Michael Trailor is leaving his role as director of the state Department of Economic Security — but no one knows exactly why, or what he's doing instead.
In an all-staff email sent Thursday afternoon, Trailor announced that he's resigning from his position running the state's largest agency to do ... something else for the governor.
The now-former director of the department, which employs over 7,000 people to facilitate social services to vulnerable citizens within Arizona, said he'd been "presented with an opportunity to serve individuals and families who experience homelessness" in a role with the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family, according to Trailor and Governor Ducey's own accounts.
Exactly what that role is, or what sparked his pilgrimage to an alternative employment opportunity, has not been specified.
Phoenix New Times reached out to past sources within the department to see if staff had been informed of the reasons behind Trailor's departure. The three who could be reached for comment said they had not received additional information beyond Trailor's email, but did speak about a general sense of chaos within the DES in the past few weeks.
"There's cracks all over the place," said one anonymous employee who works as a case worker in the Developmental Disabilities Division, with management scrambling to put out fires and quell growing dissatisfaction within the department. She added that rumors have circulated that several upper-level staff are undergoing internal investigations. (New Times heard similar reports from other staff earlier this week.)
"The fact that DES is in disarray makes my heart ache. I still love the agency," said Tim Jeffries, the previous DES director, who himself was forced out after a string of questionable mass firings. "The scores of DES folks that have already reached out to me are of the general opinion Director Trailor was moved out due to his overall ineffectiveness including declining morale, rodents and bedbugs in offices and perhaps even the Hacienda rape sandal."
Following Jeffries' resignation two years ago, Ducey appointed Trailor to direct the department. It was a big step up for Trailor, who had served since 2009 as the director of the Arizona Department of Housing, which employs around 75 people. While at the housing department, Trailor became known as an advocate for the homeless. In 2017, the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness gave him an award for what it said was an "unprecedented commitment" to veterans.
“I’m grateful to Director Trailor for stepping up more than two years ago and serving in this important role,” Ducey said in a press release. “Director Trailor has brought passion and purpose to serving our most vulnerable citizens. His experience in housing and addressing homelessness, coupled with his relationships throughout state government, will continue to be an asset to our state in his new role." The press release never explicitly stated what that position would be.
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Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ will serve as acting DES director in the interim, while simultaneously maintaining her current role.
"As I look back over the last two years, it’s amazing to see what we’ve accomplished together," Trailor said in the parting email to staff obtained by New Times. "It became clear not long after my arrival that our workforce is comprised of passionate individuals who do their best every day to serve those in need. It’s abundantly clear that our people are our greatest asset. I’m extremely proud of your accomplishments on behalf of the citizens of Arizona."
Michael Trailor's last day with the DES will be Friday, October 18.
The DES and the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith, and Family declined to comment.