Katie Hobbs defends Talonya Adams firing, says race and gender were not factors

Katie Hobbs defended her role in the 2015 sacking of Senate Policy Advisor Talonya Adams, saying the dismissal was for performance reasons and other issues, and not because of her race or gender.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Federal Jury found out the Senate fired Adams was for complaining about discriminatory remuneration, one the previous jury concluded it was weak because she is a black woman, Hobbs told the Arizona mirror There was a string of issues that dated back to November 2014, months before the dismissal, when Hobbs was first elected as Minority Leader – some of which the Senate did not bring to trial.

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Hobbs, who is now Arizona Secretary of State and the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in next year’s gubernatorial race, did not give details of alleged issues with the performance of Adams in an interview with the Arizona mirror, claiming that she could be personally responsible for raising issues that were not on the record of the recently concluded trial. The Senate, not Hobbs, was the defendant Adams sued in federal court.

But Hobbs maintained her testimony in both trials that she lost faith in Adams, which led to her dismissal.

“I can say with certainty on my part, my dismissal decision was not based on race or gender. There were other factors, ”she said.

Hobbs said Republican Senate Chief of Staff Wendy Baldo was the ultimate decision-maker on the dismissal, which led Adams to reproach his former boss for not taking his responsibilities for his actions. Hobbs admitted her “involvement” in the Adams sacking, but described it as a joint decision between herself, Baldo and Democratic Chief of Staff Jeff Winkler.

“We had several conversations during the week, and it’s a decision we made together. I said that at trial and stand by it, ”Hobbs said. “I take responsibility for my role in this. But, again, it wasn’t based on gender or race. And the person who ultimately fired was the Senate Majority Chief of Staff. “

Baldo said she fired Adams at the behest of Hobbs and Winkler, while Winkler said Baldo would never have fired a Democratic staff member against the will of the minority leader.

There are systemic issues related to compensation and employment practices within the legislature that persist to this day. And it’s a system that has treated Ms. Adams badly. It is against women, people of color and, frankly, against all the staff who work for the minority party.

At the heart of the problem was Adams’ salary. Adams learned that she was paid less than most of her white male colleagues in February 2015, after Legislative Report, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times, released data on the salaries of legislative staff. Adams then asked Baldo about the raise request process. She had previously raised the matter with Hobbs, who had told her that the salary increases would be discussed after the legislative session was over.

Adams was fired after taking time off work to travel to Seattle to help her 19-year-old son, who had been hospitalized with heart problems. She had discussed the matter with Winkler on a Friday and the two were scheduled to meet the following Monday morning to discuss both her pay issues and her leave. She ended up flying to Seattle over the weekend and left a message for Winkler on a primary voicemail for Democratic Senate staff. Winkler didn’t know about the message until later that day and tried to find out why Adams missed their meeting and didn’t show up for work.

Baldo told Adams later in the week that she was fired. Hobbs testified that Adams’ lack of communication constituted an abandonment of her job and that there was no “handover” of her duties when she left the state.

At the time of his layoff, Adams’ salary was $ 60,000, the second lowest among Democratic staff. Political adviser John Fetherston, a white man, was paid $ 52,000 at the time. The lowest paid Republican staff member at the time, political adviser Garth Kamp, was paid $ 84,000.

Hobbs said Adams’ salary was unfair, but for reasons unrelated to his race or gender. Republicans have controlled the legislature for decades and simply pay Democratic staff less than their own employees, she said. Hobbs said Democrats generally have a more diverse staff than the majority party, so people of color are often paid less than their white colleagues.

“There is a system in place for employment in the legislature that is stacked against the people of the minority party,” Hobbs said. “These are two separate things. But it is the majority that controls the budget and controls all personnel matters that are responsible for this system of inequity. “

Adams’s salary was unfairly low because she was a Democrat, Hobbs said, not because she was black or a woman. She said she got raises for her employees each of the four years she was Minority Leader, but wished she could do more.

“There are systemic issues related to compensation and employment practices within the legislature that persist to this day. And it’s a system that has treated Ms. Adams badly. It’s against women, people of color and, frankly, all of the staff who work for the minority party, ”Hobbs said.

However, Adams’ salary was commensurate with that of other staff in similar positions, Hobbs said, and was higher than that of another staff member in a similar position.

Although Hobbs disagreed with the jury’s reasoning in both trials, she said the Senate should not appeal the verdict on Adams’ dismissal. She won twice in court – Adams, who is a lawyer, represented both times – and Hobbs said there was no interest that would be served by an appeal.

Senate Speaker Karen Fann said she has yet to decide to appeal the verdict.

Political fallout

The verdict in the Adams case has cast a veil over Hobbs’ gubernatorial campaign. She has two opponents of the Democratic primary, but thanks to her position and the notoriety she has for her opposition to the so-called ‘audit’ of the 2020 elections in Maricopa County, Hobbs has long been heavily favored. to achieve the victory of his party. nomination.

Now other Democrats are questioning his commitment to women and people of color. A coalition of black leaders has urged people to ‘reconsider’ their support for him. Adams told the Mirror that she believes Hobbs is unfit to serve as governor.

“I really think she has no respect for people of color. She has no curiosity about them. She unfortunately remains without education on diversity, inclusion, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, ”Adams said after winning the second lawsuit.

Katie Hobbs not ‘fit to serve’ as governor after discriminatory dismissal, says staff member

Hobbs said pay equity and fighting discrimination are still key issues for her, and that she will continue to fight to win every Arizona’s vote.

“I am committed to doing the job I need to do, to listening to communities of color and working to gain their support, but also to be a governor who works for everyone. And I will deliver for them. It’s not just lip service, ”she said.

Despite accusations that she is not an ally of people of color or women, Hobbs urged people to look at her toll.

During her eight years as a legislator, she noted that she had sponsored equal pay legislation and advocated for parliament to approve the equal rights amendment. As a minority leader, she hired several Hispanic women and got raises for her staff. Hobbs said she has increased the number of people of color on staff and in leadership positions, raised salaries for people earning less than $ 15 an hour and created a community advisory board to register new voters. blacks, latinos and native americans. And in her career as a social worker, she said she worked on behalf of the most vulnerable people in society.

“I would ask people to judge me on my whole record and the things I did as a social worker, the things I fought for in the Senate, the things I did as a social worker. as Secretary of State and will continue to do as Governor, ”Hobbs said.

Hobbs declined to say whether the verdict would make it harder for him to win next year’s Democratic primary. When asked if the verdict would be a handicap for her and other Democrats in the general election, where Republicans will certainly make it a major issue, Hobbs said, “This is something that happened there. seven years ago. There was a trial two years ago. This is not a new problem. And I will continue to work to gain the confidence and support of the voters of Arizona.


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