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.”