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Ducey says he fired agency head over sting; director denies it

Gov. Doug Ducey details for a Republican audience how he ousted the head of the Department of Weights and Measures to thwart a plan to go after rideshare drivers for violating Arizona laws.  (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey details for a Republican audience how he ousted the head of the Department of Weights and Measures to thwart a plan to go after rideshare drivers for violating Arizona laws. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Gov. Doug Ducey said he fired the head of the Department of Weights and Measures because he planned a pre-Super Bowl sting against Uber and Lyft with the intention of shutting down the popular ride-sharing companies, the first time the governor has publicly discussed the reasons he did not retain the interim director.

Speaking to a luncheon at the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting at the Phoenician resort, Ducey described the previously undisclosed reasons for the dismissal of interim director Shawn Marquez. Ducey replaced him with former House Speaker Andy Tobin in late January.

Marquez denied the he planned to shut down the companies or that he made any such comments to the Ducey administration.

After discussing his first 150 days in office, Ducey told the crowd about the interviews he would conduct with prospective employees while he was CEO of Cold Stone Creamery.

“I’d like to ask people who they are, what they do and how do they know if they’re doing it successfully. And the answer I disliked the most is when somebody says, ‘Well, I know I’m doing a good job if he’s not mad at me.’ What you really want to hear is that they’re tying their performance to some number or some metric,” he said. “And it really isn’t that different in state government.”

The governor went on to describe his staff’s interview with Marquez. Ducey didn’t mention Marquez by name, but he had served as interim director of the agency since June 2014.

“We had a member of our team interviewing a director of the Department of Weights and Measures. They asked him these same questions. Who are you? What do you do? How do you know if you’re going to do it well? And that current director said, ‘Let me tell you what I’m going to do. The Super Bowl’s going to be played here in Arizona in a few short weeks, and I’m going to run a sting on Uber and Lyft and shut ‘em down,” Ducey said.

The governor added, “Well, I’m happy to tell you that that director is now in the private sector.”

But Marquez claimed Ducey’s story isn’t true. In an email obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times, Marquez said he had no plans to shut down Uber or Lyft with stings during the Super Bowl.

“There were no planned stings to shut down uber or lyft during the Super Bowl at all, that is a straight up lie. Not even close to the truth,” Marquez said in the email. “The department never had ‘shut down’ powers thus never planned on shutting uber or lyft down.”

Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for the governor, said Ducey stands by his remarks.

In 2014, former Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed Uber and Lyft to operate legally. At the time, they were subject to the same regulations as taxi companies, which mandated certain insurance coverage and required drivers to have commercial driver’s licenses. Ride-sharing drivers, who did not meet those qualifications, were subject to civil penalties of $200 to $500.

Ducey took a markedly different approach than the Brewer administration. Several days after becoming director, Tobin announced that the Department of Weights and Measures was ending all proceedings against ride-sharing companies.

The governor said the suspension of enforcement actions against the ride-sharing companies was aimed at reducing regulations and encouraging entrepreneurial businesses. He also said it was necessary to ensure adequate transportation services during the Super Bowl, which was held in Glendale on Feb. 1.

“We made a change in personnel at the Department of Weights and Measures. We brought somebody in with a private-sector approach. They’ve actually put together a package where we can eliminate the department. We’ve lifted the regulations on Uber ad Lyft,” Ducey told the crowd at the RNC luncheon.

Ironically, Tobin voted against the ride-sharing bill in 2014, when he still served as House speaker.

In April, Ducey signed HB2135, which created separate laws and regulations for ride-sharing companies, allowing Uber and Lyft to operate legally without meeting the same qualifications as traditional taxis. The new law will go into effect on July 3.

Ducey described the law as part of a broader agenda by his administration to promote entrepreneurial businesses. In that vein, he also signed laws relaxing regulations on microbreweries, crowd-funding and medical testing companies.

After his RNC speech, Ducey defended his decision to essentially fire an agency director for planning to vigorously enforce laws that were on the books.

