Arizona veterans services director forced out

PHOENIX (AP) — The director of Arizona’s veterans services department was forced out of his job this week after he hired a former state representative and she then slammed female troops serving in combat.

Joey Strickland submitted his resignation effective immediately on Tuesday after he was reprimanded for hiring former state Rep. Terri Proud after Gov. Jan Brewer explicitly told him not to.

Proud lost her job this week after she said menstrual cycles might be too problematic for women to be in combat. She made the remarks in an interview with the University of Arizona’s Arizona-Sonora News Service about her plans for the department’s women services.

Brewer’s spokesman Matt Benson said Proud’s comments are indicative of why Brewer told Strickland not to hire her.

“He acted in disregard of those instructions,” Benson said. “Of all people, Col. Strickland knows the ramifications of disregarding a direct order.”

Veterans services deputy director Robert Barnes was named interim director until a permanent replacement is found, Benson said.

Proud, who served one term in the House and was slated to start working for the department soon, drew criticism from veterans groups after she told a student reporter for the Arizona-Sonora News Service that she had concerns about women serving in combat.

“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.

Activists complained about the quote to the governor, Proud said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“I am so devastated,” Proud wrote. “Joey is a good man, he has done so much for the Dept. and I have been a huge supporter of the Vets. I am so devastated.”

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. Brewer did not like the idea, Benson said.

“About a year ago, Col. Strickland was given very specific instructions to avoid hiring an individual that he was considering,” Benson said. “He chose to do so anyway. Unfortunately, that individual’s judgment was on display this week with some particularly ill-chosen public remarks regarding women in the military.”

Benson would not say why Strickland was ordered not to hire Proud, a fellow Republican who finished up her House term in January.

“What we have seen in the last few days is evidence of a lack of judgment. That speaks to some of our concerns,” Benson said.

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.

“When I came on-board I found an agency broken from misadministration, morale among staff nonexistent and the Arizona State Veteran Home in Phoenix dysfunctional,” Strickland wrote in his resignation letter.

An official with the Department of Veterans’ Services referred all requests for comment to Brewer’s office on Wednesday.

Strickland retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1994. He then was appointed a colonel in the Louisiana National Guard, according to the veterans services department’s website.

“Gov. Brewer is grateful for Col. Strickland’s years of honorable service to our country and the state of Arizona,” Benson said.

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