Night and Day

Supervisor wants to change the culture of county government, but don't shine the light into her office.

Republican Supervisor Ann Day's vow to "change the entire culture of Pima County government" apparently doesn't include her office, where she hired Barbara Gelband, an aide who is not a county employee.

Day enlisted County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and his key staff to place Gelband through an Arkansas-based, state-contracted employment agency to get around Arizona retirement rules.

Gelband, 54, is a lawyer and former longtime assistant attorney general. She served as a special magistrate at City Court and has represented the Pima health system in patient and client grievances. She retired from state employment this spring after ending her teaching assignments in business and public administration at the UA.

State retirement system rules prohibit a return to full-time work for one year after retirement. Retirees in the system may take a job at fewer than 20 hours a week to still collect their pension. Or they may take a 21-day break and take a new job at 20 hours or more, but for only 19 weeks in any given fiscal year. Then the hours must be cut to fewer than 20 a week.

Huckelberry and his top pathfinders enabled Gelband to avoid all that and serve Day full-time for $55,000 a year from county taxpayers while also collecting her state pension by essentially employing her as a temp.

Deflecting criticism, Day said pleas from law enforcement personnel during hearings on Pima County's $1 billion budget revealed "they all are double-dippers."

Huckelberry engineered the Gelband job plan by piggybacking on a pre-approved contract the state had with Staffmark, a national diversified staffing and consulting company based in Fayetteville, Ark. The county pays Staffmark $68,660, a 25 percent markup, for Gelband's salary, but the county does not contribute to Gelband's health or other insurance.

"We've always said that supervisors can have their own choice for their aides," Huckelberry said. "There was nothing wrong. This was already a state bid and we use state bids for goods like computers or copiers and some services."

After pronounced hesitation, Day has joined Republican Ray Carroll in calling for close examination of the very procurement system that whisked through the solution for Gelband. The state auditor general and the FBI are reviewing contracts from the county's troubled 1997 transportation bonds.

In a May 19 opinion piece for the Arizona Daily Star, Day challenged the county to end patronage and contract problems, which she said led to a "crisis in confidence in Pima County government ... the truth is that the entire culture of county government needs changing."

Day chose Gelband after aide George Gobble left to join a political consulting company to which he previously steered a $35,000, no-bid contract to produce television and radio spots on the county's proposed Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

How Gelband was hired and how she is paid, Day said, is "not precedent-setting."

A registered Independent, Gelband had strong backing from a leading Day adviser, Tanis Salant, a municipal government researcher at the UA.

"She is an excellent aide," Day said. "She is very knowledgeable, very capable and she likes it."

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