In late November, Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson officially vacated her office, leaving behind a storied and controversial legacy.
The near-octogenarian is the longest-serving county supervisor, having first been elected to the board in 1996.
Drunken phone calls to old “friends,” venting her frustration about not controlling a majority of the board, has fueled the speculation as to why she chose to check out. Speculation ramped up involving the timing of the 77-year-old supervisor’s resignation due to answers she gave the Tucson Sentinel for an article about retired County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry, the resulting FBI investigation, and her recent vehicle mishap in which she broke three ribs.
For the entirety of Bronson’s tenure, Huckleberry could count on Bronson’s vote for every crony deal, say critics. Bronson regularly voted in approval for millions of dollars in master agreements that were qualifications based versus competitive bids, allowing Huckelberry to ensure contracts went to his preferred contractors. This was utilized in the World View agreements as well as the Courthouse.
From paying millions to build a launch pad for World View, a company started by Senator Mark Kelly and crew, to appearing to coverup the fact that Huckelberry had resigned from his position months before the rest of the board knew.
According to the Tucson Sentinel, Huckelberry left his post in the wake of a devastating bike crash on July 4, 2021, and began receiving his pension.
The Sentinel reported that Huckelberry — “the top county staffer for the past 29 years — had handed in his retirement papers and apparently exercised a clause in his contract allowing him to continue working as a non-employee consultant was unknown to the members of the Board of Supervisors. Each said that they first learned of that fact because of questions from a Sentinel reporter on Monday…”
However, according to the Sentinel, Bronson said that she had “assumed everybody knew; they should’ve known” that Huckelberry “yanked his retirement,” but later walked back her comments to say that she had a discussion with the county administrator sometime in October, prior to his injuries, about him taking that step before the end of the year.”
● Voted consistently with Huckelberry and Grijalva to prevent new jobs coming to Pima County via the opening of Rosemont Copper mine while claiming to be “pro-business.”
● Voted to purchase a new truck for Humane Borders, a radical open-border group.
● Consistently approved annual giveaway of thousands of dollars for water stations for illegal migration.
● Approved the expenditure of millions in investment to the Kino sports complex which sits empty.
● Approved the expenditure of millions in the repurposing of the old courthouse and development of the January 8 Memorial.
● Approved millions in loans to the University of Arizona for hand crafted cabinetry for the mineral museum.
● In 2014, Bronson approved a settlement with Chuck Huckelberry’s best friend, Martin Willet, who claimed a rut in the road caused his bicycle accident.
● In 2016, Bronson was rescued by Tucson Fire crews while driving a County-owned car. Bronson was trapped by water from a storm responsible for approximately 75 weather related calls for the Tucson Fire Department. Bronson’s rescue took place near Ft. Lowell and Oracle as the County-owned SUV was swept about an 1/8 of a mile down a wash and ended up being pinned against the concrete bridge area that passes underneath Oracle Road. Critics questioned Bronson’s judgment at the time.
● In 2018, Bronson called into question the “wisdom” of accepting Operation Stonegarden funds. In a piece for the Arizona Daily Star, Bronson argued that the County should vote to reject the funds. “If the Board of Supervisors decides to renew the Stonegarden grant, I hope we continue and expand the Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission (LECPC) already established by this board. The board continued the LECPC which promoted an anti-law enforcement ideology.
● Supported a contract with lobbyist Michael Racy for years with zero accountability.
● In 2018, Bronson and her majority on the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted in favor once again of the highly controversial purchase of the Golden Pins Bowling Alley, and to accept County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s July 12, 2018 memorandum on the “World View Incident Investigation Report.”
Supervisors Elias, Valadez, and Bronson voted to approve spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on asbestos removal and remediation for what many believe is an over-priced building.
On May 15, 2018, the Pima County Board of Supervisors in a 3:2 vote approved an Acquisition Agreement to acquire the Golden Pins Bowling Alley located at 1010 W. Miracle Mile for the contract amount of $2,941,600–which is nearly 30% higher than the appraised value of $2.2 million.
● In 2020, during an Emergency Meeting of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, County tenants received a deferral of their rent and other expenses. Supervisors approved the deferral for tenants such as Accelerate Diagnostics ($364,994.50) Bank of America ($10,200.00), World View ($355,000.00), and the University of Arizona in a 4-1 vote. Supervisor Ally Miller was the lone no vote.
● In 2021, she presided overpaying off unfunded pension liability of $300 million with revenue bonds. The revenues pledged were state shared revenues, meaning the bonds get paid first before roads or other county services funded by these monies. This did nothing to resolve the issue with unfunded pensions. It merely moved the liability on the balance sheet and added $50 million in interest that will be paid over the course of bonds.
● In 2021 and 2022, she voted to approve the early childhood education program (PEEPS) which Pima County taxpayers are now funding via an additional secondary property tax hidden under the library district budget. City Voters had rejected this in a vote 65/35. Critics say it is not the County’s responsibility to fund preschool education.
● Bronson was found to have donated office budget funds to nonprofits shortly after elections. The practice finally stopped after Goldwater threat to sue for gift clause violations.
● Bronson approved Huckelberry’s spy operation against retired Supervisor Ally Miller.
● Bronson approved the creation of the “Wall of Shame” for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
● Bronson supported TREO, Suncorridor, Joe Snell, who made over $400,000 with bonuses for years with zero accountability. Snell is currently promising jobs in Pinal, Cochise, and other counties at the expense of Pima County taxpayers.
One board watcher told the Arizona Daily Independent, “Republicans have allowed themselves to be fooled by Bronson’s decision to vote with Republican board member Steve Christy. Bronson lived her entire political career on a purely transactional basis. It was never about left or right. Her votes for the Huckelberry deals reveal all one needs to know. She turned to Steve Christy because she needed an ally after the new board rejected her. It was always about what was good for Sharon Bronson and the alliance with Steve Christy was just another transaction.”