Huckelberry’s Pima County History In Brief

1994

● The Pima County Board of Supervisors vote to hire Chuck Huckelberry as the County Administrator after halting plans for a national search. Before taking the top spot, Huckelberry was an engineer and deputy administrator for the County.

At the time of his hire the Arizona Daily Star reported, “For Supervisors Raul Grijalva and Dan Eckstrom, Democrats who worked with Huckelberry in their previous term, Huckelberry has been a welcome change if only because he has restored the access to his office and staff that Vyas had cut off. “He’s been treating our office and Dan’s office with a degree of equality and respect that’s a real change,” Grijalva said.

According to the Star, the previous manager, Manoj Vyas, was criticized “for answering only the Republican majority — Boyd, Ed Moore and Paul Marsh – that put him in office 14 months ago.”

Vyas stayed with the County, and took a $50,000-a-year pay cut. He was paid $55,000 to works on special projects.

Huckelberry received a $121,000 contract, which forced full payoff of his salary if supervisors fired him before the end of 1996.

They didn’t dare.

1996

● 1996 marked the beginning of the end for southern Arizona. The new baseball spring-training stadium and training complex was built on east Ajo Way after Dan Eckstrom pushed for the venue to be built in his district. Professional baseball teams began the exodus north.

2002

● In 2002, Pima County officials asked the state’s auditor general to examine the 1997 road bond package, which has been criticized for delays and cost overruns.

At the time, Republican Ray Carroll “asked for an outside auditor to uncover how the county has handled the $350 million in Highway User Revenue Funds for 57 road projects approved by voters in the 1997 general obligation bond election. Carroll alleged that the bond program has been badly mishandled and some contracts have been awarded to firms with political connections,” according to the Arizona Daily Star. “Carroll has said Huckelberry’s tenure has been marked by “a culture of corruption.”

2003

● In 2003, Eckstrom retired, and his handpicked successor, Ramón Valadez, took his seat. Valadez hired Eckstrom’s daughter Jennifer, who at the time, was a member of the South Tucson City Council.

2004

● In 2004, voters approve a bond to buy Open Space. Select landowners do quite well, while chunks of property are taken off the tax rolls.

2006

● In 2006, Pima County voters pass the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) bond.

Later, litigation was prompted by the discovery of suspicious activity surrounding the 2-billion dollar 2006 Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) bond election.

2008

● An affidavit sworn by Zbigniew Osmolski read:

On January 27, 2008 I went with friends to the boondocks lounge at 3306 N. 1st Ave. for a celebration of the life of Pat McAndrews, a well-known Tucson musician and schoolteacher who had recently died.

During the course of the evening I was in the patio area smoking a cigarette where I had a candid conversation with Bryan Crane, the computer operator of the Pima County Elections Division.

During that conversation Brian Crane told me that he fixed the RTA or Regional Transportation Authority election on the instruction of his bosses and he did what he was told to do.

Mr. Crane expressed his concerns about being indicted and said he would like to talk but can trust anyone.
http://electiondefensealliance.org/files/Osmolski_Affidavit.pdf

2009

● In April 2009, the Tucson City Council voted to fire its city manager, Mike Hein, for cause. Hein was named city manager in April 2005. He also has served as a Deputy Pima County Administrator and had worked for Marana, Nogales and the City of South Tucson.

Hein began having problems with the City, due to inaction or missteps with Rio Nuevo and the City’s $44 million in reserves had dwindled to $11 million. Hein claimed he didn’t know about an estimated $80 million revenue shortfall for the fiscal year.

Under Hein, over $5 million in extras were added to the Fourth Avenue Underpass project Downtown. The City’s Transportation Department was on the hook for the money, leaving department unable to fill potholes and conduct regular road maintenance.

At the time of Hein’s firing, a liberal blog posted, “The revolving door of political patronage in Pima County knows no limitations, however. Mike Hein checked in with his old boss, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, and lo’ and behold there was a job opening with Pima County for which Mike Hein – who had just been fired for cause by the City of Tucson – was the “top recommendation” for the job.”

Pima hires ex-City Manager Hein/ Mike Hein: He’s your problem now, Chuck (November 4, 2009) http://blogforarizona.net/mike-hein-hes-your-problem-now-chuck/

2011

● The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to proceed on the development, and provide interim financing, for the planned Joint Justice/Municipal Courts Complex. At the time they said they would proceed only if the Tucson City Council agreed to participate.

This project has overrun by more than 100%. Supervisor Miller has indicated the City’s portion would have been $18 million, Huckelberry says their contribution would have been much higher, “since it was based on utilization. The City was to occupy a majority of the facility, and their contribution to cover only their costs, in excess of available bond funds, would have been approximately $28 million based on their 54 percent use.”

Whichever number is correct, it doesn’t matter, the City of Tucson is nearly insolvent and cannot participate in the project.

Huckelberry and the City never executed an agreement.

