Letters: Merit system proposal wide open for corruption - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Letters: Merit system proposal wide open for corruption

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Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 1:31 pm

I wanted to address some facts in advance of any legislation targeting Arizona workers in state government and Gov. Jan Brewer's proposal to uncover them in the state merit system. State employees are covered for a reason; to prevent undue political influence and corruption in state government. State employees are precluded from becoming elected precinct committee persons, holding office within the political party of their choice, or running for most political offices while a covered state employee. This was done to remove politics from employees tasked with serving the public. Covered status positions require background checks, interviews and competitive screening before hire.

Brewer's proposal would kick the door wide open for Fiesta Bowl-type corruption and cronyism in state government. Open interviews and competitive screenings to determine the best candidate for the job would be eliminated. The proposal would make ripe political payback and cronyism by placing unqualified employees into these positions.

Under Brewer's plan, donors or family members could be hired with no regard to the best interest of the public. Employees could be subjected to political pressure to do certain things or face immediate termination. Uncovered employees would be less likely to come forward and expose corruption, waste of taxpayer dollars or abuse of power incidents.

Covered employees are shielded from undue political pressure, go through a competitive hiring process with background checks, and better serve the public interest. They must perform to a certain standard, or face discipline up to and including termination. For early supporters of the Governor's plan to say otherwise is disingenuous and not factual. I used to work in the attorney general's Office, and as one previous assistant attorney general said, firing a bad employee is easy. The problems only come when supervisors and managers do not do their jobs and properly monitor work product and performance.

The merit system provides a series of checks and balances to ensure due process and minimize abusive or discriminatory practices. The personnel board ensures due process and an independent review of an agency action. To remove this authority from the personnel board does not serve the best interest of the public who demands open and transparent government.

Sheri Van Horsen, Peoria

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