Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Harvard study: Arizona #1 for political and legal corruption

An excerpt from the first in a series of articles from the Arizona Daily Independent -

The Harvard study concluded that Arizona had the highest instance of illegal corruption. Researchers define illegal corruption as:
“…the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups. It is the form of corruption that attracts a great deal of public attention.”
The Harvard researchers found that Arizona did a little bit better in terms of “legal” corruption. Researchers define legal corruption as:
“… the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”
Both forms are insidious and when those “specific benefits” take the form of a get-out-of-jail-free card, or looking the other way, there is virtually no way to stop corrupt practices.

Prosecutor shoves evidence of DES contractor corruption under the rug

Public Corruption In Arizona Takes All Forms

Public corruption takes all forms, and in Arizona it can be found on all levels of government. One of the most common forms of public corruption in Arizona these days is hidden under the cloak of prosecutorial discretion.
“Prosecutorial discretion refers to the fact that under American law, government prosecuting attorneys have nearly absolute powers. A prosecuting attorney has power on various matters including those relating to choosing whether or not to bring criminal charges, deciding the nature of charges, plea bargaining and sentence recommendation.” – USlegal.com
To quote 19th century British politician, Lord Acton: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Because of the nearly absolute powers they wield, candidates for county attorney and state attorney general races rake in the big bucks from very powerful special interests. Those contributions, along with old alliances and associations can, and do, influence whether or not a criminal act is prosecuted.
That is not how it is supposed to be; justice is supposed to be blind. However; too often in Arizona justice only turns a blind eye to the shenanigans of corrupt players.
For those na├»ve souls, who enter public service believing that public’s trust is to be earned and cherished, learning that justice is reserved for a few can be tough. Such was the case for Department of Economic Security director Tim Jeffries and his team.
Justice turns a blind eye
When Jeffries took over the helm at DES he was given very specific instructions to clean house and bring the Department up to the “speed of business.” He brought with him a team of professionals made up of civil servants, and business people.
Almost immediately it became apparent that the Department was in poor shape. Jeffries inherited a failing software program through which some of Arizona’s neediest residents fell. Michael Veit was the AHCCCS procurement agent for the HEA Plus project. In May 2016, Veit, and his long-time friend and co-conspirator Michael J. Cameron, were sentenced to prison for stealing $5.9 million from the State of Arizona, reported the ADI.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Legislature must investigate $142 million in waste by State’s Medicaid eligibility system

On February 15, 2017 Tim Jeffries, the former director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) revealed that the current computer software program used by DES and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) is a failed and unsustainable system. Jeffries added the software development vendor should be terminated and investigated.
In an appearance on the James T. Harris radio show on 104.1 FM, Jeffries explained some of the failures of the system known as HEA Plus. HEA Plus, the State’s Medicaid eligibility system, was launched under the purview of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) with the launch of Obamacare and subsequent expansion of Medicaid.
“The system was never intended to just be for Medicaid,” said Jeffries. “It was intended to be integrated with TANF (Temporary Cash Assistance For Needy Families aka ‘welfare’) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aka ‘food stamps’) because in our offices across the state handle eligibility processing for all three Federal programs.” Jeffries continued by stating “Arizona DES has 77 service centers…an integrated system is needed to efficiently and cost-effectively assess eligibility of Arizonans for Medicaid, food stamps and welfare.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jack Levine explains how the corrupt AZ State Bar needs to be reformed

Our Lawyer Disciplinary System – Is It Again Time For A Change?

In 2011, in response to a lack of uniformity in the way our disciplinary system functioned, the Arizona Supreme Court adopted substantial changes which removed decision-making from the State Bar as to which disciplinary complaints should be pursued and, instead created the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee. In addition, the Court did away with three-member, lawyer hearing panels, which previously decided disciplinary complaints and, substituted in its place, the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge, which heard evidence and decided all disciplinary cases against lawyers.
In 2014, statistics compiled by the American Bar Association’s Center for Professional Responsibility, revealed that Arizona had one of the highest percentage of lawyers disciplined on a per capita basis.  In that year, Arizona received 3,549 complaints and sanctioned 108 lawyers, the third highest among the states.
It is difficult to gauge the degree of dissatisfaction that may exist among members of the bar on the way our current disciplinary system functions for obvious reasons.  Those who are fortunate enough to have never been exposed to it presumably have no complaints. Those who have, are either no longer around, or would rather remain silent because of the humiliation and embarrassment that public exposure of the experience carries for its victims.

Friday, February 24, 2017

HB 2295 to split the AZ State Bar passes the House!




