Milstead goes limp over the thought of gays

This article appeared in the Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly, one year after Governor Evan Mecham was thrown out of office. Much of the negative press coverage of Mecham concerned his attitude toward gays. And, yet, here we have another high state official with similar attitudes and there was only this one story. Not one other newspaper, especially including The Arizona Republic, reported anything about Milstead’s attitude toward gays.

– Ken Smith


April 26, 1989

By Howard Fischer
New Times (Phoenix)

Ralph Milstead thinks heterosexual officers present the best public image for the Department of Public Safety. The opinion of the chief of the state police didn’t change with the embarrassing revelations that one of Arizona’s finest made a habit of stopping female motorists and demanding sex in exchange for overlooking traffic violations. But Milstead can’t stand the thought of hiring gays.

Milstead, whose own strange heterosexual habits were revealed last year in steamy disclosures during the Mecham impeachment trial, tries to hide behind antiquated rules that preclude hiring anyone with “any demonstrated pattern of homosexual behavior.” But a complaint by a gay man who wanted to be hired by the department forced a legal review of the regulations. And, earlier this month, Attorney General Bob Corbin concluded that a technical error in adopting the rules makes them unenforceable.

That throws the matter back into Milstead’s lap. Without the excuse of “I’m just following the rules,” he has been forced out of the closet. “Given my personal preference, I would not hire homosexual officers,” he says.

The way Milstead sees it, any gay whose sexual preference is not known by friends, family and colleagues is subject to blackmail. He adds, in the next breath, “I wouldn’t purport to you that’s the strongest argument in the world.” His argument doesn’t apply to the man who caused the uproar in the first place by his inquiry. Milstead has an answer for that, too.

“I am uncomfortable hiring people who admit to breaking Arizona law as it applies to sodomy and lewd and lascivious [behavior],” Milstead says. But those aren’t the only laws on the books in Arizona that govern sexual behavior. There are state statutes barring cohabitation as well as prohibiting sexual contact between unmarried partners. DPS applicants who break those laws, however, don’t have to worry. Because if Milstead sets the standard, those things are fine.

In shocking allegations last year, Milstead was accused publicly of seducing the widows of slain DPS officers, of having his girlfriends pose topless outdoors and of carrying on affairs during office hours. Milstead never responded to the charges, made by Christina Johnston, who claimed to be his former girlfriend. Johnston’s allegations never were presented formally to senators serving as the impeachment jury. Chief Justice Frank X. Gordon, concluded that the stories, while fascinating, were not germane to either Mecham’s conduct or Milstead’s believability as a witness against him. But that didn’t stop the senators from snatching up copies of Johnston’s deposition as quickly as they became available.

Nor were the charges investigated by the governor’s office. Instead, Gov. Rose Mofford was more concerned that Milstead showed poor judgment in posing — during the midst of the trial — for a New Times photo. (It showed an apparently aroused Milstead, wearing only swim trunks, kissing a girlfriend.) “I don’t think fornication and cohabitation are generally questioned,” Milstead says, “as are a myriad of other laws not questioned.” That leaves the sodomy question in the category of disqualifying acts for his officers, along with murder, drug sales and armed robbery.

Anyway, Milstead says, he’s just protecting the public treasury. He says gays have a higher incidence of AIDS than the general population. That, he says, translates into higher costs for sick leave and health insurance. Milstead says it’s the same as the department’s refusal to hire an epileptic or someone with a bad back, “people who have substantial health risk.” But he ignores the fact that the latter two conditions might affect the ability of an officer to perform; simply being gay does not.

Finally, it comes down to whether other officers would accept having a gay highway patrol officer or detective. Milstead says the department has “the appearance of a 100 percent heterosexual population,” though he can’t say for sure that there are no homosexuals on the force. But that appearance is important. “As a manager, you want to consider the morale, the efficiency, the effectiveness of your work force and how would this person be accepted.”

The DPS raised those issues before, when it was a lily-white, all-male agency. The department was forced to hire both minorities and women and, as Milstead puts it, “we’ve worked our way through that.”

Milstead’s concern about public perception is touching, if not a bit late. State residents already have gotten an eyeful about the conduct of some of Arizona’s finest.

Martin Mix managed to become a DPS officer, having passed the polygraph test to prove he wasn’t gay. Mix proved instead he was exactly what Ralph Milstead wanted, a heterosexual. Mix recently admitted–in defense of a rape charge–that he stopped a lone female motorist and took her to the desert where they had sex. He was acquitted of rape after he claimed he was just accepting a bribe: having sex in exchange for not giving the motorist a traffic ticket. That admission kept out of trial testimony any evidence of Mix’s previous behavior on the job. Another officer later said Mix admitted to having sex with six other motorists at various times. DPS fired Mix over the incident. He was given a five-year prison sentence for bribery.

How are other police agencies handling the question of hiring gays? Neither the Phoenix nor the Tucson police departments asks applicants whether they are gay.