● In 2011, Raytheon won its case before the State Board of Equalization against the County for its property valuation. The State Board found that the assessed value of improvements on its property was $22 million as opposed to the $40 million value placed by the County Assessor.

2012

● Marana Town Attorney Frank Cassidy, who said the County has created a “culture of intimidation.”

Cassidy said that County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry proposes bond elections with more than 100 individual projects – and sub-projects within them – to a point where advisory committee members are so overwhelmed that they defer to Huckelberry’s recommendations of what gets funded and what does not.
http://cvbugle.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=33515

● In 2012, the County offered a legal defense of “we only cheated once,” according to documents filed in Pima County Superior Court. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2TKmkSNAkCfbEFRdG9jMmJORjg/edit?pli=1

The judge assigned to the case ruled that he was ‘unable to anything no matter how obvious the problem might be.’ That ruling was overturned and the judge was duly authorized to order whatever reforms were necessary to remediate the rigged election process.

In the past, several election division employees testified under oath and in open court in Pima County, that the Elections Division has routinely been learning and printing the results days or weeks before elections.

● In 2012, the County bought property owned in part by investor Don Diamond’s Auriga Properties, claiming that Raytheon needed it as a buffer.  The County paid $6 million for nearly 400 acres just south of the Raytheon plant on Old Nogales Highway and Hughes Access Road.

The argument was that Raytheon could not be encroached upon and the County was investing in the property to keep the company in southern Arizona.

Later, Huckelberry said they would sell the property for cheap to a developer who might build a research park as part of his planned “research corridor.”

In 2012, Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson asked for and received an exemption from the Arizona Secretary of State for Pima County. The exemption allowed Pima County to forgo the requirement of counties to presort early ballot returns by precinct or by legislative districts prior to tabulation for purposes of the early ballot audit.

● During the Republican Primary, failed Pima County Supervisor candidate, Mike Hellon, told the public at a candidate forum that Chuck Huckelberry has piles of money that he “stashes” throughout his 20 different departments. Hellon claimed that Huckleberry can find money when he needs to. Hellon said that Huckelberry has “a little slush fund.” Referring to Huckelberry, Hellon said, “He’s stashed money all over departments all over County government. Where, if you need another hundred thousand here, and another hundred thousand there, you can go get it.”

● In April 2012, Donald Diamond and Priscilla Storm wrote a letter to Brig. Gen. Paul T. Johnson addressing “continued conversations with DMFAB and Pima County, Diamond Ventures” and advising that as a result, they have “reviewed our land holdings in the approach and departure paddle of Davis Monthan Air Force Base.” The letter concludes with a request for the “Base’s support for the County’s purchase of our acreage using Davis Monthan Air Force Base Open Space funds.”

Over time, the County purchased property from Diamond affiliates in proximity to the approach and departure paddle of Davis Monthan Air Force Base. At the November 2013 meeting of the Military Affairs Commission, John Burk, Senior Executive Officer Department of Emergency & Military Affairs, directed the commissioners to consider the application of Rocking K Holdings LP. According to the minutes, Burk explains “that the application includes community partners and many letters of support from Tucson and the installation and asks for a motion of consideration.”

Shortly before the purchase, Diamond participated in deal to locate a children’s gym in the same area.

2013

● In June 2013, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a contract to begin the design for a new road realignment near Raytheon Missile Systems. Supervisors approved a $1.7 million planning and design contract to start the process of realigning Hughes Access Road.

Supervisor Ally Miller opposed the move, telling constituents that Pima County has much more travelled roads in fair to poor condition and monies should have been spent elsewhere. Ultimately, the $8 million project will relocate Hughes Access Road from Nogales Highway to Alvernon Way.

The County released a statement saying that the relocation of a “roughly four-mile segment of the existing road approximately 2,500 feet to the south has several benefits that will help address two ongoing concerns: a lack of buffer space for Raytheon operations and an inability to expand.”

Raytheon officials denied involvement in the project. A spokesperson said that the move was “Pima County’s idea, not ours.”

The County claims that the project will improve access throughout the general area and “serve as the backbone for a new, 10-mile aerospace and defense parkway, while allowing for compatible development in a new potential aerospace and defense research and business park.”

However, as planned, the road conveniently runs along property owned by Don Diamond upon which a housing development is planned.

● On July 2, The Board was asked to pass a resolution allowing the County Administrator to complete an application for the monies from the State’s Military Installation Fund to purchase state land for Pima County to complete a portion of the bike path known as the Loop.

Those monies were set aside by lawmakers to protect military bases from encroachment. The use of the monies by Pima County did not protect the base from encroachment due to the fact that the land use was not altered by the purchase. The land is currently being used by bicyclists. The purchase merely transferred possession from the State to the County.

