Another One Bites the Dust
Pima County Supe Ally Miller just can't find good help
The latest casualty in Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller's office is chief of staff Jeannie Davis, who got the ax just a few days after Christmas.
It's a heck of time to be fired, especially when you're a single mom raising two kids.
Davis, who joined Miller's staff in the spring of 2014, had been credited by some people with getting Miller's office under control following Miller's wackadoodle first 18 months in office. Miller's odd antics included complaining that the county was doing too much to help the county's largest private employer, Raytheon; making unfounded accusations of criminal activity by county officials; posing in a photo for a local blog as if she had fallen into a Marana pothole; and calling 911 to demand that a Tucson Weekly story be removed from Internet because she feared it put her life in danger. (Miller also requested "round-the-clock" protection from Pima County Sheriff's deputies because she feared her enemies would strike against her as a result of the story, which detailed how Miller had moved transportation dollars to pave roads in her neighborhood.)
Miller also had a problem with chronic turnover. In her first two years in office beginning in January 2013, Miller had eight employees move on: Joe Cuffari, Mark Brazier, Josh Brown, Jennifer Coyle, Sergio Mendez, Lynne St. Angelo, Roxanne Ziegler and Naomi Oku-Alonzo. As one former employee told the Weekly: "She's a horrible manager. She doesn't know how to ask people to do things in a professional manner. It's just kind of bark, bark, bark."
But when Davis came on board, Miller seemed to get her eccentricities under control and she had a lot of praise for Davis.
Exactly why Davis is no longer one of Miller's employees remains a mystery, as Miller, as usual, did not get back to us.
But according to email correspondence, Michelle Pappas of the county's Human Resources Department said that Miller initially said that Davis' departure was a "mutually agreed upon resignation." But Miller later told Pappas in an email: "I'd like to clarify that Jeannie Davis was terminated."
One theory, explained to us by one Miller's former employees, is that Davis was beginning outshine Miller and the supervisor—who has been called paranoid by former staffers—was threatened by that.
Who's the next frog to give the scorpion a ride across the river? Stay tuned.
No More Free Parking
Pima County Supe Ally Miller's pal will have to start paying for her parking spot
Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller has a regular crew that shows up at the board meetings to harangue the other members of the Board of Supervisors as well as Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
It's their right to criticize the government, so if they want to spend their mornings sitting through the board meetings and lashing out at elected officials and county staff, more power to them.
But one of them, Geri Ottoboni, has been enjoying a free parking space in the county employee garage for her visits to the weekly meeting, courtesy of Miller. The parking spaces in that particular garage are reserved for county employees who pay $70 a month for the privilege.
Ottoboni is handicapped and Miller put in the fix for her to use a parking space in the garage for free some time ago. Last month, she sent out an email asking Jim Garrison, the manager of the county's parking garages, to allow Ottoboni to continue to park in the garage.
"I would like to request you continue allowing a resident of District 1 who is disabled and elderly to park in the A level parking garage," Miller wrote. "Her name is Geri Ottoboni and she regularly attends board meetings. ... Ms. Ottoboni clearly has a very difficult time walking and I would appreciate you allowing her to continue parking in the A level area visitors parking."
Garrison initially OK'ed the request, but when Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry heard about it, he nixed the proposal.
"Request must be approved by the board," Huckelberry wrote in an email. "Supervisor Miller can place it on the agenda as other Board members may want to extend free parking to other members of the public."
In an email to Huckelberry, Miller said the request "has nothing to do with free parking but it was regarding Ms. Ottoboni's ability to walk for any distance due to her disability."
That led to Huckelberry sending out a memo to the board that pointed out that the Pima County has a policy in place to assist people who have accessibility issues—namely, they are supposed to contact Clerk of the Board Robin Brigode to work out an accommodation. As every agenda of the Board of Supervisors notes: "Any person who is in need of special services (e.g., assistive listening device, Braille or large print agenda material, signer for hearing impaired, accessible parking, etc.) due to any disability will be accommodated. Please contact the Clerk of the Board ... for these services just three (3) business days prior to the Board Meeting."
Huckelberry noted that Brigode had not been contacted about Ottoboni's parking needs and that there are multiple handicapped spaces all around the downtown government complex.
He added in his memo that Miller's decision to go around the standard policy and directly contact Garrison could be considered a violation of Pima County's non-interference code, which "prohibits any member of the Board of Supervisors or the Supervisor's personal staff from giving orders to or instruction "... any officer or employee under the supervision of the county administrator except through the county administrator ..." Such interference is a Class 1 misdemeanor with penalties of up to six months imprisonment and/or up to a $2,500 fine."
It's unlikely that Miller will end up behind bars because of the incident—although Huckelberry did say in the memo he'd be discussing the "possible code violation" with the county attorney—but it did end up being the topic of debate at this week's Board of Supervisors meeting, with Miller asking her fellow board members to give Ottoboni a spot in the reserved garage.
Supervisors rejected Miller's motion to grant the special privilege, although they did encourage Ottoboni to talk with the Clerk of the Board to ensure she'd have a place to park.
"If Ms. Ottoboni feels embarrassed by the conversation, I apologize," District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias said. "While I disagree with just about everything you say here, I've always found you to be pleasant and polite in personal interactions."
Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on Dish, DirecTV and broadcast. You can hear the show on KXCI, 91.3 FM, at 5 p.m. Sundays or watch it online at zonapolitics.com. This week's guests are former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton and Democratic strategist Rodd McLeod.