Arizona State Senator Calls Out Katie Hobbs After Forced Resignation of Department of Child Safety Director Nominee

Arizona State Senator Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), chairman of the Senate Committee on Director Nominations (CDN), announced Wednesday that Hobbs’s choice to lead the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), Matthew Stewart, was allegedly forced to resign following questionable behavior.

“It’s disgraceful that Katie Hobbs either did not conduct a thorough review of Mr. Stewart prior to offering him the position as DCS Director, or she thought she could sweep his history under the rug. This agency is tasked with protecting vulnerable children. While Katie Hobbs openly touted skin-color as her seemingly only priority in the search for the next potential DCS Director, it might have also been a good idea to look at experience and qualifications too,” said Hoffman.

The Arizona Sun Times contacted the governor’s office for additional information but did not hear back before publishing time.

Hobbs appointed Stewart in December, touting him as an advocate for child welfare and a culture of “working together” for the sake of helping the young. Stewart previously worked as a case manager and training supervisor at the DCS before resigning in 2020. A report from NBC News shared that Stewart was the first black leader of the department and was allegedly “ashamed by the racial disproportionality” he saw at the department.

However, Stewart only held the position for several weeks before being removed. 12 News attempted to question Hobbs on why he was removed, but she did not give a straight answer. Hobbs said the decision “was made in the best interest of all parties involved.”

However, Hoffman shed some light on Stewart’s allegedly rocky start leading the department, which the Senate reportedly received from a department whistleblower.  Specifically, Hoffman stated that since Stewart began leading the department, “four high-level employees” have left the DCS, he made “questionable moves on consulting contracts,” and he fired non-appointed, openly gay DCS employees, who have since allegedly filed complaints against Stewart.

Moreover, Hoffman shared that not all of Stewart’s previous experiences at the DCS went well. In May 2020, Stewart received an “official reprimand” letter from the DCS for “insubordination and unauthorized absence.” The DCS wrote that as a Training Operations Supervisor, his role required him to be present in the office, but he allegedly refused to come to work physically.

After receiving the latter, Stewart attempted to file a complaint, alleging unlawful discrimination. He wrote that he requested to take leave because of a medical situation, but the DCS waived his leave. He alleged that he faced discrimination because his non-male or African American peers were allowed to telecommute while he was not.

According to 12 News, an independent investigation into Stewart’s claims revealed insufficient evidence to prove his case. As for the DCS, Hobbs has chosen former Department of Economic Security Director Michael Wisehart as interim leader. Hobbs will need to select another permanent solution in the future.

Hoffman stated that this debacle with Stewart proved why the CDN is necessary.

“This unfortunate series of events proves precisely why the Senate Confirmation process is so vitally important for the people of Arizona. The Senate’s confirmation hearings exist to ensure Director nominees are qualified for the job, and that they will faithfully execute the laws of the state of Arizona,” Hoffman said.

The most recent nominee to pass through the committee successfully was Jennifer Ann Toth, to direct the Department of Transportation.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “Jake Hoffman” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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