PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said Friday that Arizona could do “just as well” without electing certain county officials, like the assessor.
And he even conceded it may be worth discussing whether the voters should be choosing the state treasurer — Ducey’s first elected office that eventually became his stepping stone to governor.
The governor’s remarks are in contrast with what he told Capitol Media Services in October in the midst of the controversy involving Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen. Ducey said that the indictment of Petersen on various charges related to his running an adoption ring shows there is a need for a procedure to remove a sitting elected assessor from office.
But the governor said at the time he was quite happy to keep the procedure for selecting assessors — and other county offices — at the ballot box.
“I’m not looking to take the vote away from the people,” he said.
“That’s how the framers of the Arizona Constitution set it up in 1912,” the governor explained. “And it’s my job to then execute the laws in that framework."
He also said anyone who wants to alter that is “more than welcome to go to the ballot.”
“This is the way it’s done,” Ducey said after speaking Friday to members of the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting this week in Phoenix. “But I think sometimes people can see in a position like this that you could appoint a qualified expert who could do the work as well.”
For the moment, Ducey said that electing that position remains in the Arizona Constitution and the way county government is set up. He said that, however, doesn’t make it the right answer.
“I think we could do just as well without that,” the governor said, But Ducey insisted that “I’m not looking to take the vote away from anyone.”
Assessor is one of several elected positions in county government which could be considered more ministerial than an actual policy setting office. That includes things like the treasurer, recorder and the clerk of superior court.
But that’s not just true at the county level.
Arizonans also choose the secretary of state, the person who is the chief elections officer and whose responsibilities include things like registering trade names, publishing the administrative register and filing living wills.
And then there’s the treasurer whose office invests state proceeds within laws and rules governing where the dollars can go. Specific decisions generally are left to professional staff.
Ducey, founder of Cold Stone Creamery, burst onto the political scene in 2010, getting elected to that post, using that post in his successful run for governor four years later.
He did not dispute that the post also could be seen as a ministerial position.
“Well, those of course are all discussions for another day,” Ducey said.
Petersen is currently suspended after the Board of Supervisors concluded that he was neglecting his duties, at least in part because he had been locked up following his arrest.
But under state law that suspension can last no more than 120 days. And Petersen is seeking reinstatement, especially after an outside report concluded earlier this week there was no evidence that he had failed to fulfill any of his legal obligations.