The Skinny

Empty Charges

More Ally-Gations turn out to be unfounded as AG's Office says it "cannot substantiate a violation."

The Arizona Attorney General's Office has cleared four members of the Pima County Board of Supervisors of allegations that they violated the state's open-meeting law.

Republican Supervisor Ally Miller leveled charges that the other four members of the Board of Supervisors secretly planned a vote to move $872,000 in road-repair funding from her District 1 streets to a major improvement project on Colossal Cave Road in Supervisor Ray Carroll's District 4.

Miller characterized the vote as "a clearly orchestrated plan to sweep District 1 of nearly $1 million in road repair funds."

The Weekly covered the switcheroo when it happened (see "Ally's Follies," March 6), but here's the basic background: After the board had agreed to spend $5 million on road repairs last year, Miller had transferred her district's share from major arterials such River Road and Sunrise Road to little-used roads and subdivision streets, including one that was a block from her own home and near the homes of some of her campaign contributors. At the same time, she was accusing her fellow board members and Pima County staff of mismanaging taxpayer funds.

After hearing from constituents in the Vail area about the transportation needs, the supervisors accepted an offer of financial assistance from the Vail School District and shifted the funds from Miller's district to expedite the improvement of Colossal Cave Road where traffic has become snarled near schools, two railroad crossings and Interstate 10.

Miller, a Republican serving her first term representing the Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley and Marana, accused the other four board members of plotting before the meeting to move the money from her district.

But Arizona Assistant Attorney General Christopher Munns told Miller in an Aug. 21 letter that he "cannot substantiate a violation" of the state's open-meeting law and "the matter is now closed."

Munns said a review of a video of the meeting "does not suggest that the motion and vote were orchestrated" and "sworn statements from all of the Board members assert that they did not engage in prohibited communications outside of a public meeting."

Munns said that he did not investigate other allegations by Miller that did not pertain to the open-meeting law because they fell outside his jurisdiction.

Carroll, a Republican whose District 4 benefited from the transfer of road funds, said Miller's complaint was another example of his freshman colleague making false allegations. Miller has made numerous assertions about missing money in Pima County's transportation budget, pay-to-play scandals within the county's Development Services Department and criminal activity in the Rio Nuevo project that have not been substantiated.

"The consistent thing about Ally Miller is that none of her charges ever add up to anything," said Carroll, who was recently cleared of charges that he had bullied Miller's staff. "She has spent a lot of time over the last two years crying wolf and less time negotiating, mediating and serving her constituents."

Supervisor Sharon Bronson said the result was "what we were expecting."

"It's unfortunate that our colleague brought this forward and cost the county both time and money, instead of working together to resolve the challenges that face us, whether it's road repair or infrastructure improvement," said Bronson, a Democrat who has served on the board since 1997. "Our time is much better spent working together, not against one another."

Supervisor Richard Elias, a Democrat who made the motion to move the funds, said the AG's report "further disproves the narrative that Ally has been trying to promote that the Board of Supervisors is a bunch of crooks. We didn't do anything wrong and she has to learn to work with people if she's going to be successful for the people in her district."

Supervisor Ramon Valadez, a Democrat who seconded the motion to transfer the funds, said he'd "never known a case with such little evidence to be pursued as far as it was."

Miller told the Weekly via email that she was satisfied with the outcome of the investigation.

"I have full confidence in the office of the Attorney General and as a result, I accept and respect the findings on this matter," Miller said.

Cold Comfort

Gabby Giffords, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber soak up the ice-bucket challenge

Ice bucket mania remains alive and well in Southern Arizona. Ex-astronaut Mark Kelly did the ice-bucket challenge alongside his wife, Gabby Giffords, to raise awareness (and cash) for the ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Kelly and Giffords, who have been fighting for increased backgrounds checks on gun purchases and gun-safety measures through Americans for Responsible Solutions, challenged NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre to take the challenge, along with Kelly's twin brother, Scott Kelly, and their friend Jimmy Hatch.

Kelly said that he hoped that one day, he and LaPierre would agree on "more than just supporting ALS and Lou Gehrig's disease research."

LaPierre accepted the challenge and was expected to dump a bucket on water on his head in the near future.

A few days later, Congressman Ron Barber took the challenge at his campaign headquarters. Barber called on Congress to "step up and restore the funding and increase the funding for ALS research" before several of his grandchildren dumped buckets of ice water on his head."

"Oh, that's cold," Barber said as he reached for a towel. "That's so cold. It's no longer a dry heat.

The Skinny had recently been reminded by an article in New York magazine that U.S. President William Henry Harrison died after serving little more than a month in office after he caught pneumonia following his insistence on delivering his inaugural speech in a cold rainstorm, so we asked Barber if he'd taken any special precautions to avoid such a fate.

"Thanks for reminding me about that," Barber said. "Fortunately, we have the dry heat of Arizona, which is warming me up as we speak."

Barber challenged Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, former congressman Jim Kolbe, Cox Communications VP Lisa Lovalo and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lea Marquez Peterson to dump a bottle of icy water on their heads.

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