Arizona vets director asks Brewer for job back

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The ex-director of Arizona's Department of Veterans' Services has sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer asking to rescind his resignation, but the governor's office says that won't happen.

Director Joey Strickland was forced to resign Tuesday after the governor's office learned he had hired a former Arizona state representative he had previously been ordered not to employ. Former Rep. Terri Proud also lost her state job after questioning female troops' ability to serve in combat in an interview with a news reporter.

In a letter released by Brewer's office Thursday, Strickland says he was told not to hire Proud almost a year ago when she was in the Legislature because hiring a sitting lawmaker appeared to be improper.

"I was never told not to hire her in the future," Strickland wrote in the letter dated Wednesday. He said he was forced to resign by Brewer's chief of staff on "a trumped up allegation" that he disobeyed an order.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said the resignation is final.

"We are moving forward in seeking a permanent replacement to lead the Department of Veterans' Services," he said.

For her part, Proud said in a statement sent to media organizations late Wednesday that Brewer shouldn't have forced Strickland to resign.

"If the Governor has it out for me, or has something against former legislators finding jobs, then I was not aware of it until now," Proud said in a statement. "Strickland should not have been removed, Brewer overreacted."

Brewer learned of Proud's hiring after Proud told the University of Arizona's Arizona-Sonora News Service that menstrual cycles might be too problematic for female troops.

"Women have certain things during the month I'm not sure they should be out there dealing with. I don't know how to address that topic in a very diplomatic manner," Proud told the student news service.

The comment drew rebukes from female veterans' advocates. Proud said her views were not conveyed correctly. She declined to comment Thursday through a spokeswoman.

Proud said she only met Brewer once during her one term in the Arizona House.

Benson said Proud's comments were indicative of why Brewer told Strickland not to hire her. Veterans Services deputy director Robert Barnes was named interim director until a permanent replacement is found.

Strickland began looking for a new assistant last year to oversee the department's women services. He expressed interest in Proud, who was serving as a state representative at the time, but Brewer said no.

During her brief time in the House, Proud made waves for attacking mandates that employer health plans cover contraception and sponsoring legislation allowing public high schools in Arizona to offer an elective high school course on the Bible. She also opposed the state's redistricting commission.

Strickland was named Veterans Services director in 2008 after his predecessor, Patrick Chorpenning Sr., was forced out amid allegations of neglect and mismanagement. Chorpenning eventually pleaded guilty to conflict of interest and violating procurement laws.

Strickland retired from the U.S. Army in 1994 as a lieutenant colonel. He then was appointed a colonel in the Louisiana National Guard, according to the Veterans Services department's website.


Associated Press reporter Bob Christie contributed

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