This week, the supervisors are set to consider an agenda item on the use of county cars for themselves and other county employees at the Tuesday, Nov. 10, board meeting.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sent out a memo on Oct. 13 for the board to consider before tomorrow’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 was not accurately reporting her mileage.
Besides the shot across Miller’s bow regarding her apparent failure to properly account for the personal use of her county-issued vehicle, Huckelberry makes 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.”