Embattled Arizona Parks and Recreation Director Sue Black is out effective immediately.
Black, who was placed on administrative leave after allegations emerged that her department ignored state protections for an archaeological site at Lake Havasu Park, was terminated Friday afternoon.
The parks director kept her job through numerous inquiries or investigations into her work since she started leading the state department in 2015. But allegations that the parks department, under Black’s knowledge, flattened an archeological site containing Native antiquities was likely the tipping point that led Gov. Doug Ducey to fire Black.
The Governor’s Office issued a press release Friday listing Black’s departure along with the immediate departure of Jeff Whitney, the director of the Division of Forestry and Fire Management. A representative from Ducey’s office did not elaborate on Black’s departure or on the staff changes.
Ted Vogt, who Ducey named as the interim Parks Director when Black was placed on administrative leave, will continue to serve in that capacity. Vogt was previously the director of the Corporation Commission, but resigned amid questions about his ties to Arizona Public Service Co., which the commission regulates.
Black’s management was questioned numerous times over recent years after she faced multiple accusations of misconduct related to her role leading the department.
Ducey recently requested the Department of Administration to investigate Black after the Phoenix New Times first reported that Black and other Parks Department leaders knew about the cultural significance of the Lake Havasu Park property before bulldozing the site to make way for cabins and restrooms. Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s Office is also investigating the allegations made by a former Parks Department archeologist.
After the Lake Havasu incident was reported by the local media, four Native American members of the Legislature — all Democrats — called for Ducey to fire Black.
Black made an annual salary of $175,000.
The Governor’s Office announced Black’s firing along with other staff changes, which come just over a week after Ducey won a second term as governor.
No reason was given for the staff shake up. But changes could signal a transition period as Ducey winds down his first term and gears up for four more years in office.
The Governor’s Office announced Department of Revenue Director David Briant will retire on Dec. 1 after working for the state for 31 years. Chief Deputy Director Carlton Woodruff has been tapped as the department’s interim director.
Department of Gaming Director Dan Bergin will also retire after 23 years of working for the state. James Ashley, the director of the Industrial Commission will oversee the Department of Gaming while also continuing in his current role.