Friday, June 17, 2016

Pima County Supe Ally Miller Starts Releasing Records Ahead of Discussion at Next Week's Board Meeting

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 2:08 PM

Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller has finally started to cough up the public records originally sought by the Tucson Sentinel and Arizona Daily Star related to the bizarre case of her former communications staffer, Timothy DesJarlais, and his efforts to masquerade as a reporter and launch an online newspaper while in her employ.

If you’ve followed this screwy story over the last month, you know that DesJarlais spit out a series of increasingly hard-to-believe lies about his involvement in his blogging activities before he finally confessed. As we note in this week’s Skinny, very few people outside of Ally and her cheerleading section were taken in by this nonsense.

While Desjarlais has finally confessed, there’s still the outstanding question of whether Miller was aware of what DesJarlais was up to or whether he was moonlighting as crusading reporter Jim Falken on county time.

The records that the media have requested could go a long way toward resolving that, but Miller has been in no rush to produce them. (She has totally ignored the Weekly’s request to review them.)

But earlier this week, she finally sent over a batch to the Pima County Clerk of the Board for the press to review without having to cough up more than $1,000.

Miller’s motivation in releasing the records could be related to a letter from the County Attorney’s Office. Several sources have told the Weekly that the letter informed Miller that her efforts to extort the press before releasing the records would not stand up in court. That letter is protected by attorney-client privilege, at least until next week.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Tom Weaver has asked for an executive session at next week’s Board of Supes meeting so he can advise them of the legal liabilities that Miller has created as a result of her stonewalling on the records. And Board of Supes Chair Sharon Bronson has placed two other items on the agenda: First, waiving the attorney-client privilege related to the letter from the County Attorney’s Office to Miller, which will answer some questions about whether Miller was on solid legal ground with her decision to bill the media when they asked to review the records. The second item involves the immediate release of the records, “which will be up to the board,” according to Bronson. “But I think we need to comply with the law.”

Most of the emails in the documents Miller has released were innocuous, although Miller went a little overboard on the redactions—cutting out the email addresses of nearly everyone who sent an email to her office, for example. And there don’t seem to be many emails from Miller herself, which suggests to us that she’s using a private email address for conducting county business. Or maybe she doesn’t use email at all?

Whatever the Board of Supervisors decides regarding these particular records, there’s a need for a change in the current county policy when it comes to the release of records. Having the subject of a records request—in this case, Miller herself—be in charge of deciding what records get released is a recipe for disaster, as we’ve already seen in this case. Or maybe it’s more about what we haven’t seen in this case, given the number of redactions that are in the records that Miller has already released. 

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