Statement confirms Kimberly Yee as Acting Governor of Arizona as Katie Hobbs is missing in action


So, Hobbs withdrew the names of the 13 pending nominations. That, in turn, meant they were no longer interim directors.

Instead, she tapped Ben Henderson, the interim director of the Department of Administration, to be the interim director of other agencies — one at a time — which Hobbs said allowed him to name deputy directors of each of those agencies. And with no directors above them, that made what Hobbs is calling the “executive deputy directors” the de facto heads of each of those agencies.

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Slater said Arizona law allows those deputies to serve, without reservation, in the absence of a director, confirmed or interim. And he said it gives them the same powers and, in this case, allows Elizabeth Thorson, her choice for Department of Administration, to serve as its deputy director and Barbara Richardson to head the Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions — the two posts that Yee contends are not filled.

The treasurer, however, isn’t buying it.

“We received legal counsel that this is an area that would not be abiding by the law which requires the director of an agency to sit as members of the board legally,” she said.

Yee said, the withdrawal by Hobbs of her interim directors means these two agencies — if not the others which are not of her direct concern — don’t have someone who qualifies to sit on the board.

Nor does she believe that a deputy director can serve in their stead.

“They may have a designated member, written to us, of who that appointment would be,” Yee said. She said that’s how it’s occurred in the past, with the director of the Department of Administration sending a staff member.

“In this case, there was no director, legally, to appoint this designee,” Yee said.

Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee tweeted out Wednesday afternoon that she will be serving as acting governor beginning on Wednesday evening until mid-morning Thursday.

But Senate President Warren Petersen said that was different because the majority Democrats chose not to fight the move. That, however, isn’t the case here where the Gilbert Republican has threatened legal action.

And there’s another complicating factor.

The Arizona Constitution spells out that in the governor’s “absence from the state,” the next in line automatically assumes the powers and duties of the office.

Hobbs has been out of state since Sunday and was not set to return until Thursday morning.

Secretary of State Adrian Fontes was scheduled to leave Wednesday night. And Attorney General Kris Mayes also is gone.

Strictly speaking, that has left Yee in charge.

But no acting governor in decades, however, has actually attempted to circumvent or countermand actions taken by the elected governor. And Yee said she would not use that power to fill what she said are the 13 vacancies or call the Legislature into special session.

“I have been notified that I will be serving as Acting Governor later this evening until mid-morning tomorrow,” the release on the tweet said. “While I am pleased to step into this role, I will refrain from naming directors to the 13 agencies that currently have vacancies and will not call the Arizona Legislature into session to confirm them. That being said, I do hope when the Governor returns to Arizona, she will promptly name qualified directors to these important state agencies and remove the legal uncertainty that exists for all of the regulatory actions taken by the agencies. I expect to see a swift resolution to this matter, so we can get back to getting the work done for Arizona taxpayers. The people of Arizona deserve leaders who follow the rule of law.”

Yee is fourth in line on the Arizona succession of gubernatorial power. After governor, the line of succession is secretary of state, attorney general and then state treasurer. The attorney general is out of state until Friday morning.

It also, by law, includes the director of the Department of Administration and the Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions.

Only thing is, there are no “directors,” at least not officially.

That’s because Hobbs, upset with the failure of the Senate to act on their nominations, not only withdrew them from consideration but removed them as interim directors. She then had them reinstalled through a procedural maneuver as each agency’s “executive deputy director.”

That, said Yee, herself a former state senator, is illegal. And she won’t accept those named deputies to be voting members of the panel.

“I believe she is thumbing her nose at the law,” the treasurer said of the governor. Yee said Hobbs should understand that, with the two having served in the Senate at the same time.

“We expect Treasurer Yee to stop playing political games,” responded Christian Slater, the governor’s press aide. He contends the law allows these deputies to serve as designees, saying the treasurer should “seat the duly authorized board members and ensure government keeps working on behalf of Arizonans.”

But Yee, who had made a short-lived bid for governor in 2021 before withdrawing from the GOP primary and deciding instead to seek reelection for her own office, said the issue goes beyond the members of the investment board. She said if there are not Senate-confirmed people heading agencies “then we really do have some rogue people sitting in top positions, making executive decisions, and who are not elected, for a very long time.”


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