Arizona tax agency director sacked after defending school tax

PHOENIX (AP) – The director of the Arizona tax collection agency was brutally removed from his post after hiring outside lawyers to defend a new voter-approved tax on the wealthy that will increase funding for the ‘education.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s office on Tuesday announced a new head for the Revenue Department without mentioning that Carlton Woodruff was absent as director. Woodruff has worked with Ducey since the Republican governor was state treasurer and was appointed head of the tax agency in 2018 after serving in other senior state positions.

Ducey’s spokesperson CJ Karamargin said he couldn’t discuss personnel matters but then appeared to tie Woodruff’s defense of Proposition 208 to his departure.

“The role of state agencies is not to take political positions but to implement the law,” Karamargin said. “In this case, the courts will ultimately decide the law and we expect state agencies to follow the law. “

The governor’s action came after Capitol Media Services highlighted the legal deposit of a lawyer representing the state and the Revenue Department in a Monday article.

Proposition 208 was passed on November 3, but two lawsuits challenging its constitutionality were then filed. They argue in part that under the Arizona Constitution the power to tax and spend state funds rests with the legislature.

The lawsuits were filed by Republican leaders in the Arizona legislature, a retired judge, a business owner and taxpayers.

The state of Arizona and the Department of Revenue are named as defendants, and the group that supported Proposition 208 has stepped in to defend the new law.

Ducey, however, did not act directly to defend the law, although as governor he was responsible for implementing laws passed either by the legislature or by the people.

Ducey opposed Proposition 208, as did the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one of Ducey’s major backers.

Spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Katie Conner, said the state sometimes hires an outside lawyer to defend prosecutions, although that is normally its job. External lawyers may be hired for staffing or expertise reasons or because of a conflict of interest.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge heard arguments last week in the combined lawsuits and is considering blocking tax collection while the case goes to court. Judge John Hannah did not say when he would rule on the claim.

Ducey has appointed the deputy director of the tax agency, Rob Woods, to serve as the interim director.

A personal phone number listed for Woodruff was not available.

Esther L. Steinbach

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