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'Frat party': State fired Corp Comm candidate over harassment claims in 2016

Arizona Corporation Commission candidate Eric Sloan, whose campaign slogan is "Conservative. Experienced. Principled." was fired from his job as chief of public policy at the Arizona Department of Gaming two years ago, after employees complained about a hostile work environment that resembled a "frat party."

Sloan, a Republican, was "involuntarily separated" from the agency April 13, 2016, along with Deputy Director John Briney after Gov. Doug Ducey's office received an anonymous complaint March 22, 2016, alleging hostile work conditions, intimidation and bullying by Briney and Sloan. Several employees described the work environment as "absolute chaos." Sloan worked for the agency six months.

Sloan is among five Republicans in the primary for two open seats on the ACC. There are three Democrats in the race.

The investigation

An investigator with the state Department of Administration interviewed 13 current and five former gaming employees who had transferred to other state agencies, according to a Confidential Administrative Inquiry Summary Report obtained by the Green Valley News.

According to investigator Jan Plank, the witnesses described the culture at the department as unprofessional and a "three-ring circus."

Briney and Sloan were accused of making inappropriate jokes, engaging in employee intimidation, "rampant cussing" and having a "complete lack of professionalism."

When confronted about his language on the job, Sloan "became somewhat argumentative and emphasized that everybody uses 'colorful' language at the agency and he saw nothing wrong with it," Plank wrote.

In an interview Tuesday evening, Sloan said Plank didn't do "due diligence" on the report and was "pushing her own agenda and morality."

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"I was mistreated," Sloan said. "I was treated unfairly, but this was two years ago and I've moved on."

In the complaint letter to the Governor's Office, the employees wrote that Sloan's presence "has the entire agency in fear of their jobs. He constantly intimidates people and is a bully to those that are beneath him. He made it known on his first day at the agency that the 'Governor himself' wanted him there and that he enjoyed terminating positions. He has made numerous comments in front of staff or heard by staff, saying 'Who are we going to fire today?'"

In her report, Plank said she substantiated the comment about firing. She also said Sloan acknowledged that he had yelled for a subordinate to come into his office.

"Mr. Sloan indicated that his ethics are 'situational' and his behavior 'fits' the environment of the agency," Plank wrote in her report. "He did not acknowledge that he, and other leaders, had a responsibility to be role models and mentors to junior staff and create an environment of professionalism as the highest paid executives at the agency."

Plank indicated that employees accused Sloan of singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" while walking by an African-American employee's desk. When questioned about it, Sloan "could not in any way understand that this may be a culturally sensitive issue," she wrote.

Sloan, who said he is a man of faith, told the Green Valley News he is not racially insensitive and that the song is heard every Sunday in churches. He claimed his faith was used against him in the investigation.

Five days prior to being terminated, Sloan sent an email to Executive Director Barry Wong of the Governor's Office of Equal Opportunity, and Craig Brown, then the head of the Arizona Department of Administration, demanding a written apology from Plank and asking for a reprimand to be placed in her file.

Sloan told the men that Plank ended the meeting with him by saying, in part, "You do not have the moral character that the state is looking for."

"I am deeply offended by this remark and I do not think it is befitting that someone with such a serious responsibility should ever tell someone they just met that her moral compass is greater than theirs," Sloan wrote.

He went on to say Plank used the meeting "as a forum to mandate her personal morals on me and tell me that I don't deserve my position or the money I make. My competency at my job has never come up in this meeting or any other meetings. I am very competent at my job and I am highly recommended for the work I do."

According to his LinkedIn profile, Sloan is CEO of Sloan Lyons Public Affairs, a seven-year-old firm that "advocates for clients with cities and towns, counties, the legislature and elected/appointed boards."

His time with the Arizona Department of Gaming is not listed on his LinkedIn page, although the biography on his company's website says he worked as the Chief of Public Policy and Government Affairs for the agency.

2018 election

Sloan got into the Corporation Commission race late last fall.

In a June 28 televised debate among GOP candidates, he said he would "bring integrity back to the commission."

He largely ignored a question asking whether the ACC was "beholden to the energy interests of APS."

The question stemmed from the involvement of APS in the possible funding of GOP candidates for Corporation Commission in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

In 2014, more than $3 million in anonymous spending went into the campaign to back Tom Forese, who is up for re-election this year, and Doug Little, who is no longer on the ACC.

APS would neither confirm nor deny involvement in that campaign. But it did acknowledge pouring millions into the 2016 race through a Political Action Committee its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., launched called the Arizona Coalition for Reliable Electricity. That PAC was chaired by Sloan, according to state records.

APS was granted a $95 million-a-year rate increase by the ACC less than a year after the election.

Sloan said in the forum, "I think the APS case should be reopened in regards to the rate increase."

In an interview with the Green Valley News he declined to address his past relationship with APS and its bearing on his campaign bid.

This report was first published by the Green Valley News.

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Jul 4, 2018, 8:01 pm
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Nothing but the best for Arizona.

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