When attorney Kathy Zatari applied to be administrator of the Governor's Regulatory Review Council in early 2006, the selection panel rated her first of its four finalists -- and offered her the job.
But after less than four years, Zatari was unceremoniously terminated. And, according to a lawsuit she filed yesterday in Maricopa County Superior Court, the governor's office immediately appointed as her replacement the worst-rated finalist in the job.
Perhaps not coincidentally, at that time, the finalist, Jeri Auther, had come under fire in a different job for misrepresenting the governor's office to the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners. (We wrote all about that brouhaha here and here.)
So was Zatari canned in order to provide a safe landing for preferred employee who'd run into trouble?
Zatari's attorney, Burr Shields, tells New Times that he simply doesn't know -- yet. He says pointedly that he has no idea why Zatari was fired. Eventually, the governor's office will have to articulate the reason they had for her termination. "We eagerly await their description of what legitimate business reason they had for doing this," he says. "We honestly have no idea."
But in the mean time, Zatari's 16-page lawsuit details plenty of weirdness afoot in the upper (and obscure) echelons of Governor Jan Brewer's administration.
It's not just that Zatari was fired and quickly replaced with the then-controversial Jeri Auther. It's also that, by the lawsuit's telling, the governor seemed intent on placing her stamp on the Regulatory Review Council, or GRRC, which is tasked with monitoring state agencies on the governor's behalf. Zatari alleges that the governor's staff forced her to cancel at least one of its monthly meetings, which are required by statute. Brewer also dismissed two members of the GRRC, even though members "generally serve a three year term."
Finally, according to Zatari, Brewer dismissed the longtime GRRC chair, Alex Turner, and replaced him with Paulina Vasquez Morris -- a politically connected Republican who's currently running for Congress.
Without taking discovery, Shields says, it won't be clear exactly what Brewer was up to. But, he says, "my sense, in reading the articles [New Times wrote about Auther], and the emails Kathy's given me, is that the governor ran this show in a very self-serving, heavy-handed way."
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Suffice it to say, we'd never heard of the GRRC before writing about the issues between Auther and the psychologists board. This is a part of a state government that generally flies below the radar.
But something strange definitely happened in September and October of 2009, and we'll be interested to monitor Zatari's lawsuit as she attempts to get to the bottom of it.
For the record, the Arizona Department of Administration and the attorney general's office have repeatedly declined comment on this one, saying they don't comment on pending litigation. Auther has also not responded to several requests for comment.