Republican Treasurer Kimberly Yee has refused to acknowledge the authority of two top employees who were given new titles by Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs. Yee claims that the legal status of the employees as agency bosses is now “murky,” and as a result, she did not recognize them as legitimate directors at a State Board of Investment meeting. Yee argues that this absence of lawfully appointed directors creates legal uncertainty and jeopardizes the proceedings of the board. In response, Democratic state Attorney General Kris Mayes backed up Hobbs’ legal ability to appoint the two employees, while Senate President Warren Petersen called the appointments unlawful. The battle between Hobbs and the Republican-led Senate over nominees for state agencies has been ongoing for months, resulting in only six of Hobbs’ nominees being confirmed so far. The dispute between Yee and Hobbs is likely to continue, and Petersen has hinted that the matter may end up in court.
The conflict over the appointment of state agency directors in Arizona continues to escalate, as Republican Treasurer Kimberly Yee refuses to recognize the authority of two top employees appointed by Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs. Yee’s decision not to acknowledge the legitimacy of these appointees is based on advice given by lawyers from her office and outside counsel, who deemed the legal status of the employees as agency bosses to be “murky.”
The dispute arose after Hobbs abandoned the long-standing process used in the Legislature to appoint agency directors subject to Senate confirmation. In a letter to Senate President Warren Petersen, Hobbs expressed her frustration with the “political circus” that often results in stalled appointments. She withdrew her remaining nominations from the Senate’s Committee on Director Nominations and granted the new title of “executive deputy director” to 13 of her nominees, allowing them to bypass Senate confirmations and continue their work as official agency directors.
While Democratic state Attorney General Kris Mayes supports Hobbs’ legal authority to make these appointments, Petersen argues that the maneuver is unlawful. He warns that decisions made by what he calls the “fake directors” will be dubious and subject to lawsuits.
Yee maintains that her decision to not recognize the two appointees is not coordinated with Petersen or anyone else. As a former state Senate majority leader, Yee strongly believes in the nomination process and the importance of ensuring qualified individuals are appointed to these positions. She consulted with lawyers after learning that Hobbs was bypassing the confirmation process and was advised that they could not legally recognize the appointees at the State Board of Investment meeting.
According to state law, the directors of the departments of Administration and Insurance and Financial Institutions, or their designees, are members of the Board of Investment. Yee argues that the absence of these two key members jeopardizes the proceedings of the board and questions the legality of decisions made in their presence.
In response to Yee’s actions, Hobbs’ spokesman Christian Slater accuses Yee of excluding a director’s designee illegally at the investment board meeting. Slater calls on Yee to stop playing political games and seat the authorized board members.
The battle over agency director appointments in Arizona has been ongoing, with Hobbs and the Republican-led Senate clashing over nominees for months. Senate President Petersen changed the confirmation process and appointed a political ally as the chair of the nomination committee, resulting in several nominees being rejected. Only six of Hobbs’ approximately two dozen nominees have been confirmed.
Petersen suggests that more actions against Hobbs’ decision may follow, hinting at a potential legal battle. He criticizes Hobbs’ decision as ill-conceived and claims that it will not work practically or legally. The conflict between Yee and Hobbs highlights the ongoing tension surrounding the appointment of agency directors in Arizona and the potential for further legal challenges.