A state audit claims former Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries stockpiled an “excessive” amount of ammunition and firearms to “create his own police force” at an agency responsible for distributing social services to needy Arizonans.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety conducted the investigation that produced a 783-page “Firearms Program Audit.” It claims DES, with Jeffries in charge, purchased 88,600 rounds of handgun ammunition and 55 handguns. Some of the purchases violated state procurement policy, the report said.
The report also said about 4,050 rounds of ammunition could not be located or accounted for and that Jeffries and two of his executives carried handguns on duty, a violation of state policy.
The audit, which occurred from November 2016 to May 2017, claims the agency wanted to build a police force to protect DES offices across the state. It also alleges Jeffries and another high-ranking DES official wanted to stockpile ammunition because they feared Democrat Hillary Clinton would be elected president last year and that ammunition would be difficult to obtain under her administration.
Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Jeffries to the high-profile post in February 2015, but forced out his one-time ally and five other DES executives the day before Thanksgiving 2016, citing a series of incidents that cast a cloud over the agency. Jeffries at the time of his appointment was a businessman with minimal social-services experience.
The governor’s actions to change the agency’s leadership came on the heels of stories in The Arizona Republic and on azcentral.com about questionable mass firings at the social welfare agency and a DES party at a Nogales restaurant at which Jeffries paid for alcohol for employees.
Jeffries, in a phone interview Wednesday, said the DPS audit was filled with lies, and he called it an “embarrassment” that the agency took seven months to conduct an investigation but failed to interview him for his side of the story.
“This report is disjointed, disingenuous, deceitful and dishonorable,” Jeffries said. “Other statements are categorically slanderous, and I do plan to take issue with them.”
Jeffries said contrary to the audit’s allegations, he never carried a gun on state property, did not want all DES employees to carry guns, and was never involved in any of the ammunition purchases.
However, in an interview last year Jeffries said he carried a state-purchased handgun because of death threats against him.
The audit stated there was no “independent evidence to corroborate Jeffries’ claims that he had received death threats.”
‘Easy access’ to ammunition at DES office
Ducey’s office in late November directed DPS to account for all ammunition and weapons stored at DES after it was discovered the agency had accumulated a large cache of weapons.
Initial reports last year said the weapons were in a locked room, but the audit stated the bulk of the ammunition was located in an unoccupied office that was in a state of disarray, with nothing more than a standard office door to secure the ammunition.
“There was essentially no security for what was found to be tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition,” the audit said.
The audit also stated the lack of proper storage and security allowed for “easy access” to ammunition by virtually any DES employee.
The inappropriate storage and a lack of proper documentation made it difficult to discern the status of roughly 4,050 rounds of ammunition missing from DES, the audit said.
Ducey’s office declined comment on the report Tuesday.
However, it issued a statement saying the governor took action last year to impose leadership changes at DES.
“While these old practices are no longer in effect, the investigation identifies how to prevent this from happening again, and our office will be working closely with the new leadership at DES to ensure DPS’s recommendations are followed,” the statement said.
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8478.
Manny Santos, a former Department of Economic Security employee who was fired, and Timothy Jeffries, director of DES, talk about the large number of firings at the agency recently. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
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Elvira Perez talks about how she was fired from her job as a child-support enforcement officer just two months before she would have qualified for a full state pension. Mark Henle/azcentral.com
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William Wright was fired from Adobe Mountain School in July when he was unable to return to work after suffering injuries on the job. David Kadlubowski/azcentral.com
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Gov. Doug Ducey reinstated Tarah Ausburn, who was fired from the Adobe Mountain School because of the length of her invasive breast cancer treatment. Diana Payan/azcentral.com
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Tarah Ausburn was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and said she was terminated from Adobe Mountain School because of the length of her treatment. Diana Payan/azcentral.com
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