Did Supervisor Ally Miller deceive the IRS about her use of a county-provided vehicle?
Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller—already in a celebratory mood with the crash of that the county's bond program at the polls last week—continued her crusade to expose her fellow board members as tax-wasting scoundrels because they drive county-issued cars.
Her fellow supervisors rejected Miller's suggestion that supervisors give up the use of county cars for themselves at this week's board meeting but agreed to do more investigation into proper reporting of personal use of the vehicles.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sent out a memo on Oct. 13 for the board to consider before this week's vote—and one of the key points he makes is that it appears that Miller failed to properly account for her own personal use of her county-issued car before she turned it in and, in the process, may have cheated on her federal taxes.
Huckelberry notes early in the memo that Miller's motivation in the push to be rid of county-issued vehicles "was designed as political theater" but adds that it's a legitimate topic for conversation.
Huckelberry argues that allowing some county employees—including the elected supervisors—to take their vehicles home makes sense. Since supervisors have to travel in order to find out what's happening in their districts (or, in other words, do their jobs), they'd be eligible for mileage reimbursement if they weren't driving county cars. And in the case of larger districts like Democrat Sharon Bronson's District 3 or Republican Ray Carroll's District 4, the number of miles driven would soon exceed the cost of providing a county car, so, as Huckelberry puts it, "Obviously, the savings are not significant."
But the other point Huckelberry makes in the memo revolves around Miller's curious claim that she only drove 100 personal miles with her county-issued car in the nine months she used one.
Miller, like the other supervisors, was required to report her personal miles to the county because that's considered a taxable benefit that must be reported to the IRS.
The report notes that Miller lives about 15 miles from the county's downtown headquarters but she claimed she only drove 100 personal miles over the nine months she had a county-issued car.
As Huckelberry puts it in the memo: "The amount of personal miles for the 12 months ending Oct. 31, 2014, varies widely by supervisor with the least reported by Supervisor Miller at 100 miles per year and the most reported by Supervisor Richard Elias at 3,500 miles per year. This is an extreme variance."
Huckelberry was more blunt in a comment to the Weekly: "Based on her reporting, Supervisor Miller either only traveled to/from work 3 times in one year or did not accurately report her personal mileage as required by the IRS."
Miller did not respond to a request through her chief of staff, Jeannie Davis, to comment on the suggestion that she did not accurately report her personal mileage. But during the board meeting, Miller conceded at Tuesday's board meeting that she made a mistake in filling out the form and should have reported thousands of miles, not just 100.
Besides the shot across Miller's bow regarding her apparent failure to properly account for the personal use of her county-issued vehicle, Huckelberry made other points about the benefit of take-home vehicles.
The county has a total of 645 take-home vehicles, but 493 of those belong to the Sheriff's Department. Huckelberry's memo notes that allowing deputies to take their vehicles home has benefits, "such as the ability to immediately respond to on-call or emergency situations, as well as the crime deterrent effects of having a marked patrol vehicle in a neighborhood."
Huckelberry's conclusion: "I would recommend no modifications to vehicle take-home policies, nor would I recommend any modifications to the take-home policy for county elected officials. I do recommend that the county notify, in writing, all individuals who report personal mileage to ensure they understand personal mileage must be accurately reported and that failure to do so could result in IRS fines and penalties for underreporting county-provided benefits."
Democrat Tom O'Halleran's path to Congress gets a little easier
The Democratic primary in Congressional District 1 got a little less crowded last week when state lawmaker Barbara McGuire announced that she would stick with the Arizona Legislature instead of running for Congress.
That's good news for former state lawmaker Tom O'Halleran, who is the only Democrat who has formally announced plans to seek the CD1 seat now held by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick, who is finishing her third term in Congress, is giving up the seat in order to run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican John McCain.
O'Halleran served in the Arizona Legislature as a Republican but is now seeking the congressional seat as a Democrat. The swing district, which includes Oro Valley, Flagstaff, the northern Native American reservations and most of rural Eastern Arizona, leans Democratic but supported Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.
The GOP side of the race is featuring a crowded primary that includes Ken Bennett, the former Arizona secretary of state and Senate president; Gary Kiehne, a rancher, hotelier and oilman who narrowly lost the 2014 CD1 primary; Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu; Arizona Speaker of the House David Gowan; and political newcomer Shawn Redd.
Robocop: You've Been Terminated
Voters overwhelmingly reject the city's red-light camera traffic enforcement
You have to give full credit to Mark Spear, John Kromko and their crew for their win on Election Day: They have terminated RoboCop before he could turn on us.
Nearly two out of every three voters supported Prop 201, which required the removal of traffic-enforcement cameras at eight Tucson intersections and the parking of the city's two photo-radar vans that were nabbing speeders.
City officials shut down the cameras the day after the election ahead of the certification of the election results.
"The voters have spoken clearly on this issue," City Manager Michael Ortega said in a statement to the press. "While the election results will not be certified until later this month, the City of Tucson wishes to honor the spirit and intent of the voters by ending the citations immediately following the election."
Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs Sundays at 8 a.m. on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on DirecTV, Dish and broadcast. This week encore episode features UA College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz and Edible Baja Arizona editor Megan Kimble, who discusses her book, Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food. The show can also be heard at 5 p.m. Sundays on KXCI, 91.3 FM.