Four long time members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors taught newcomer Supervisor Ally Miller a tough lesson on Tuesday at their regularly scheduled meeting. In retaliation for her request that the County review the budget and find money to fix roads, they eliminated planned road projects in her district.
In a 4 – 1 vote, that was clearly carefully orchestrated and likely in violation of Open Meeting Laws, the Board heard from multiple people in Supervisor Ray Carroll’s district demanding Colossal Cave Road repair. Supervisor Richard Elias then moved to have money reallocated from Miller’s district to fix the Colossal Cave Road, which is in Carroll’s district.
According to attendees, a group came into the meeting late; just in time for a vote on the matter. They had been called by a County operative to attend the meeting and urge the Board to fund the Colossal Cave Road. The meeting had run unusually long, and their appearance right before the vote gave the appearance that they effort had been carefully coordinated. One of the men in the group told another attendee that he had never attended a Board meeting before, but had been called by Ray Carroll’s office and asked to come at the appointed time and ask for road money.
Carroll and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry appeared to be quite pleased that they had successfully stripped an entire district of road repairs for the 2014 cycle despite the fact that the repairs had already been approved by Huckelberry. Carroll and Supervisor Sharon Bronson laughed after the vote.
“This should outrage all the voters in this district,” said Miller, who called the move “vindictive. It was purely out of spite for me shining the light on the mismanagement of your tax dollars.”
One former Pima County elected official said, “Ally will be okay. These guys can enjoy this for a minute, but the public will see it for what it is. They got cocky and have crossed the line.”
Geri Ottoboni, a resident in Miller’s district said, “They need to go. This is probably Ray Carroll’s way of increasing our gas tax. Stealing from one district to pay for another is a typical Ray Carroll move. People need to know how he is so dishonest, while appearing to be helpful.”
The Pima County Board has crossed the line numerous times, but the public seems to have grown accustomed to the waste, fraud, and abuse. It is unlikely anything will change. One Arizona Daily Star “reporter’ posted on Facebook that the move did look like “retaliation against Miller by other supervisors for her going to the staff to have them re-do their list of priority projects in her district. Definitely rough politics, but it’s a game she has got to learn to play.”
Taxpayers however, question the ethics of being pawns in the game the Board is playing. Residents of Miller’s district are organizing an effort to enlist the neighborhood and homeowners associations in petitioning for an investigation of possible collusion and ethics violations.
Just this month, the Arizona Attorney General’s office agreed to investigate a complaint filed against supervisors, Elias, Carroll, and Valadez for Open Meeting Law violations at the January 14, 2014, meeting.
The retaliation is a result of an agenda item by Miller to “Identify spending reductions in the current Pima County budget in an effort to increase the pavement preservation and road repair funding allocation.” Huckelberry has stashed over $20 million in non-medical consultant accounts in various County departments. Miller had argued that those funds could be reallocated for road repair. She has also fought the County’s effort to raise the gas tax.
After years of neglect under the county administrator, the County would need $267 million to bring all county-maintained roads up to an acceptable standard, according to Huckelberry.
The roads in Supervisor Ramon Valadez’s district are paid for in separate fund setup by Valadez’s predecessor Dan Eckstrom.
Knowing that the obvious retribution would raise questions, Supervisor Elias tried to get out ahead of complaints. He said that this is “Not Chris Christy-gate.” He claimed it was simply an economic decision.
In another matter, not one representative from Raytheon showed up in support for a proposed road realignment supposedly designed for Raytheon by Huckelberry. Despite this lack of support, the Board voted 4 – 1 to fund the project which will move the road near vacate land. It is widely believed that the move is intended to benefit County cronies.
The head of TREO, Joe Snell brought out supporters for the road from his organization and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, who said they supported the road as an “economic driver.” Both groups can be counted on to back various government officials’ requests and provide members who will speak publically in favor of their plans. Huckelberry’s plan for the County to build a research and business park, which he say will be part of aerospace and defense corridor, was first conceived in 2006 – 2007. In the meantime, Raytheon built a new facility in Alabama and fired a majority of their Tucson security staff last month.
Listen to Miller discussing meeting with Tucson radio host Jon Justice