Nor does the Pima County Sheriff’s Department think it’s an issue. And how do they get around whether a would-be officer is violating the sodomy law? It’s a matter of determining what’s important, according to Sheriff’s Major Dennis Douglas. “I committed a crime this morning,” he says. “I used a Pima County pen to write a personal check.” Instead his personnel examiners spend their time asking about issues which affect applicants’ suitability to be law-enforcement officers, such as whether they have committed major thefts, deal drugs or rape. “Although we acknowledge the fact that [homosexual behavior] is technically against the law, we follow the spirit of the law,” he says.

Milstead, however, is not alone in his desire to keep homosexuals from wearing badges and carrying guns. A similar rule exists at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department because officers have contact with prison inmates and the public, according to Lieutenant Paul Sauerbrey. Sergeant Jay Ellison, spokesman for the department, says there is no policy against hiring gays per se, but only against anyone who is “actively involved” in conduct which violates the law.

Applicants to the Glendale Police Department also are questioned about homosexual activity. Jeff Brunton, the city’s human resources manager, says the department doesn’t believe it should hire anyone who has violated Arizona laws. He adds, though, that an “isolated act in the past” would not disqualify a candidate.

Milstead says he still hasn’t decided whether he will request that the anti-gay rule be readopted, this time doing it right. That process can take up to a year. In the meantime, Milstead says applicants will not be questioned about their sexual preferences.

Milstead may have the politically sensitive decision taken out of his hands. A federal appellate court ruled recently that an Army sergeant who admitted he is a homosexual cannot be denied the right to reenlist. That case is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court sometime this summer.

FRED WHO? The biggest winner from the announcement by J. Fife Symington III that he wants to be governor may be Fred Koory.

The Maricopa County supervisor, waging the barest-of-disguised races for the Republican nomination, believes voters want someone with government experience to face off against Rose Mofford. Aside from his eleven years on the board of supervisors, Koory also boasts of his service in the state senate.

But wait. Jim Kolbe is no slouch in the public service department. He, too, served in the legislature. And he’s been in Congress since 1985, representing a lot more folks than Koory does as a supervisor. But Kolbe’s own gubernatorial aspirations took a turn for the worse when Symington went public with his own ambitions last week, fifteen months before the primary. Supporters whom the Tucson congressman was counting on suddenly developed a case of “It’s too early to endorse anyone.” Worse yet, Republican godfather Barry Goldwater last week endorsed Symington, sending Kolbe a letter telling him he should stay in D.C.

Koory can barely disguise his glee. “If Fife Symington keeps Jim Kolbe out of the race, that may be the best thing that ever happened to Fred Koory,” he beams.

The worst thing that ever happened to Fred Koory may be Fred Koory.
One-on-one, Koory is a delight. But his prepared speeches don’t exactly have them dropping in the aisles. Not that that’s a necessary qualification for public office. Bruce Babbitt was, at his best, wooden. And Koory says his record of being returned to office repeatedly by voters shows he must be doing something right on the campaign trail.

But even Koory admits it’s not his charisma he’s trying to sell but his dull, predictable side. “I believe that people feel stability follows me wherever I go,” he says. “I have been a positive, stabilizing factor.”

Koory also is at a disadvantage because the state’s “resign-to-run” law precludes elected officials from seeking another office except in the last year of their terms. Koory’s term as supervisor is up at the end of 1992; the moment he announces his gubernatorial candidacy he must resign from the board.

Until Koory is a candidate he cannot begin raising money for what could be an expensive race. Koory has only several thousand dollars left over from previous campaigns. But he is not pessimistic. He thinks that the gubernatorial race will have such a high-media profile–particularly with ousted Governor Evan Mecham also seeking the GOP nod–that it won’t cost him much at all.

Of course, Koory defines “not much” as meaning at least $1 million, something that may be difficult for a man whose name is nearly as unknown as Symington’s. A poll by KPNX-TV shows Koory with a favorable rating among 16 percent of those asked, against 8 percent unfavorable–and a whopping 75 percent who didn’t have the foggiest idea who he is.

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS The latest gubernatorial wanna-be will have a hard time lining up votes if he can’t guarantee the one from the woman who shares his bed.

Bob Barnes, a self-admitted Mecham clone, threw his hat in the ring–sort of–last week with a press conference at a west Phoenix hotel. Barnes, who worked for Mecham when he was governor, says he isn’t actually announcing his candidacy but simply saying he’s going to run if three “miracles” happen.

The first miracle, according to Barnes, is if the press is fair and reports his qualifications correctly. The second will be if he develops financial support. And the third? If his wife supports him.

Pat Barnes isn’t ready to jump on the Barnes-for-Governor bandwagon, at least not until it appears her husband will have at least a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving a free-for-all Republican primary. She’s unwilling to drain the family coffers just to let her husband run his ego around the state.

Barnes vows to wage a “grassroots” campaign and address the needs of the common folks. To that end, the educator who has a doctorate in political science says he applied for a job as a stockroom clerk at J.C. Penney. But he may sound more elitist than populist: “I would like to listen to the people down below.