“We’re looking to drive effective, efficient policy through government. We’re not looking to shut businesses down. We’re not looking to sting or surprise companies,” Ducey told reporters. “What we’re not going to have are overly aggressive regulators who are going beyond the scope of authority to hurt innovative, entrepreneurial, new ideas in Arizona. And you can see it with Uber. You can see it with Lyft.”

7 comments

  1. Robert Burgess

    You should get your story straight. Taxi drivers in the state of Arizona are not required to have commercial drivers licenses. Prior to HB2135 it was already legal to be a ride share driver. Total Transit demonstrated that clearly. Yes to be legal you need 24/7 commercial insurance, a weights and measures sticker (FREE), commercial plate ($20) and a drug test ($25).

    What these so called TNCs did was flood the streets with drivers cut their pay less than $1 a mile so no one makes a living.

    The state legislature created HB2135 without little input from the drivers who are hurt by this travesty. They are the ones who get the citations and fines, not TNCs and taxi companies.

    Here are the facts. Ducey gets sworn in office. Part of oath of office is to uphold the laws of the State of Arizona. Then fires the Director of Weights and Measures because he is enforcing the law.

    We now have a BIG problem. EVERYTHING RIDE SHARE DRIVER WHO DOES NOT HAVE 24/7 COMMERCIAL INSURANCE is uninsured while off app and on own time. Yes hybrid polices are coming not here yet. If I am fined for no minimum state required liability insurance the ride share driver should be too.

    THANKS DUCEY

  2. You should get your story straight. Taxi drivers in the state of Arizona are not required to have commercial drivers licenses. Prior to HB2135 it was already legal to be a ride share driver. Total Transit demonstrated that clearly. Yes to be legal you need 24/7 commercial insurance, a weights and measures sticker (FREE), commercial plate ($20) and a drug test ($25).

    What these so called TNCs did was flood the streets with drivers cut their pay less than $1 a mile so no one makes a living.

    The state legislature created HB2135 without little input from the drivers who are hurt by this travesty. They are the ones who get the citations and fines, not TNCs and taxi companies.

    Here are the facts. Ducey gets sworn in office. Part of oath of office is to uphold the laws of the State of Arizona. Then fires the Director of Weights and Measures because he is enforcing the law.

    We now have a BIG problem. EVERYTHING RIDE SHARE DRIVER WHO DOES NOT HAVE 24/7 COMMERCIAL INSURANCE is uninsured while off app and on own time. Yes hybrid polices are coming not here yet. If I am fined for no minimum state required liability insurance the ride share driver should be too.

    THANKS DUCEY

  3. concerned citizen

    Gov Ducey fires head of transportation, and then tells Diane Douglas she does not have authority to fire employee, but writes a letter that he has NO authority over the Board of Nursing in Arizona?
    That THEY are autonomous?
    There is nothing the BON has over the everyday citizen when it comes to making decisions based on something that happened in healthcare . The majority of the cases are DUI, bad check writing, deversion, and things that do not happen in the work setting or have anything to do with nursing.
    I think Ducey needs to revisit he obligations to the safety of the public here.
    How is it that Arnold S, was able to FIRE the entire board for not doing their job, but are allowed to do as they please in AZ using taxpayers money and a 4 million dollar budget that NO one over sees including the auditor generals office. And no the BON does not ‘use the renewal fees to sustain” . An investigation is needed.

  4. I worked for the dept of weights and measures during this time in a high ranking role. The governor is lying and brought in Tobin to make weights and measures run like a business, which Tobin will be pushing to completely shut down instead of revamping and working with Uber and Lyft. What a joke. I’m embarrassed to even admit I worked for this fool
    Tobin for the short time I did.

  5. Haha!

    The first two commentators are one in the same. And the third is a “ditto” talking head. Oh my!

    The only fact that the article didn’t get right was that cab drivers do not need commercial driver license.

    Discount Cab and/or Total Transit are always passing around sour grapes PR! Everybody should get their facts right! Governor Ducey took quality courageous leadership in signing the Uber bill.

    Thank you, Governor Ducey!

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