Specifically, the Open Space and Military Installation funds were used to purchase 32 acres of undevelopable land owned by Diamond:

The application for Military Installation funds notes, “This acquisition of approximately 32 acres of vacant commercially zoned land would leverage an earlier purchase and increase of the overall size of the Davis Monthan in Air Force Base Open Space Acquisition parcel as it is adjacent to a 49 acre parcel acquired by Pima County with the last remaining 2004 Pima County DMAFB Open Space bond funds.”

The MIF application acknowledges that Diamond could not easily develop his land. He had used a small portion upon which to relocate a gymnasium, and because of zoning changes by the City of Tucson, the land would have been too costly to develop. The County essentially took the property off of Don Diamond’s hands, and off of the Pima County tax rolls using the state’s monies set aside to protect military installations.

They used the State’s funds because according to the MIF application the County had run out of money after purchasing the 49 acres from Don Diamond earlier.

The County developed standards through the County created Davis Monthan Open Space Advisory Committee which established standards which appeared to favor property owners like Diamond.

● In December 2013, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate the Ethics and Budget Review committees.

Since its inception, the Budget Review Committee was unable to take any action due to a lack of a quorum. Supervisors Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez never filled their spots on the Committee, and Supervisor Sharon Bronson only filled one of the two spots allocated to each supervisor.

● In August 2013, the Board authorized the expense of an additional $50,000 from the general fund to pay Brekan-Nava Group for expert consultation services regarding the lawsuit against Raytheon.

● In August 2013, the Board voted to spend over $22,000 to provide water to illegal border crossers as they make their way through the western half of Pima County on their way up to Phoenix, where they are then dispersed across the country.

● In August 2013, the Supervisors voted on the Julian Wash Greenway project. Pima County voters approved bonds for the project in 2004. Community Healthcare Benefit Foundation of Pima County has stepped in to pay the $3.325 million for the remaining Julian Wash improvements. In return, Pima County Supervisors voted to sign an IGA with Arizona Health Care and Cost Containment System Administration (also known as AHCCCS) to provide this same $3.325 million as the non-federal share of DSH (disproportionate share hospital) payments which allows 2 local hospitals, TMC and Carondelet St. Mary’s, to receive the benefits of 2 times matching funds from Medicaid. These two hospitals were to receive a total of $9,736,456 from Medicaid if the IGA is approved by the board and executed,

2014

● In 2013, Pima County administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s right-hand-man Martin Willet, filed a lawsuit against the County for damages he claimed he incurred in a bicycle accident. In July 2014, he tendered his resignation after having gone back to work after his accident. He cited his accident as the reason for his retirement. Willet has worked for the County for the past 27 years, and since his accident, has been seen walking around downtown Tucson unaided, Willet, is being represented by his wife’s law firm McEvoy, Daniels, and Darcy, PC., which filed a Notice of Claim with the County on December 18, 2013 for $5 million for his injuries as well as $1 million for the suffering of his wife, Sally.

The County administrator did not recommend that the matter be sent to another jurisdiction. It is likely that the Pima County superintendents will take action on the matter sometime in the near future.

● In a memorandum dated March 21, 2014, Huckelberry outlined his demands for Kinder Morgan if they wanted to build the Sierrita Pipeline in Pima County.  Huckelberry demanded $12 million in mordida for the use of a little patch of land.  Kinder Morgan’s proposed natural gas pipeline consists of the construction of a 60 mile long, 36 inch diameter pipeline located between Tucson and Sasabe, Arizona.

More than 92% of the public land in question is owned by the Arizona State Land Department and only 2.2% is owned by the County. In a March 12, 2014 letter of support for the project and the much needed jobs it will bring, the Arizona State Building and Construction Trade Council advised the County in a letter that the “project will create hundreds of union jobs during construction,” and will “provide a positive economic and job creation impact during construction, in addition to the estimated $4.9 million in valorem property tax revenues within Pima County per year.”

The vast majority of the land that will be occupied by the pipeline is owned by the state of Arizona. Less than three miles is owned by Pima County. But that little patch is expected to result in approximately $1.6 million in annual property tax revenues for the County.

● While claiming that they need to pass $22 million in general obligation bonds (Proposition 415) on November 4, 2014 to pay for a new no-kill animal shelter, the County purchased two pieces of land. One may become the home for new soccer fields, while the other is near Huckelberry’s residence and will serve as more open space. Both will be taken off the tax rolls and the value to the taxpayers is questionable.

Generally unbeknownst to the taxpayers, the County solicited comments for and against the proposition in a small ad placed in the Arizona Daily Star on May 4, in the Daily Territorial on May 5, and on the County’s website. Miraculously, the County only received 41 comments from people in support of the measure and none against it.

The group supporting the bond measure includes Diamond Ventures, and Dan Eckstrom.

Related articles:

Huckelberry proposes raiding Military Installation Fund, bonding for DM

Pima County to use Arizona Military Installation funds to buy open space

Pima County economic plan lacks necessary maps

Committee approves $640 million Pima County bond proposal

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