Ally's Follies

Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller just can't seem to get along with her colleagues

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Miller did not return a phone call seeking an interview for this article—and in fact has not talked to the Weekly during her entire term in office despite numerous attempts to contact her.

My interactions with Miller have been among the most peculiar of my reporting career. Miller stopped talking to me after I wrote a story during her 2012 campaign regarding allegations that she made about the county's transportation budget. Based on some budget documents that she received from an anonymous source, Miller claimed that more than $300 million in the county's transportation budget was unaccounted for.

If true, that would be an enormous scandal—but it turned out that the budget documents Miller was peddling did not include the annual cost of running the transportation department. I tried to contact Miller via email and telephone to discuss that oversight with her, but she declined to get back to me.

Minutes after reading the subsequent article ("Whose Bright Idea," July 19, 2012), Miller jumped onto John C. Scott's afternoon radio show, dismissed me as "dishonest" and vowed she would never again speak to me. Although she didn't cite any specific errors, Miller dismissed the article as untrue during her 2012 campaign.

Miller has kept her promise to ignore me, with the exception of one moment during a 2012 campaign forum at the Loft Cinema when I said hello to her. She mistook me for Arizona Daily Star editorial cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons and asked if I was still drawing cartoons of her wearing teabags as earrings.

Despite Miller taking umbrage at the Weekly's skepticism regarding her claims of missing funds, she has since changed her story about those transportation dollars. After my story was published, she stopped saying money couldn't be accounted for and started complaining that the dollars were being squandered on salaries for the transportation department staff and repaying voter-approved bonds rather than spent on asphalt to fix the existing streets.

Miller's claims about missing transportation money aren't the only ones she has failed to back up with evidence. Last October, she announced on her Facebook page that developers had told her about pay-to-play scams in the county; in order to get construction permits, they had to pay specific consultants.

"I have been hearing a lot of complaints over the past few years from developers and real estate folks who allege they are being required to hire certain 'consultants' for high fees to get their development plans approved in Pima County," Miller wrote. "I am hearing this from everyone and the roar is getting louder."

Huckelberry responded with a memo that included a list of more than 100 consultants who had worked on projects over the last four years. He said that if Miller was going to make accusations of criminal activity, she might consider informing the county attorney of her concerns rather than broadcasting them via social media.

"These are criminal allegations; and I urge you, if you have any evidence of such, to take your complaints with specifics to the Pima County Attorney," Huckelberry wrote.

In a subsequent radio interview, Miller said she didn't want to name the developers who had made the allegations because they might face retribution from the county. Instead, she promised to take her allegations to the proper authorities (which, she added, did not include Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall because she is too close to her fellow Democrats on the Board of Supervisors.)

However, in the five months since Miller made the accusation, her fellow supervisors say that no one has contacted them to investigate her claims. Huckelberry said he hasn't heard anything either. And—as with her allegations about missing transportation funds—if Miller still believes the extortion is taking place, she has stopped speaking up about it.

Miller's unsubstantiated claims sometimes revolve around what she considers her accomplishments, and sometimes around her perceived persecution. During her 2012 campaign, she boasted that the FBI had begun an investigation into Rio Nuevo after she wrote the agency a letter outlining various criminal violations.

But in a memo announcing that no charges would be filed in the Rio Nuevo matter, the Arizona Attorney General's Office noted that the FBI investigation of the matter began following allegations by two unnamed former Rio Nuevo board members. (And speaking of unsubstantiated claims, the memo also noted that "very little information provided by the initial complaining members of the Rio Nuevo board proved to be either accurate or reliable.") The memo made no mention of correspondence from Miller.

The Weekly is not the only publication that Miller avoids. She is uncomfortable taking tough questions from the Arizona Daily Star as well.

Miller's image as a spending hawk was tarnished by a January Star story that exposed strange expenses in her office budget. While four out of the five supervisors defended their spending habits (Elias spent $350 to gather Facebook "likes," while Carroll spent about $7,000 so he and his staff could travel to gatherings of the National Association of Counties), Miller declined to comment on why she had spent $15,000 to remodel her office, $1,500 on an office desk or $149 for a staff breakfast at Marana's Ritz-Carlton. But after the story ran, Miller appeared on talk radio and said that the reporter who wrote it, Joe Ferguson, was clearly an "agenda journalist" whose work should not be trusted.

Miller is more comfortable speaking with uncritical right-wing radio talk-show hosts such as KVOI 1030 AM's Joe Higgins and Chris DeSimone or Jon Justice and James T. Harris of 104.1 FM's The Truth. (Higgins was one of Miller's biggest boosters during her 2012 campaign and Miller does a weekly segment on Harris' show called "Miller Time.") She posts excerpts of board meetings and her radio appearances on YouTube. (Only a handful of her videos have more than 100 views.) Her favorite online outlet is the Arizona Daily Independent, a website run by aspiring political operative Lori Hunnicutt, who also dabbles in public relations. (Among the expenses cataloged by the Star: Miller paid Hunnicutt $100 for 10 subscriptions to the Independent, which is available free to anyone with access to the Internet.)

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