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Lawmaker asks why Stephens didn't answer letters from relatives of man who died at veterans home

Tough questions Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-30, has some toughs for Alan Stephens, a top aide to Governor Napolitano, at select committee hearing on reports of neglect at the Arizona Veteran Home. Photo by Bill Coates

Alan Stephens faced tough questions today about letters sent to the governor’s office from the relative of a patient who went untreated for severe bed sores at the Arizona State Veteran Home.
Stephens, a top aide to Governor Napolitano, spent a second day testifying before the joint House-Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Operations and Conditions at the Arizona Veteran Home.
The letters apparently went unanswered and the man died from septic poisoning, Rep. Jonathan Paton, R-30, said during his questioning of Stephens.
“Is that a proper way to treat a veteran?” Paton asked.
Stephens at first said he didn’t quite understand the question, and asked Paton to rephrase it.
Paton repeated the failure of the patient’s relative to get answers from the governor’s office, and of his subsequent death.
“I guess I’m trying to figure out what the disconnect was,” Paton said.
Stephens said he didn’t know and would look into it.
The committee is investigating reports of neglect at the home, an assisted living center for veterans. Patients reportedly had been left to lie in their own feces, smoke in bed without supervision and suffer from untreated bed sores. The home is administered by the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Among other things, the committee is looking into whether the governor’s staff failed to take seriously reports of poor conditions at the home, despite word from DHS Director Sue Gerard. And why they apparently neglected to tell the governor about them more than a month before the story broke in the press.
Stephens testified that he was told that the issues had been dealt with.
The committee resumed today’s meeting with a statement by Stephens rebuking committee co-chair Sen. Jack Harper for dragging up AzScam at the end of yesterday’s session. AzScam was a bribery scandal involving state lawmakers in 1991, when Stephens was in the state Senate.
Harper had led Stephens to say that Janet Napolitano – when she was in private practice – had defended Stephens in AzScam. Harper then abruptly adjourned the meeting, just as Stephens shouted he had been found innocent.
AzScam charges against Stephens had been dismissed before they went to court.
Before a recess in today’s meeting Harper upbraided Rep. Ben Miranda for interrupting the chairman without permission.

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