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.)