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Suspended Arizona parks director permanently removed from job

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PHOENIX – Sue Black, who was in hot water for allegedly allowing potential archaeological sites to be bulldozed, has been permanently removed from her job as Arizona State Parks and Trails director.

Earlier this month, Black was placed on administrative leave while the issue was being investigated.

That came after a former state archaeologist filed a complaint alleging that Black and other top parks officials ignored his repeated warnings that their actions violated regulations prohibiting destruction of artifacts and archaeological sites.

On Friday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced in a press release that Black and agency deputy director James Keegan no longer work for the state government.

Ted Vogt will continue to serve as interim director of the state parks department, the release said.

Jeff Whitney, director of the Department of Forestry and Fire Management, also was listed under the departures on the release.

David Tenney will serve as the interim forestry director while continuing his duties as director of the Residential Utility Consumer Office.

Ducey’s release didn’t provide reasons for the dismissals.

In October, Will Russell, a former compliance officer and tribal liaison for the parks agency, filed the complaint that apparently led to Black’s downfall.

According to Russell, he repeatedly warned of regulations that prohibit the destruction of artifacts and archaeological sites only to be scolded by managers. He eventually resigned in protest.

One example he cited was the building of updated restroom facilities and beachfront cabins in Lake Havasu State Park. Russell said he told park managers about native antiquities at the construction site.

“They said they’d look into it, and I took them at their word,” Russell told the Today’s News-Herald. “When I was back out there a few months later, they had a bulldozer there.”

Russell said Black rarely consulted with tribes in the Lake Havasu area and later eliminated his position as tribal liaison.

“I was eventually prohibited from contacting the tribes, field staff and even property owners on private, adjacent land,” he said.

Russell’s allegations were the latest tangle for Black, who faced one of the highest turnover rates for a director of a state agency.

Black had also been accused previously of inappropriate and disrespectful behavior toward staff.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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