Brewer unaware of Napolitano visit due to staff error
PHOENIX — If Jan Brewer is upset because she didn’t know Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano was going to be in Nogales on Thursday to talk border security, she has no one to blame but herself — or, at least, her staff.
Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson admitted Friday that Brian McNeil, Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, had been informed of the event. In fact, Benson said, McNeil got not only a note but a phone call from Napolitano’s staff.
That’s not all.
Matt Chandler, Napolitano’s press aide, pointed out that Robert Guerrero who heads the border health office of the state Department of Health Services actually participated in the Thursday event. And Chandler said Homeland Security also invited a host of other state officials, including Gilbert Orrantia who is Brewer’s homeland security advisor and Robert Halliday, director of the state Department of Public Safety.
Brewer lashed out at Napolitano’s agency and the Obama administration Thursday for deciding to update its border counternarcotics strategy at a Nogales event but not inviting her, or even telling her about it.
“Every time I find out anything about our border, I read about it in the paper or I hear about it on television or I hear about it on the radio,” the governor said Thursday. “I wish they would notify me to let us know exactly what they’re about to do.”
That statement — and a Capitol Media Services story about Brewer’s complaints — resulted in Chandler coming up with a list Friday of exactly what his agency did to keep Arizona officials in the loop.
In a response, Benson continued to point out that his boss “did not receive a direct invitation to attend or participate” in the event. But he acknowledged that Homeland Security did notify senior gubernatorial staff and several state agencies about it.
“The governor typically would have been alerted through these channels,” Benson said. “In this case, due to an unintentional internal communications gap, she was not.”
But Benson sidestepped the question of whether Brewer was apologizing to Napolitano. Instead, he said that members of the governor’s staff “regret” the fact their boss was not told “and take responsibility for the internal notification problem in this matter.”
Benson stressed, though, that Brewer spoke honestly on Thursday when she said she was not aware of the event.