HB 2295 PASSES 31-29





DEAR COLLEAGUES:

Great News! House Bill 2295 passed by a vote of 31-29 Thursday afternoon. The bill now moves to the Arizona Senate for consideration. PLEASE CONTACT ALL SENATE MEMBERS RIGHT AWAY AND ASK FOR THEIR VOTES FOR HB 2295.
(SEE SENATE ROSTER LINK BELOW)

HB2295 splits the State Bar of Arizona into two subsets. One preserves the mandatory membership character to function as a regulatory public protection quasi-agency. The other subset becomes an optional, voluntary organization engaged solely in non-regulatory 'trade association' activities. The bill also remedies the State Bar of Arizona's inherent conflict of interest because it separates the Bar's current role as both a regulator of and a trade association for lawyers.  

PLEASE THANK THE 31 HOUSE MEMBERS WHO VOTED FOR HB2295!
ALLEN J
Y
 BARTON
Y
BOWERS
Y
BOYER
Y
CARTER
Y
CLODFELTER
Y
COBB
Y
FARNSWORTH E
Y
FINCHEM
Y


GRANTHAM
Y


JOHN
Y


KERN
Y


LAWRENCE
Y


LEACH
Y


LIVINGSTON
Y


LOVAS
Y


MITCHELL
Y



MOSLEY
Y



NORGAARD
Y



NUTT
Y



PAYNE
Y



RIVERO
Y



SHOOTER
Y



STRINGER
Y



SYMS
Y


THORPE
Y


TOWNSEND
Y


UDALL
Y


UGENTI-RITA
Y


WENINGER
Y


MESNARD
Y

















_________________________________________________________________________________________________________
HB 2295 FACT SHEET
Attorneys who want to practice law in Arizona are forced to pay the State Bar of Arizona member dues.
The State Bar uses this money to regulate the practice of law and to fund other activities, including lobbying
and other political activity. HB 2295 accomplishes two important reforms. First, so long as the State Bar regulates the practice of law, HB 2295 subjects the State Bar to public records laws. Second, HB 2295 protects attorneys’ free speech rights by requiring that mandatory dues be used only for regulation. The bill allows the State Bar to continue to collect voluntary dues to pay for its other operations.

HB 2295 increases transparency of the State Bar
While the State Bar plays a large role in regulating the practice of law, it is not subject to ordinary transparency
measures such as public records laws. HB 2295 addresses this problem by subjecting the State Bar to the
normal public records requirements all other regulatory agencies in the State are subject to.

HB 2295 respects the free speech rights of attorneys
Conditioning the practice of law on bar membership violates the rights to free speech and free association guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions. HB 2295 limits the violation of the free speech rights of attorneys by requiring the State Bar only use mandatory dues for the direct regulation of the practice of law.

Limiting attorneys’ forced funding of the State Bar only to regulatory activities is not a radical proposition.
There are 18 states—ArkansasColoradoConnecticutDelawareIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasMaine,
MarylandMassachusettsMinnesotaNew JerseyNew YorkOhioPennsylvaniaTennessee, and Vermont
that already regulate attorneys without compelling membership at all. These states demonstrate that violating
attorneys’ free speech rights is unnecessary to ensure the practice of law is safely regulated.

The State Bar can lobby right now; HB 2295 does not change that
The State Bar cannot compel attorneys to fund lobbying unrelated to attorney regulation. But nothing prevents
the State Bar from collecting voluntary funds from attorneys to engage in any political activity that it wants.
The State Bar presently has a policy that it will not engage in political activities unrelated to the practice of law,
but there is nothing to stop the Bar from changing that policy tomorrow. As a result, HB 2295 does not prohibit
the State Bar’s political activities.

HB 2295 respects separation of powers and allows the Arizona Supreme Court to continue to delegate regulatory functions to the State Bar

The Arizona Supreme Court has interpreted the Arizona Constitution as giving the Court authority to regulate of
the practice of law, including the power to determine who may practice law and under what conditions. The bill does not conflict with the Court's interpretation. It allows the State Bar to receive funds related to regulatory functions.HB 2295 does not dismantle the State Bar, prevent the Supreme Court from delegating regulatory functions to the State Bar, or prevent the Court from requiring attorneys to join the State Bar to further its regulatory functions. If the Arizona Supreme Court would like to maintain the regulatory structure as it presently stands, it can.

All HB 2295 does is increase the Bar’s transparency if it continues to function as a regulator and prevent
attorneys from being forced to fund the State Bar’s activities beyond regulation. As a result, HB 2295 has no
separation of powers concerns. 
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

House Bill 2300 was not voted on after sponsor Rep. Anthony Kern decided to hold the bill. HB 2300 establishes that lawyers are not required to be a member of any organization to become or remain a licensed lawyer in Arizona.
___________________________________________________________________________________
THIS IS THE LINK TO THE ARIZONA SENATE MEMBERS ROSTER PAGE: http://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster/?body=S










___________________________________________________________________________
For more information about our work, visit: http://workingforabetterbar.org/

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fired Welfare Reformer Fights Back Against Left-Wing Hit Machine



Tim Jeffries, a well-loved director of Arizona’s state welfare agency, the Department of Economic Security, was fired in November of last year. As I covered previously, this valiant conservative merely followed the governor’s orders to trim the agency of bad employees. Arizona’s left-wing media pounced on the firings — note that the left frequently takes the side of criminals — and sure enough, some of the fired employees had been caught stealing from the agency, stealing from the poor.

