Axing Jacquelynn

Good help's hard to find, it seems, particularly at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health.

Now, The Bird's always considered "Public Health" an oxymoron, so this inquisitive quail's eyebrow arched a few months ago when word began to spread that not all was right with Jacquelynn Meeks, the department's new director.

This on the heels of a former director taking early retirement a couple years back after an embarrassing incident involving a flu-shot shortage.

The Bird started pecking away at county officials when it was revealed that Meeks had left the St. Louis County Health Department under weird circumstances (she served a "stormy three years" there, according to the press in Missouri).

Turns out, members of the St Louis County Council (akin to our Board of Supervisors) felt she was "overwhelmed," which makes The Bird chuckle, given Meeks' pedigree: a doctorate in public health from Harvard University, a master's from Tulane University and two bachelor's degrees.

The well-educated Meeks landed in Maricopa County thanks to a search firm that charged us taxpayers almost $20,000.

Is there a money-back guarantee?

Because (get this!) Meeks was fired here earlier this month, after less than six months on the job. The official word is that Meeks "resigned" -- only the county wouldn't produce any resignation letter. When The Bird phoned up Meeks on the subject, she refused to go on the record.

And that's not all the county wouldn't produce:

Since it used taxpayer dollars to hire the Ralph Andersen and Associates firm to upchuck Meeks, the county supes' position is that all materials associated with her hiring aren't subject to public records laws because they're in the hands of the headhunters!

Now isn't that convenient? The Bird smells a rat.

Or maybe it's just sniffing the breath of county apologist (um, spokesman) Al Macias, who sweetly refused to turn anything over, including the résumés of finalists for the position that Meeks landed. Only Meeks' rather lengthy résumé was released.

The contract between the county and the headhunters, as well as the headhunter's recommendation that Meeks be hired, also haven't been forthcoming.

Good thing this extended middle finger has pals inside county government who've been feeding it morsels about the Meeks matter.

One story is, Meeks ordered an overhaul of Public Health's performance-evaluation process, reportedly telling managers they were handing out kudos of "outstanding" and "exceeds expectations" to too many employees. As a result, a number of clinic workers quit, worried they'd never get a raise again.

The Bird's sources also sang that Meeks didn't bother to seal a deal for four grants totaling $1.5 million -- thereby costing the county all that money.

One of the grants, from the national Centers for Disease Control, would've awarded the county $200,000 to $250,000 annually for HIV treatment and counseling for African-American women -- which is ironic, considering that Meeks is black.

Speaking of HIV treatment, after the mass exodus of the clinic employees, the county was left with just one full-time staffer to conduct tests for sexually transmitted diseases, which means that over the past several weeks, more than 1,200 people looking for STD tests were turned away.

The Bird's advice? Be sure to use condoms until the county finds a new director.

Smells Like a Rose

A few years ago, the local public relations firm Rose & Allyn ran an advertisement in the Arizona Capitol Times featuring a naked black man. "Not an actual picture of company president Jason Rose," the ad helpfully noted in small print along the bottom.

So this year, when Rose & Allyn ran an equally eye-catching ad, also in the Capitol Times, featuring a mostly naked white man and yet no disclaimer, The Bird couldn't help but think, "At last! This must be an actual picture of company president Jason Rose."

Alas, no. When reached by phone at his Phoenix office, Rose was quick to explain that the man in question -- a pasty white dude clad only in boots, a watch, and a beanie -- was neither Rose nor any of his employees. Instead, it's a guy named "Marathon Don" Kern, who posed for the ridiculous pic after jogging mostly naked at the North Pole and then posted it on his Web site, which was discovered by a Rose intern looking to illustrate an ad about "exposure."

The ad tag line reads "There's no such thing as overexposure." (Get it? Overexposure? See, there's a naked man? And, like, he's overexposed?)

"I think, especially in the year of Brokeback Mountain, we wanted to do something in that vein," Rose told this plumed scribbler. (Get it? Naked man = gay. That's okay. The Bird doesn't get it, either.)

"We wanted to make people laugh," Rose continued, "and talk a little."

Rose claimed the ad drew a "unanimous, positive, amused reaction," although this fake falcon must admit to receiving calls from a not-so-amused lobbyist.

"What was he thinking?" the lobbyist squawked. "Running an ad like that with this legislature?"

But The Bird is less worried about our oh-so-conservative state pols (who probably did, indeed, gasp at the sight of naked flesh) and more worried about Rose & Allyn's seeming fixation with naked male torsos, both black and white.

One ad, after all, might be funny. But two ads? Did somebody tweet "obsession"?

Since Rose's firm has flacked for both paleoconservative County Attorney Andrew Thomas and nut-job Sheriff Joe Arpaio, this feathered fiend can only wonder: Will the next Rose & Allyn ad feature something even more jarring than a naked marathon runner? Something like, say, a naked Terry Goddard?

Now that would be overexposure.

Speaking of Homos

Local fag-bashers can take heart in knowing that small, unexceptional corners of the publishing industry are behind you.

