Embattled Arizona State Parks Director Sue Black has been placed on administrative leave after allegations emerged that her department ignored state protections for an archeological site at Lake Havasu State Park and bulldozed Native antiquities in order to develop the land.
The allegations, brought forward by an archeologist who used to work in the Parks department, is just the latest in a series of allegations against Black, who has faced multiple investigations or inquiries into her work since she started leading the department in 2015.
Gov. Doug Ducey placed Black on administrative leave Thursday. Ducey spokesman Daniel Ruiz said Ted Vogt, who previously served as the state’s chief operating officer will serve as the interim director in Black’s absence.
“As the Department of Administration continues its review into the allegations against Director Black, we made the determination that in this case it is most appropriate to place the director on administrative leave to preserve the integrity of the investigative process,” Ruiz said.
Archeologist Will Russell warned Parks managers on multiple occasions in 2017 that the Lake Havasu site contained Native artifacts when the department was considering building cabins and restrooms on various sections of Windsor Beach Park, according to the Phoenix New Times.
In the summer of that year, Russell noticed the archeological site had been flattened. He alleges that Black and other Parks leaders knew the cultural significance of the location.
He resigned and took a job at a different state agency after he was reassigned from the project months after he started asking questions about the development at the Lake Havasu State Park.
As the allegations have come to light, four Native American members of the Legislature — all Democrats — called on Ducey to fire Black this week. They also requested Attorney General Mark Brnovich immediately conduct an investigation into whistleblower reports that Black was responsible for the illegal destruction of protected cultural sites.
“These egregious acts of destruction, if substantiated, would violate the Arizona Antiquities Act and would be an affront to all all tribal communities throughout the Southwestern United States,” Sen. Jamescita Mac Peshlakai and Reps. Eric Descheenie, Sally Ann Gonzales and Wenona Benally wrote.
The state Antiquities Act prohibits anyone from developing historic and archaeologically significant sites without first obtaining the required state permits to do so.
Black came under fire long before the whistleblower allegations emerged in recent weeks. She has faced numerous accusations of misconduct that have required Ducey to call for investigations into goings on at the Parks department.