October 14, 2009
AHPA Board of Directors:
On Thursday at 4:00 p.m., I attended a briefing in the Director’s conference room regarding the 15% budget cut exercise. I was given a paper outlining the line-items cuts that amount to the 15%. The figures were staggering to say the least. Ultimately, the cuts are severe and would create substantial layoffs. During the briefing, the Director stated he would need assistance from the employee groups to keep any future agency cuts to a minimum. While I was not able to keep the page with the information after the briefing, I did make a few notes regarding the exercise. I also understood that the information in the exercise was to be kept quiet until it was turned into the Governor’s office on Friday, October 9.
On that Friday afternoon, I was contacted by a reporter from the Arizona Guardian. This is an online subscription news service with limited subscribers (due to the cost). Initially, my responses to the reporter’s questions were in general terms with regards to the information I had seen the day before. As the interview continued, I did mention the specific number of layoffs that were possible if the entire exercise was implemented. This all occurred at about 3:00 p.m. on Friday.
Friday evening I received a message from the Deputy Director. I called her and she was asking about the interview I conducted. She indicated that specific information from the exercise should not have been released.
On Saturday morning, I received news that Chief Lane was looking for me. I called the Chief. He indicated that he received an email Friday night from Director Vanderpool ordering me to be in the Director’s office on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
Yesterday I met with the Director. He had a copy of the Guardian article (of which I have still not read). The statements attributed to me were highlighted. He indicated that his instructions at Thursday’s briefing were that specifics could not be released until approved by the Governor’s office. I responded that I obviously misunderstood and that there was no malicious intent in doing the interview. I also stated that as the president of AHPA, I have a responsibility to do what is the best for the membership. The meeting was positive.
Later that day, I met with a staff member of the Governor’s office. During that meeting, there was clearly no indication given to me that the Governor’s staff was concerned with the article published on the Guardian’s website. If fact, this staff member indicated that it was a good idea to make sure legislative members know the ramifications of such a drastic cut to the agency.
Legislative members I have met with so far have pledged their support for protecting as much of the agency’s budget as possible. This was clearly evident in meetings I had yesterday at the capitol. The question is not if the agency will have to make anymore cuts, the question is simply how much will have to be cut. I assure the membership that AHPA will continue to work diligently to protect the men and women that work for DPS. We provide too much of a valuable service to the citizens of this state.
The budget situation has put an enormous amount of stress on our members. What everyone has to understand is that the budget exercise completed by the agency is just that: an exercise. It will be several months before any state agency knows what cuts will have to be made to their current budget. Again, I will do what is in the best interest of our membership. If that means providing the membership, media, legislature and the public with the hard facts, then that is what will happen. Most importantly, the membership deserves to know the facts as they are right now.
This is going to be a very fluid process and I will continue to provide as much information to the membership as possible. The one thing I ask of the members is to reach out to your elected officials (as a citizen constituent). Let them know that public safety cannot be compromised.
Despite the rhetoric of other employee groups, AHPA members deserve to know what is going on. Providing you with information is my responsibility.
Article written by/or information provided by Jimmy Chavez