The Bird's discovered that a sales rep for local job-search paper, the Employment Guide, spotted an ad for the Gay Pages, a sort of yellow pages directory for the gay and lesbian community, in this very newspaper. The EG rep called the homo directory and pitched Gay Pages owner Marci Alt on a display ad package. Turns out that Alt needed to hire some part-time telemarketers, so she said, "Sure!" and bought an ad.

But when she delivered her camera-ready copy, the squeamish turds at Employment Guide got purty scared.

Because Alt's ad dared to include the word "gay" in its copy.

"What the hell did they think it was going to say?" Alt bellowed to The Bird. "The name of my company is Gay Pages!"

Alt got a call from EG's regional manager, Tom Kenney, who tried to explain to Alt why "gay" is still a dirty word 'round these here parts, ma'am.

It seems Kenney was afraid his readers would freak out if they opened his paper and saw an ad with such an offensive word in it.

"This moron kept telling me that they don't run sexually explicit ads," Alt said, laughing. "We're a business directory, not a bathhouse! Our ad didn't exactly have a picture of two naked guys going at it. There was nothing sexual or explicit about it. I don't run that kind of ad in my publication, either!"

Gay Pages employee Cindi Hensley told The Bird, "This is so screwed up! The guy actually said, 'We can run your ad as long as you take the name of your company out of it.' And he was serious!"

Alt's less amused: "So we can advertise in his precious newspaper as long as we don't say who we are. Because the word 'gay' would be upsetting and offensive to his readership. And the kicker is, they called us! Come on, what part of the name Gay Pages didn't they get when they called to sell us an ad?"

Kenney's clearly exasperated by all these huffy homos. "We asked them to make two changes to their ad," he sighed, when The Bird phoned him. "We asked them to use their corporate name, which doesn't have the word 'gay' in it, and we asked them to change the line that reads, 'This is a great job for students' to 'This is a great job for college students.' We even offered to let them use their full name in the ad in our online edition!"

Mighty big of you, Lester.

All this concern over use of the word "student," Kenney says, is because Employment Guide is available on several local high school campuses. Which is why he doesn't want naughty words like "gay" in his paper.

"I promised the high schools that there would be nothing in our paper that would cause any parents to pick up the phone to complain about our content," he explains. "We're here to help people find jobs."

Heterosexual jobs, that is.

Hensley likes to imagine what would have happened if the ad had run without the word "gay" in it, per Kenney's request.

"People would come in here for a job interview, and they'd see rainbow flags and the big pink triangle on the wall and guys wearing tee shirts that say 'Miss Thing' or whatever," she laughs. "And then we'd hand them a script to read, because it's part of our interview for the telemarketer job. And they'd have to read this script that goes, 'Hi, I'm calling from the Gay Pages . . .' Hilarious!"

Alt isn't taking this lying down. She tattled on Kenney to the local Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (who knew we even had a Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce?!), then she and a dozen or so of her friends and employees picketed Kenney's offices, for good measure.

"The man belongs under a rock," Alt says.

Still Under a Rock

The Bird's glad to know that folks like Hensley and Alt are willing to fight the good fight, since most same-sexers seem to be upholding the age-old gay tradition of cowering under furniture when faced with their own homosexual liberation.

Case in point: The April 1 and 2 "Pride Festival" at Steele Indian School Park. The event is one of those well-intended annual events involving a parade of men in evening gowns and women dressed as lumberjacks, all marching down a city street to display what they want us to believe is pride in their queerness, but which sadly only serves to make them look like perverted jackasses to the rest of the world.

No, really, don't get The Bird started on the stupidity of taking pride in one's sexuality, as if it were some kind of accomplishment. And don't ask this faux falcon to comment on how "pride" is not the opposite of shame. But go ahead: Ask this puffed-up pigeon how it feels about folks from the local Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival being too spineless to include the words "lesbian" and "gay" in the name of their event. Go on, ask.

For starters, gay and lesbian pride events are meant to commemorate the Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969. On that day, a group of homos who'd just returned from Judy Garland's funeral (no, The Bird's not cracking wise; ask your hairdresser!) responded to a routine raid of the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar, by fighting back. The riots have since been considered the beginning of the modern gay movement, which in Phoenix generally means hanging out in bars and attending drag shows.

Which is pretty much what this none-too-proud pride event is shaping up to be. Because while the words gay and lesbian are nowhere to be seen (they don't appear on the organization's Web site,, until page 3), the event's drinks menu appears way up at the top of the page.

But hey, isn't that what being gay all about? Getting loaded?

And can someone please explain why this shame-filled organization's hosting its "pride" event in April? Stonewall happened in June, folks. And "It's too hot in June" is not a good enough excuse to hold this event earlier. Do you guys see Iowans holding Christmas in August because it's too cold in December?

"I don't know," was the quick, witty response of organization president Linda Hoffman when The Bird asked why the words gay and lesbian don't appear in the group's name. "I don't know if that's ever been addressed before."

What is this, the Brokeback Mountain era? It doesn't seem that homos in Phoenix are prideful about their sexuality when they can't even say the words. How, The Bird wonders, do the organizers of this event plan to "advance the movement" when they're not willing to publicly admit they're queer?

If you're too ashamed to use the words, then you're not prideful. You're ashamed. Not to mention chickenshit. About which The Bird says: You're here, you're queer, so why not say so, for Liza's sake?!

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela