Arizona Senate Committee Rejects Hobbs' Nominee for Housing Department, Cites 'Systemic' Plagiarism

An Arizona State Senate panel rejected the nomination of Joan Serviss to run the Arizona Department of Housing in a 3-2 vote on Thursday, with Republican senators highlighting alleged “systemic” plagiarism by Serviss in letters she wrote to the federal government while working in advocacy.

Arizona State Senator Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) provided three examples in which Serviss, nominated by Governor Katie Hobbs (D) to run the Arizona Department of Housing, appeared to blatantly plagiarize advocacy groups and the media while running the Arizona Housing Coalition.

After Serviss offered opening remarks and received questioning from State Senators Lela Alston (D-Phoenix), Flavio Bravo (D-Phoenix), Justine Wadsack (R-Tucson), and T.J. Shope (R-Florance), Hoffman referenced a letter sent by Serviss in her former position at the Arizona Housing Coalition, a group she boasted of shepherding from one to 10 employees.

That letter contained six paragraphs, five of which Hoffman claimed were directly plagiarized from two other advocacy groups, one being non-profit supporting food banks in Washington state.

“It appears you copied and pasted without attribution,” said Hoffman, adding that “the only changes were minimal at best, and stylistic.” He questioned if Serviss considered her letter to be an example of plagiarism.

Rather than answering the accusation of plagiarism, Serviss claimed her actions were “a common practice among advocacy groups,” which she said often use “templates” and “shared language” in their letters.

Hoffman then raised a second letter, also featuring Serviss’s signature. In this document, he alleged that Serviss not only plagiarized the text of the letter but also lifted another organization’s biographical information and passed it off as her own.

Serviss again defended the letter’s borrowed content, claiming the Arizona Housing Coalition was part of a wider advocacy group with the alleged victims of the plagiarism, and thus they all used the same copy.

Arizona Capitol building by Gage Skidmore is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons
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