- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Despite concerns, firings of state employees have not increased in the wake of a 2012 personnel reform package approved by the legislature.

In fiscal year 2012, the last year before the reform, there were 1,361 “involuntary separations” of state employees, The Arizona Capitol Times reports (https://bit.ly/1T07mNv). That number includes firings and layoffs. After the reform package, the Arizona Department of Administration recorded 799 involuntary separations in fiscal year 2013, 752 in fiscal year 2014 and 599 in fiscal year 2015.

The reform made most new employees at-large, or “uncovered,” and required covered employees to give up there merit protection in order to receive promotions or raises. Covered employees are harder to fire as they have civil service protections.

Scott Smith, a former Arizona Department of Administration director who was an architect of the personnel reform overhaul said the reforms have not had the effect most critics feared.

“As far as I’m aware, all of the atrocities that were expressed by the opponents of the legislation, all the nightmare scenarios they outlined were going to occur, have not occurred within state government,” Smith said.

Will Humble, who served as Brewer’s director of the Department of Health Services, said the switch from covered to uncovered employees did not affect his decisions when it came to terminating employees.

“For most people that I had on my staff, it didn’t really make that much of a difference if they were covered or uncovered,” he said.

Some critics of the reform are still skeptical. Employment attorney tom Rogers, who headed an Attorney General’s Office program in the 1970s and 1980s that assisted state agencies with firings, said without the appeals processes that covered employees are granted it is unclear why people are fired.

“The question is, are people being fired because they should be fired, or are people being fired in order to make way for friends or those who are more politically aligned?,” he said. “We don’t know that, which is one of the disadvantages of not having a light-of-day review.”

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, https://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com


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