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Regents Chair Greg Patterson resigns in fallout of coffee-fueled conflict

Arizona+Regent+Greg+Patterson%2C+left%2C+engages+in+a+discussion+during+the+Arizona+Board+of+Regents+Meeting+in+Tucson+on+April+7%2C+2016.+Patterson+resigned+after+the+fallout+of+criticizing+a+lawmakers+style+of+dress.
Darien Bakas

Arizona Regent Greg Patterson, left, engages in a discussion during the Arizona Board of Regents Meeting in Tucson on April 7, 2016. Patterson resigned after the fallout of criticizing a lawmaker’s style of dress.

Regent Greg Patterson resigned amidst a flurry of misfortunes concerning an outburst criticizing a state legislator’s Western-wear Monday, June 19.

“It’s been a hectic weekend, and the past 24 hours,” said Vianney Careaga, the student regent representing UA. 

The story broke when the Arizona Republic obtained a secret recording, made by Patterson, of a meeting between himself and Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley. Regents President Eileen Klein and Rep. Jill Norgaard, R-Maricopa, also attended the meeting.

During the February meeting, Patterson grew frustrated with Finchem and Norgaard over a bill that would have created separate boards for each of the public Arizona universities to provide local oversight in addition to the Arizona Board of Regents.

The meeting culminated in a “caffeine-induced rage,” as Patterson described it, in a June 2 post on his blog, which has since been deleted. After nearly a half hour of civil discussion, he criticized Finchem’s “Sunday go-to-meeting” tie and mustache saying, “I would start by saying the costume doesn’t work. You know, trim that down, buy a suit. Decide where you want to be, but this isn’t it,” as can be heard in a portion of the recording released by The Republic.

Patterson then left the meeting and discussion continued among the remaining members.

Klein told The Republic that Rep. Finchem has always been “a complete gentleman, even in that moment.”

“As far as I’m concerned, the issue with Mr. Patterson was dead a long time ago,” Finchem said. “The things that have followed out after it, frankly, are none of my concern.”

Patterson apologized in the blog post following The Republic’s record request that provided the recording.

“I was angry and unprofessional,” he wrote. “So, Mr. Finchem, I apologize for the harshness and unprofessionalism of my tone.  It’s a real apology.  I’m not ‘sorry that you were offended’. Yada yada.  I’m sorry for the offensive tone that I used.”

In his resignation letter, Patterson said he “was overzealous in my defense of the universities” and “I do not wish to be a distraction to the ongoing work of the Regents and the universities.” However, his defense may have already had an impact on university relations with the state legislature.

While Finchem’s bill, HB 2359, was ultimately never assigned to committee, he said he’ll probably reintroduce a revised version of the bill next year.

“Regular business oversight at the local level is beneficial,” he said. “I think it’s a check on the system at both ends.”

The point that prompted the bill, and Patterson’s performance, was that administrative spending at Arizona’s universities has risen over the past several years, leading to concerns about the efficiency of the board’s governance.

Klein believes the altercation could have an impact on the future of the universities’ relationship with lawmakers.

“My bigger concern is that I don’t want anyone for a second to think that this is how the regents do business,” she told The Republic.

Patterson’s actions also cost him an invitation to Gov. Doug Ducey’s signing of the new $1 billion university bonding plan. While concerned initially, Patterson told The Republic he was OK with not attending since he didn’t help craft the bill.

RELATED: Cities and universities disagree over tax exemption in Ducey budget proposal

Patterson believes he was standing up to Finchem’s “bullying,” which, as a former lawmaker, he claims legislators use to get their way. He believes Finchem’s plans for the restructuring of the board are unconstitutional, as the Board of Regents is outlined in Arizona’s constitution.

“I think Mr. Greg Patterson did the right thing, because he put aside some personal issues for the sake of preserving the work of the regents and stepping aside so we can move forward,” Careaga said. “I thank Regent Patterson for his leadership in the past year, for his leadership as chairperson, and I thank him for his friendship.”

Following Patterson’s resignation, Vice Chair Bill Ridenour, who was slated to assume the chair position July 1, will remain as the board’s next Chair.

“I have confidence that Regent Ridenour will do well as chair person for the Board of Regents,” Careaga said. “He has good ties with UA … I think Regent Ridenour will do really well, and I look forward to this upcoming year.”

Regents serve for eight years with an appointment by the governor. Patterson was appointed in 2012 by Gov. Jan Brewer.

“Mr. Patterson has been a tireless advocate for our public universities and I sincerely appreciate his commitment, dedication and service to the board,” Ridenour said in a press release.

Ridenour, a UA alumnus and former student body president, was appointed by Gov. Brewer in 2014.

“…I wish to make clear that I in no way condone his remarks or behavior,” Ridenour said in a June 16 press release the day The Republic article ran. “We cannot allow his regrettable remarks and actions to diminish the hard work and outstanding results of the Arizona Board of Regents.”

Gov. Doug Ducey quickly appointed real estate developer Karrin Taylor Robson to fill the empty board position Tuesday, June 20.

“I thank Governor Ducey for his trust in me for this important position,” Taylor Robson said in a press release. “I look forward to working with the regents and university presidents at such a critical juncture…”

Taylor Robson is currently the founder and president of the development company, Arizona Strategies. She previously held the positions of executive vice president of DMB Associates Inc., a Scottsdale-based community developer, and as a principal at the law firm Biskind, Hunt & Taylor, PLC.

She also served as president of the Foundation for Environmental and Economic Progress, representing landowners in matters of federal law concerning endangered species and wetlands.

Regent Rick Myers’ term will expire next year, prompting another appointment by the governor.

Klein and Ridenour could not be reached for comment.


Follow Nick Meyers on Twitter.


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