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Psych Board Reverses Itself on Bill Repeal -- Questions Raised About Governor's Aide Jeri Auther

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A New Times column published last week caused the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners to reverse itself -- with the board voting unanimously not to work to repeal some newly passed legislation after all.

Board member Dr. Cheryl Karp, a psychologist, told members that the New Times article made it clear that the board had been acting on misinformation. "This is completely out of whack," she said.

Believing it was following strict orders from Governor Jan Brewer's policy adviser, Jeri Auther, the board had voted in September to work to repeal omnibus legislation with special provisions for court-appointed psychologists -- even though the board had fought for the legislation for two years and the governor ultimately signed the bill.

According to the board's executive director, Auther had demanded the board vote for the repeal, saying there was to be "no negotiating."

As we reported, though, that order was at odds with the governor's actual position on the bill. (Her spokesman told us that Brewer liked the provision in question and only wanted to discuss some minor issues going forward.) It appears that Auther was pushing her own interests, not Governor Brewer's.

At their meeting Friday, the psychologists on the board seemed stunned by the new information.

"We got very specific, not confusing feedback from a representative of the Governor's Office, saying it had to changed," said board member Gary Lovejoy. "It had to be repealed. There is no negotiation. And now that person who gave us the feedback may not have acted in true representation of the governor?"

Is that accurate, Lovejoy demanded.

The board's lobbyist, Stuart Goodman, responded. "It is painfully accurate."

"I've been doing this 20 years, and I've always been able to take that guidance to the bank," Goodman continued. "This is the first time anything has happened of this magnitude."

Under questions from board member Karp, Goodman confirmed that he's known Auther professionally for years, and that he actually interned under her for a few months in the 1980s.
"You didn't know in all your dealings with her that she had all these problems, and it may be a big problem for the board?" Karp questioned.

"I saw a side in the last couple months I've never seen before," Goodman replied.

As we reported last week, Auther had reacted to part of the bill decreeing that any complaints against psychologists appointed by a judge in a child-custody case should go to the judge first, rather than getting immediately forwarded to the board. Frivolous complaints are frequently filed in such cases -- a tactic the board had hoped to eliminate by getting judges to weigh the issue before any formal complaints can be made.

Auther herself had a messy custody battle, which may have led to her attempts to derail the otherwise uncontroversial measure.

One day after our story was published online, Auther left the governor's office for a new position as administrator the Governor's Regulatory Review Council, where she used to work.

The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment about the move.

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