James Goughnour of Payson nominated to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission

Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department Press Release – January 23, 2019.

Governor Doug Ducey today announced the nomination of James E. Goughnour of Payson, Arizona, as a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

Goughnour, an Arizona resident of 42 years, is an outdoors enthusiast and driving force for wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation in the Payson area. He is the owner of Rim Country Custom Rods, a small business that designs and builds custom fishing rods and repairs rods and rod components. Prior to starting his business, he worked 26 years for General Dynamics Aerospace Systems Group in Scottsdale, where he held a number of management positions, culminating in a position as a project manager for all aspects of the Aerospace Operations Program.

Goughnour is the immediate past president of the Mogollon Sporting Association (MSA), a not-for-profit 501(c)3 volunteer organization that raises funds to benefit wildlife conservation and youth education programs throughout the Mogollon Rim area. He serves as the MSA organizational interface with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and the Tonto National Forest to receive project requests and coordinate with MSA to provide funding and volunteers.

Goughnour is also active with and has chaired the Payson Special Volunteer Committee, where he led a group of approximately 100 volunteers, business owners, and county and town representatives to develop a plan to attract national-level bass fishing tournaments to Roosevelt Lake and promote Payson by designating it as the “Host Town” for these events. 

He serves as chair of the Gila County Roundtable, a group of Gila County anglers working with AZGFD to enhance fishing conditions at Roosevelt Lake. As part of this partnership effort, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2014 donated more than 400,000 Florida-strain bass fry for stocking into Roosevelt Lake. 

Goughnour is an active member of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, Forest L. Wood, the National Rifle Association, and the Tonto Rim Sports Club. He works with the Payson Parks and Recreation Department and AZGFD in the planning and execution of the annual Payson Wildlife Fair. He is also an active participant in the Kids Fishing Program at Green Valley Lake. 

Goughnour earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. His appointment is pending confirmation by the Arizona Senate.

Arizona state parks projects are under review after director’s firing


Associated PressPublished 4:35 p.m. MT Dec. 16, 2018

Homolovi State Park

(Photo: Winslow Chamber of Commerce)

Plans to expand and improve Arizona’s state parks system are under review as key projects face delays and cost increases.

The projects are drawing new scrutiny in the wake of complaints that led to the ouster of Arizona State Parks and Trails director Sue Black. The agency’s current leadership is reviewing all projects to determine their viability and to ensure all permits and clearances are secured properly, interim director Ted Vogt wrote in a Nov. 30 report to a legislative oversight committee.

The committee is scheduled to review the park projects Tuesday.

Vogt was appointed to head the agency in November after Gov. Doug Ducey fired Black following numerous complaints, including ones by former staffers who said potential archaeological sites were bulldozed to rush development of rental cabins and other improvements.

Only 25 of the 100 cabins planned for various parks through lease-purchase agreements have been installed yet the project’s $1.6 million budget is nearly expended, the report said.

This photo from state Parks documents shows land at Havasu Riviera State Park that was bulldozed. Former Parks archaeologist Will Russell said the state agency might not have followed protocol in determining if archaeological sites were disturbed.

This photo from state Parks documents shows land at Havasu Riviera State Park that was bulldozed. Former Parks archaeologist Will Russell said the state agency might not have followed protocol in determining if archaeological sites were disturbed. (Photo: Arizona State Parks Department)

In a Dec. 11 briefing memo that accompanied the report, legislative budget analysts wrote the shortfall in cabin development was “due to higher-than-expected site preparation costs.” The parks system’s report said the agency is evaluating the cabin project scope based on its recent experience installing the cabins at Lost Dutchman, Patagonia and Lake Havasu parks.

Meanwhile, the planned $4 million development of a new rustic camping park known as Rockin’ River Ranch along the Verde River in Yavapai County is lagging. Parks officials said they can’t accurately determine a construction schedule until completion of designs and, before those, a cultural resource assessment of the property. 

Elsewhere, plans given an informal go-ahead by lawmakers in 2016 to redevelop camping sites and recreational vehicle stations at Cattail Cove State Park on Lake Havasu along the Colorado River at a cost of $5.3 million are in a holding pattern as parks officials develop the project’s master plan.

The parks report states the scopes of numerous other improvement and repair projects throughout the park system have changed due to various circumstances, including funding constraints.

Of 13 small projects funded with appropriations in the two fiscal years that ended in mid-2017 and mid-2018, only four are complete, legislative budget analysts said.

Arizona State Parks Can be fixed – if Gov. Doug Ducey is willing. Will he Accept?

