By Daniel Stefanski |
The future of another one of Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs’ agency directors is in legislative peril.
On Thursday, the Senate’s Committee on Director Nominations voted to recommend a ‘no’ vote on Hobbs’ selection for the Director of the Arizona Department of Housing, Joan Serviss.
In a press release announcing the result of the committee’s vote, the Senate Republican Caucus shared that “during questioning of Serviss, troubling information came to light regarding a history of repeated and seemingly pervasive plagiarism while serving as Executive Director with the Arizona Housing Coalition. The Caucus added, “Over a period of about four and a half years, an alarming number of individual statements were documented as written by other groups, but presented by Ms. Serviss as her own original works,” and “under her leadership, both government entities and the public were misled, threatening the credibility of this organization.”
The chairman of the committee, Senator Jake Hoffman, released a statement after the official recommendation, saying, “It’s frustrating that the Hobbs Administration once again did not conduct proper vetting of a nominee tasked with leading a critical agency, like the Arizona Department of Housing. We’ve carried out our due diligence and have so far identified several unqualified, partisan individuals placed by Hobbs in these positions of power that directly impact the lives and livelihoods of our citizens. As I stated during this hearing, we cannot have a Manchurian candidate who will blindly follow the direction of special interest groups. We need independent thinkers who are seeking to serve only the best interests of our state and our taxpayers. In the absence of Hobbs conducting her own thorough vetting, the Committee on Director Nominations will continue to ask the tough questions of these individuals because it is what our citizens expect of us, and our state can only afford to advance highly qualified directors to lead our agencies.”
According to the release prepared by the Senate Republican Caucus, “with the Director of the Arizona Department of Housing responsible for overseeing hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to address homelessness and affordable housing issues, it became apparent that Ms. Serviss would be unfit to serve in this position” leading to the 3-2 vote against her appointment. Unless the governor withdraws this nomination, the full Senate will likely vote on Serviss when it reconvenes in 2024.
Senate Democrats were outraged by the committee’s rejection of Serviss. Two Senators, Lela Alston and Flavio Bravo, quickly issued a press release, condemning the action. Alston said, “I have sat in more legislative committees than I would like to admit, but I have never seen worse behavior than that which was displayed by Senator Hoffman today. Director Serviss is broadly supported by veterans, housing experts, community members, and those in the advocacy community for this role.” Bravo added, “The accusations Republicans chose to throw were not that of a legislative official who should easily be able to distinguish the difference between an advocacy letter and an academic paper…He (Hoffman) put his own personal disagreements with Governor Hobbs above the dire needs of Arizonans in urgent need of housing.”
Alston also attempted to divide Republicans on the panel in her statement, expressing sympathy for Senators Wadsack and Shope allowing “themselves to be dragged along by Hoffman in his childish exercise in ego.” Both Republicans didn’t appear to see the situation as their Democrat colleagues. Shope reposted the Senate Republicans’ press release on the hearing and its result, while Wadsack stated, “It was an honor to sit on the DINO Committee today.”
Serviss was one of Hobbs’ first appointments to cabinet-level positions back in December 2022 – before the Democrat was sworn into office. In announcing the nominations of Serviss and others on December 27, Hobbs said, “These are some of the best minds Arizona has to offer, and I am proud that they have chosen to serve the people of Arizona by my side. As a social worker, I know firsthand the importance of these crucial agencies to the lives of the people who need them. I am confident that this group of talented individuals has what it takes to transform our state’s health, social, and safety systems so that they work for everyone across Arizona.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.