains narrative. Still, skim this one to get a feel for the "frat party" culture that existed at Gaming, an agency responsible for overseeing tribal casinos and other gambling operations.

Arizona Lottery

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Tony Bouie
Ray Stern
Two pages about Tony Bouie came to light in the records release. Here's a quick flashback to what happened with him.

Bouie is an ex-pro-football player and former Lottery director appointed by Governor Doug Ducey in early 2015. He was fired 11 months later, two days after publication of a New Times article about his misuse of a state vehicle, his hiring of old sports buddies to lucrative positions, and other improprieties. In July, New Times learned that the state paid $160,000 to defend, then settle with, two ex-Lottery employees fired by Bouie who had sued for sex discrimination.

Arizona Department of Transportation

This three-page summary report provides an illuminating look into problems that can come up among highway workers of different ethnic backgrounds. In mid-2015, relations were strained among workers for ADOT's Yuma Highway Operations. The team hadn't been the same since one worker used some offensive language around other workers, and a Hispanic team member had complained.

Some of the statements do sound bigoted. Other workers interviewed by ADOA said the employee could be "condescending" around Hispanics. But "jokes of a racial or sexual nature are routine in the work unit," another witness told ADOA.

It''s unclear from the report what happened to the individual or the team.

 Arizona Radiation Regulatory Commission

Included were two reports, one from 2015, the other 2016, on a former compliance program manager for the state Radiation Regulatory Commission. He developed a reputation as being a "gawker" who sometimes made women feel uncomfortable. But mostly people complained about his "condescending" attitude and "disparaging" remarks.

The manager admitted to "goofing around" and telling jokes around the office, telling an investigator, "I recall everyone in this agency telling jokes. Everyone."

He left the agency in September 2016, a month after the second investigation and a recommendation that he be dismissed. He had worked there for 10 years.

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