Source:  Linda Valdez, Arizona Republic – December 2, 2018

Opinion: Not all the problems at Arizona State Parks happened on Ducey’s watch. But the remedy is up to him.

Here’s one constituent letter

Ducey can turn it into a love letter to all of Arizona and a down payment on his legacy.

The constituent letter comes from the Arizona Heritage Alliance, an impressive group of people who know and care about our state’s remarkable cultural, historical and natural treasures.

The letter asks Ducey to restore $10 million a year in Heritage Fund money for Arizona State Parks & Trails. The funds were taken away in 2010.

Parks lack money for maintenance 

Heaven knows, the Parks need money.

  • They no longer get any money from the state’s general fund, and the price of deferred maintenance has been rising for years.

And heaven knows Arizonans wanted the Parks to have the money.

  • The dedicated funding was overwhelmingly approved by voters in a 1990 citizens’ initiative, which tapped the Lottery – not the general fund – for the money.

The letter reiterates how this money was used under the plan spelled out in the citizens’ initiative:

  • For recreation and open space development, restoration or renovation.
  • For outdoor and environmental education initiatives and non-motorized trails.
  • For operation, maintenance or repair of parks and natural areas.
  • For historic preservation and archaeological projects.

The last one is of particular interest.

Former director fired after complaints

In mid-November, Ducey fired former Parks Director Sue Black and her former deputy Jim Keegan.

It came after years of complaints about Black’s management.

It also came as Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich continues investigating whether laws protecting Native American and other archaeological sites were ignored on Black’s watch to facilitate development at the Parks and raise revenue.

These alleged breaches happened after the citizens’ oversight power of the State Parks Board was gutted.

Ducey asked to heal the agency

The letter asks Ducey to “heal the agency, its staff, the State Parks Board, and concerned citizens who care about our natural, cultural, and historic resources.”

He can make this a priority in his second term under the banner of fixing somebody else’s mistake.

After all, the evisceration of the Parks Board in 2012 and the loss of the Parks’ Heritage funding in 2010 both happened before Ducey took office.

What’s more, reversing those changes is a matter of simple fairness.

  • The Arizona Game and Fish Commission, a citizens’ group that sets policy for the Game and Fish Department, retained the power that was stripped from the Parks Board.
  • Game and Fish, which manages Arizona wildlife for hunting, fishing and conservation, also retained its $10 million a year share of Heritage funding, which was included in the original voter-approved initiative.

Why do some outdoor groups get preference?

The so-called “rod and gun” constituency that relies on Game and Fish for their sport has a strong voice in the Legislature – and that’s why that agency retained both citizens’ oversight and Heritage funding. But State Parks have a statewide constituency that, while not as organized, should not be ignored. Hiking, boating, fishing, birding and exploring Native American culture. You can do that and more at these Arizona State Parks. Parks serve an essential role in an increasingly urban Arizona, providing outdoor recreation for everyone and bringing tourism to rural areas.

The State Parks are a vast treasure house of Arizona’s past and present, ranging from the Yuma Territorial Prison to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum to Lake Havasu to Kartchner Caverns to the ancient ruins at Homolovi. Properly protecting and managing this heritage demands a dedicated funding source and good citizen oversight.

How Ducey can make this right

Sure. Sue Black was Ducey’s appointment. That was his mistake.

But two detrimental changes at Parks pre-date Ducey:

  • Unlike previous directors, Black did not answer to a strong and active Parks Board; she clearly needed that kind of citizen scrutiny.
  • What’s more, the rush for development to raise revenue might not have happened if the Parks had retained the Heritage money that Arizona voters wanted them to have.

Ducey can begin fixing those problems and answer the letter from his constituents as he crafts his State of the State speech. He can do it with a pledge to restore the Parks’ share of Heritage Fund money and reinvigorate the Parks Board.

Then he can shepherd those changes through a Legislature that will be more diverse next session and more in need of visionary leadership.

Reach Valdez at linda.valdez@arizonarepublic.com.

That mess at Arizona State Parks? It’s what happens when you eviscerate the Parks Board

Source:  Editorial by Linda Valdez; Arizona Republic – November 23, 2018

Arizona’s State Parks got tangled in a big mess on Gov. Doug Ducey’s watch. But he has the tools to fix this.

  • One is the bully pulpit.
  • The other is the State Parks Board, a once-powerful body that has been reduced to lapdog status.

