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Arizona Board of Regents Chair Fred DuVal steps down after Hobbs says she's 'exploring' dismissals

The chair of the Arizona Board of Regents stepped down on Thursday amid mounting criticism regarding the University of Arizona’s financial crisis.

Fred DuVal will remain on the board, but will no longer serve as chair. And John Arnold, the board’s executive director, will take a leave of absence from that role to focus on his other job as the university of Arizona’s interim chief financial officer. DuVal’s term on ABOR ends in January 2026. 

"It's imperative that we move away from the heat of rhetoric and politics and refocus on addressing the genuine challenges facing our institution," DuVal said in a statement.

"Personally, this transition allows me to dedicate more time to serving the University of Arizona during my remaining two years on the board," he added.

Chair Elect Cecilia Mata will take over for DuVal.

TUA is facing a $177 million budget shortfall, which has led to harsh scrutiny and criticism from the public and Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. The governor has blamed DuVal in particular for mishandling the situation.

Hobbs has the power to appoint regents, and her spokesperson said Thursday that she was examining her options regarding dismissing members.

Hobbs did not respond to requests for comment following DuVal’s decision to step down as chair.

Former university CFO Lisa Rulney stepped down in December and was replaced by Arnold, but reporting by the Tucson Agenda revealed that Rulney never left, and instead stayed on under the title “senior advisor for business operations.”

UA President Rob Robbins hasn’t drawn the brunt of Hobbs’ ire, according to her recent statements about the school’s financial situation.

One of the issues Hobbs raised in her letter earlier this week was accusations from faculty at the university that DuVal has a conflict of interest.

“While I have not been given the facts and therefore cannot comment about the veracity of recent statements from faculty regarding ABOR board members' potential conflicts of interest, I do know one thing: ABOR members attacking faculty, even going so far as threatening a lawsuit, is not leadership,” Hobbs said.

DuVal served a cease-and-desist letter to Dr. Leila Hudson, chair of the UA Faculty Senate, following questions she raised last week regarding conflicts of interest at a Faculty Senate meeting.

AZPM confirmed that DuVal was the managing director for the private investment company Amicus Investors, LLC before being appointed to the board. On its website, the company lists UA and Arizona State University as previous partners.

During a faculty senate meeting in February, Hudson said DuVal was still listed as working for the firm when he joined the board. DuVal maintained that is not true as the company “failed to land any business.”

“Even if Amicus had pursued or landed business in Arizona, which we didn't, it would have been impossible to have had a conflict because the two engagements never overlapped,” DuVal said during a February ABOR meeting.

In her statements earlier this week, Hobbs blamed the board for UA employees now losing their jobs.

“I cannot be more clear: because of Chair Duval and the Board’s actions, university employees are going to lose their jobs. Attacking faculty is not, and never will be, the answer,” Hobbs said. “Instead of taking any accountability and guiding with a steady hand, ABOR is circling the wagons and announcing they are litigating personal grudges during Board meetings … Chair DuVal and members of the Board of Regents appear more concerned with saving face than fixing the problems they created. It’s time for them to come down from their ivory tower and realize this is hurting Arizonans and the university.”

The Arizona Board of Regents holds the broadcast licenses for AZPM.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.