Jeffries was also targeted because he took on Democrat dishonesty. His predecessor was too afraid to take on a Democrat legislator who was illegally receiving food stamps. Jeffries discovered the full story from a DES investigator and had the fraudulent legislator prosecuted. Sadly, that honest investigator was later fired over this, even though a grand jury indicted Rep. Cecilia Velasquez on three felonies. A former Democrat state legislator, Leah Landrum-Taylor, received an appointment under Jeffries at DES, but used the position to undermine him, hoping to move up in the ranks. The Arizona Republic has still not revealed the actual facts, despite the fact there is photographic evidence proving her lies.

One of the employees who was terminated was featured sympathetically in the Republic. What the yellow journalism didn’t reveal is that she was terminated for hostilely telling (threatening?) a member of the public who came in for services, “You’re lucky you’re on the other side of the counter!” In contrast, under Jeffries’ tenure, there was an outbreak of clients who sent DES letters of support, something which had never happened before.

Over 1,000 DES employees contacted Jeffries after he was fired, expressing their condolences. The newspaper didn’t bother to report that. His Facebook page is full of photos of DES employees smiling and joking around under Jeffries’ fun-filled leadership. Thousands of the 7,000-plus employees there loved how he transformed the stodgy, unhappy agency into a workplace environment that was fun and efficient. He called those he worked with colleagues, not employees, and responded personally to emails from each and every one of them.

Incredibly, 40 of the 475 fired DES employees are now being reinstated, and firings have slowed to a trickle. The liberal reporter at the Republic responsible for many of the hit pieces on Jeffries, Craig Harris, bragged, “Firings of state government workers plummeted during the final three months of 2016, with just 17 involuntary separations in December, following a series of Arizona Republic and azcentral stories that uncovered questionable and improper dismissals at state agencies.” The governor’s chief of staff admitted that agency directors are now afraid of seeing their names publicly linked to “wrongful” firings. However, the termination rate of Jeffries’ predecessor was about the same, approximately one a day.

Jeffries recognizes the names of many of the DES employees who are being hired back, and says they are “bad apples” who have no business getting their jobs back. He fired “bullies, racists, sexual harassers and slackers.” Fraudsters were arrested.

The “fake news” has continued since Jeffries’ firing. Incredibly, even after my article refuting much of the Republic’s hit piece on Jeffries’ firing came out, the Republic ran another piece repeating much of the fake news. It was such a well-done hit piece, if you only read that article, you’d likely think Jeffries really was a bad dude.

For example, the left-wing local media ignored the restructuring Jeffries implemented, which put in place better management. “People who had iron grips on their respected positions were exited,” Jeffries said about some really bad characters. The biased media deliberately did not report that the Arizona Department of Administration approved every firing — it wasn’t just done by Jeffries and DES. All state agencies are required to have a Human Resources chief who is actually an employee of ADOA. After Jeffries was fired, his HR director was fired as collateral damage. Now, ridiculously, the state HR chief will have to review every firing in the state. It’s “bureaucracy gone wrong,” Jeffries says.

Jeffries is fighting back, giving interviews to local news stations and submitting his opinion to the Republic. Why would a very successful private businessman in the private sector like Jeffries (I’ve known him for years) agree to head a state government agency? When the governor asked him if he wanted to head a state agency, Jeffries chose DES. It is because he comes from a poor background himself, and knew he could make DES much more efficient as he’d done running business in the private sector. Jeffries transformed the agency into something unimaginable. Originally a state agency with a bad reputation (the case in most states), DES became a part of government where both Democrats and Republicans were proud to work.

Jeffries is a role model for how state agencies should be run — not merely for efficiency, but for his compassion. Seven colleagues reached out to him as director and told him they were homeless, and he helped them. They have said they would speak to the press, but Jeffries has asked them not to, because he is worried something might happen to them. He and his wife spent over $40,000 of their own money helping others they met at the agency. One woman spent two weeks sleeping in a DES closet. Don’t expect the left-leaning media to report the fact that Jeffries helped her.

Does this sound like a state agency director who should have been fired, or more like a left-wing witch hunt against a kind, successful conservative reformer? “I was the governor’s top reformer, and I’m gone,” he told Arizona’s ABC-15. His final message to his remaining DES colleagues after being fired? He loves them and he looks forward to remaining their good friend. There may be litigation. Let’s hope this top reformer finds his way back into government. He’s desperately needed.