“When I was director, the board had authority over everything,” said Ken Travous, who served as parks director from 1986 to 2009. “I served at the pleasure of the board.” That changed. The Parks Board’s authority to hire and fire the director ended in 2012 with GOP Gov. Jan Brewer’s state personnel reform, which was designed to simplify how state employees are hired and fired. In practice, it made it easier to fire state workers. The change in Parks Board authority was included in the bill, even though Parks Board members serve without pay.

How are those reforms working out?

So how’s that change working out?

Black and former Deputy Director Jim Keegan were fired by Gov. Ducey Nov. 16, after years of allegations of mismanagement that were reported by The Republic’s Craig Harris. A criminal investigation is ongoing by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich into allegations that laws protecting Native American and other archaeological sites were ignored under Black’s leadership to facilitate development at State Parks.

A strong Parks Board could’ve stopped Black

Black’s behavior has been the subject of state personnel investigations. Allegations of misbehavior by Black included showing up drunk at public functions, violating procurement rules and berating workers.

“I cannot imagine a board in my time not reacting strongly to those charges against a director,” said Bill Roe, who served on the board from 1986 to 1998, when directors answered to the board. But today’s Parks Board had no power over Black, and Ducey stood by her until she became too great of a political liability.

A strong Parks Board could have acted more decisively. And a strong board is what was intended when the Arizona State Parks system was created in 1957. With seven members appointed by the governor, it has operated effectively under administrations of both parties. It earned a reputation as an engaged board that provided oversight, reviewed budgets, scrutinized policy changes and assured that the public had a voice in the running of State Parks.

The board only met 4 times this year

But the board, which met nearly monthly before the 2012 personnel reform eviscerated it, has sharply curtailed the number of meetings in recent years. It held two meetings in 2016, four in 2017 and four so far this year. “It used to have a much more prominent role in administering the parks,” says the Sierra Club’s Sandy Bahr, who has been active in Arizona resource and environmental issues for decades. The Parks Board was a “forum for listening to the public,” a place for people to raise concerns about Parks’ management and get answers. “Now the public finds things out after the fact,” Bahr said.

In 2015, the board itself ceded more power when it gave the Parks director sole authority to hire and fire employees. Brnovich, who then served on the board, was “the lone dissenting voice” in that vote, says Ryan Anderson, spokesman for the AG’s office. Brnovich resigned from the board later that year.

They gave the director even more power

Former Parks Deputy Director Jay Ream recalls: “Brnovich warned the Parks Board not to authorize the director to hire and fire. They gave it to her and a week later I was gone … I was fired by Sue Black.” He had been been deputy director for nearly two decades.

Was is fair? Was it justified? A powerful Parks Board with its former authority would have demanded good answers. Firing a longtime employee would not have been solely up to a director. Keegan, who subsequently held Ream’s old position at Parks, was fired by Ducey along with Black amid allegations that the department expedited development by ignoring archaeological protection. The Parks Board might have prevented these problems. It would have assured public oversight before the fact – not after. Recent statutory and other changes have taken management of Arizona’s State Parks from the “community perspective to an authoritarian model,” says Travous. It hasn’t worked.

Here’s how Ducey can fix this

Ducey is in the best position to fix it.

Black’s tenure shows why change is needed, and Ducey can make the case better than anyone. After all, the problems that resulted after Brewer’s personnel reform weakened the Parks Board were not Ducey’s doing. But he saw the consequences and can provide the leadership now.

  • The governor should begin by involving the Parks Board in hiring a new Parks director.
  • He should encourage the board to have regular meetings.
  • He should drop the idea of eliminating the board, which he supported previously, and let the board know he expects members to be engaged.
  • Ducey should build on lawmakers’ understanding of the importance of a public body in land management. After all, the same law that removed the Parks Board’s authority to hire the director specifically retained that power for the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, which sets policy for the Game and Fish Department, and has long had strong support at the Legislature.
  • Ducey should work to restore the State Parks’ share of Lottery money from the Heritage Fund, which was created by voters in 1990 to provide $10 million annually each to Parks and Game and Fish. The Parks’ money was taken during the recession. Game and Fish kept its allotment.
  • Ducey can rally public support for stewardship of the state treasures and use it as leverage to move changes through the Legislature.

This is about your legacy, governor

If he does this, Ducey’s legacy as governor will include restoring a Parks’ oversight system that served the state well for decades and assured precious state resources – natural, prehistoric and historic – were wisely managed in full public view with public accountability.

The alternative?

Ducey can refuse to change course and let the next governor earn hero’s status by restoring what will be lost on his watch.

Reach Valdez at linda.valdez@arizonarepublic.com.