Ally in Wonderland
Secret emails, fear of a bugged office, 911 calls—the greatest hits of Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller
Republican Ally Miller has had quite the first term. She has been caught blatantly lying about using her private email for county business. She has opposed efforts to retain the county's largest private employer, Raytheon. She has gone through more than a dozen staffers, many of whom report that she is both paranoid and a terrible boss. She has called 911 because she was unhappy with the Tucson Weekly.
In short, she has behaved in an erratic and looney manner since she took office.
Next week, Miller will face Republican John Winchester in the District 1 GOP primary. Ahead of that, we thought we'd recount some of her greatest hits.
Her False Claim That She Doesn't Use Private Email for Public Business
In response to a public-records requests, Miller has repeatedly told Clerk of the Board Robin Brigode that she doesn't use her private email for public business. That's false on its face: Several former employees have turned over emails that clearly were sent from Miller's private email accounts, including some that insist that her staff not use county computers because she fears that Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and other county staffers are following their every move. "We have to be more secretive," she wrote in one recently uncovered email. With Miller refusing to turn over public records, the Pima County Attorney's Office has turned the case over the Arizona Attorney General's Office, which is now investigating her use of private emails for public business.
FalkenGate, or the Strange Tale of the Arizona Daily Herald
The public-records mess that Miller now finds herself in springs from a bizarre episode involving a now ex-staffer who launched a newsite under a false name. Timothy DesJarlais took on a pen name, Jim Falken, to publish the Arizona Daily Herald. But he was outed nearly immediately by the Weekly, the Tucson Sentinel and the Arizona Daily Star, as he'd used the same nom de plume for online roleplaying, creating an alter ego who ruled over the mythical Democratic Republic of Dido Place, which is named after the street where he lives with his parents.
Despite the vast circumstantial evidence indicating that DesJarlais was posing as Falken, Miller—who doesn't trust most the media, any of her colleagues or Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry—did trust 19-year-old Timothy DesJarlais. She and DesJarlais filed reports with the FBI, with Miller claiming that the whole affair was "interfering with a government office" and "attempting to influence an election."
She also accused a Republican activist, John Dalton, of accusing DesJarlais because her former staffer, in a moment of panic, blurted out Dalton as the name of the man who was allegedly behind the scheme. On Facebook, Miller announced that Dalton "wasn't as clever as he thought he was," which left Dalton pretty confused, as he had nothing to do with the entire fiasco. (DesJarlias has at least apologized to Dalton; Miller has not.)
DesJarlais eventually confessed in a letter that said "I wanted so badly to tell you the truth but I was afraid of hurting you like so many others had done."
Miller promptly threw DesJarlais under the bus: "I want him prosecuted. ... It's interfering with the office of an elected official, it's interfering with an election."
The 911 Call
I've had some interesting reactions to stories I've written over the decades, but none have been quite so peculiar as Miller's call to 911 after I reported that she had asked county staff to move spending on major arterials to smaller, less-used roads and neighborhood streets.
One of the streets that she wanted paved was around the corner from her own home and led to the homes of some of her political allies and campaign contributors.
After I posted a map showing how close her home was to the road work, Miller flipped her lid and called 911. After telling an often befuddled 911 operator that she needed "round the clock patrols" from the Sheriff's Department because "my life is in danger." Miller asked if he could do something about removing the story on the internet. "Please, can you do something about making them take that down?" she pleaded.
"Ma'am, I can't do anything," he said. "This is just 911. So you need to talk to a deputy who will come over."
Unsurprisingly, Miller faced no attacks on her home as a result of the story.
How concerned is Miller about maintaining the secret location of her lair? Well, when she used Facebook to post her FBI report about her crazy theory that persons unknown were trying to make her look bad, she posted her own address online. And the return address on Miller's own campaign mailers that have hit mailboxes in recent weeks? Yep, it was Miller's own home.
Tossing Bob Dorson Out of Her Office
Retired schoolteacher and furniture store owner Bob Dorson is one of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet, but that didn't stop Miller from having him escorted out of the supervisor's waiting room by security.
In her 911 call, Miller said she was "very in fear for her life" because Dorson had come to visit her at her office. Dorson stopped by because Miller invited anyone who wanted to see the new office furniture she had purchased to come to her office. Dorson tried to take her up on the offer, but when he was told he would not be allowed in, he sat down to wait in the lobby of the supervisors' 11th-floor office and said he might just call the TV stations to let them know what was happening.
Shortly thereafter, security guards arrived via the elevator and escorted Dorson out of the building.
Miller later attempted to smear Dorson as armed and dangerous after she discovered that Dorson had opened up about his own battles with depression. He shared that his brother, Mitch Dorson, had suffered from such severe depression that he took his own life with a gun. How did Miller react to Dorson's effort to help save the lives of those who could be contemplating suicide? She took to Facebook to call Dorson dangerous. Who does that?
Ally's War on Raytheon
One the weirdest things that Miller has done is oppose the county's steps to retain Raytheon, the region's largest private employer. The other supervisors have supported the plan to create a buffer zone for Raytheon expansion by moving the old Hughes Access Road and create a new transportation corridor, dubbed the Aerospace Corridor, to set the groundwork for a new high-tech corridor near the Raytheon plant, but Miller has consistently voted against the proposal—which is especially odd since her husband works for Raytheon.
It's not as if the project is a partisan affair. A 2015 groundbreaking on the new road brought out Republicans such as Gov. Doug Ducey, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and Sen. John McCain in support of the Aerospace Corridor.
But in 2014, Miller said that she didn't believe Raytheon really wants the county to do the work because they haven't personally lobbied her or attended board meetings where the project was discussed. "One would think that the Raytheon executives who want this road moved so badly would be here in this meeting or would have contacted my office, because I'm one of the people who will be voting on this," Miller said.
Another False Claim: More Than $300 Million Is Missing in From Pima County's Transportation Department
This was a silly lie that Miller used when she launched her 2012 campaign for supervisor. Based on documents that had come to her anonymously, Miller told the Weekly that she believed the county could not account for more than $300 million in spending over the last decade.
But her supporting documents left out that the money had been spent on salaries and other operating expenses for the county's transportation department, so the money was clearly accounted for.
This seemed like a pretty dumb error for a candidate to make, especially one who was touting her private-sector experience in accounting and budgets. So I reached out to Miller multiple times to talk about what I had discovered. She refused to discuss it with me.
When I wrote a subsequent story critical of her groundless accusations, Miller dismissed the story as a hit piece and announced she would never speak to me again. It was a vow that has held firm with only a few exceptions.
But she has stopped talking about funds that were "unaccounted for." Now she complains that the funds are misspent on staff.
Another False Claim: Ally Miller wrote a letter to the FBI that led to an investigation of Rio Nuevo
On the 2012 campaign trail, Miller tried to burnish her bona fides by claiming that she wrote a letter to the FBI that launched a federal investigation into the city of Tucson's Rio Nuevo project. So there's the thinking: Years of front-page stories, an Attorney General's Office investigation and hearings by state lawmakers didn't get the attention of the FBI, but Ally Miller's letter really made them sit up and take notice. In reality, the FBI brought in a forensic accountant at the request of the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
It's worth mentioning that Miller wasn't even right about exposing criminal activity: The AG's Office eventually took the unusual step of publicly releasing a letter stating that it couldn't put together a criminal case in any event.
These are just a sampling of the bizarre moments from Miller's first term. Despite her many escapades, however, Miller remains a favorite of county critics, who see her as the only supervisor willing to challenge Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. It doesn't seem to concern them that their champion appears to be several teabags short of a party.