RTA Polls Showed Voters Would Approve Sales Tax

The election-integrity gang that has cooked up the notion that the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election was rigged cites a key piece of “evidence” in their arguments.

They claim that polls before the election showed the RTA propositions, which approved both a transportation plan and a half-cent sales tax to pay for it, were going down to defeat.

Attorney Bill Risner, who has led the charge against the RTA, admitted a few weeks ago that he had never seen the polls that he’s citing.

“I’m basing it on information from individuals that I find credible who have told me what they believe—and were told—those poll results were,” Risner says.

That got us wondering: Just what did those polls show?

So we called political consultant Pete Zimmerman, who ran the campaign promoting the RTA campaigns. Zimmerman was kind enough to share the results of tracking polls from the RTA election with us.

Guess what? They never showed the RTA propositions losing, although support dropped as Election Day approached.

The surveys, which were done by polling firm Marketing Intelligence, show that back in December 2005, 63 percent of the voters favored the proposition, while 23 percent were opposed and 13 percent were undecided. Zimmerman says that’s typical of past transportation sales-tax proposals in Pima County, which tend to start out strong and then lose support as opponents stab it with their steely knives.

Support for the proposition remained above 50 percent until the beginning of May 2006; about 25 percent of surveyed voters were opposed, while the other fourth were undecided.

The worst day for the sales-tax proposition came on May 6, when 42 percent supported it and 33 percent opposed it (with 25 percent undecided). But the gap began widening the next day and by May 13, 46 percent supported the proposition, 27 percent were opposed and 27 percent were undecided.

The numbers were so consistent by then that the pollsters predicted the sales tax would have the support of somewhere between 57.3 percent and 66.3 percent of the voters on Election Day.

The actual result on May 16, 2006: The proposition passed by 57.6 percent.

Risner to Attorney General: Count the RTA Ballots!

Attorney General Terry Goddard

Here is a copy of a letter from attorney Bill Risner to Attorney General Terry Goddard explaining why he should continue investigating Pima County 2006 RTA election. Risner sent the letter on July 14.

Dear Mr. Goddard:

I sent you a short letter on July 9th, 2008, together with Mr. Zbigniew Osmolski’s Affidavit.

I will be out of the County from July 15 through the end of the month. Accompanying this letter are various materials that may help you to better understand the nature of the allegations and more fully understand the past investigation by your office staff.

At the beginning of the database lawsuit, the Pima County Democratic Party, and I personally, had confidence in your Office’s integrity. Additionally, I was sensitive to political currents. That is why I informally told Jim Walsh what we were finding out in our lawsuit against the Pima County Board of Supervisors. It was a “heads up” conversation relating to him that we were acquiring evidence suggestive of criminal activity but not enough in my opinion at that point for your office to open an investigation and none was requested.

Later, attorneys for the Board of Supervisors forcefully suggested that I was obligated to Continue reading

The Boondocks Affair, Part 2: Zbig Reveal

We reported last week that attorney Bill Risner had unveiled an affidavit from Zbigniew Osmolski, a former county employee who said under oath that Bryan Crane, a programmer in the county’s elections division, confessed to him that he has flipped the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election at the order of his bosses.

Osmolski said in his sworn statement that the alleged exchange took place at the Boondocks Lounge on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008.

We haven’t been able to get a hold of Osmolski–he hasn’t returned our phone call–but through a public-records request, we did get a hold of his county personnel file, which shows he could be quite a character when he was working for the county.

Osmolski was fired in 2002 for insubordination after he was busted drinking on the job. Among the details in the file:

• Osmolski refused to take a blood-alcohol test after his supervisor believed she smelled alcohol on his breath. She was checking on Osmolski after hearing that he smelled of booze and had grabbed the hand of a co-worker in the elevator because “he liked” to hold her hand.

Osmolski’s notice of dismissal notes that his supervisor “had verbally counseled you to not drink before coming to the office or any public meeting where you represented the county. She stated that citizens had complained to her that you attended meetings reeking of alcohol and were obnoxious and belligerent in meetings.”

• Osmolski tried to explain his intoxicated state by claiming that he was taking prescription pills and wearing cologne with an aroma of alcohol. Osmolski could not produce a prescription or a sample of his eau de booze in a subsequent investigation.

• Osmolski had been reprimanded in 1995 for losing a county-issued car Continue reading

RTA Boss: Recount the Ballots

After the latest round of headlines regarding the 2006 RTA election, Gary Hayes, executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority, is offering to pay for the cost of recounting the ballots from the 2006 RTA election.

In a letter today to County Administrator Chuck Huckelbery, Hayes writes that even though voters passed the propositions on the RTA ballot, “allegation and rumor, some based on alleged bar conversations, have sought to discredit that evidence of resounding support.”

Hayes calls for a recount to put to rest the allegations of fraud and offers to pay for it through the RTA budget. County officials say they support a recount, but state law prohibits it without a judge’s order.

“We do, however, request that when the RTA and the county’s voting integrity is reasserted, that both entities be reimbursed by their critics,” Hayes writes.

RTA Big Reveal: The Boondocks Affair

After spending much of yesterday talking to lawyers, we think we have a better understanding of the fight to preserve the ballots from the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election, which Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford has said she is ready to destroy.

We’ll get to the part about how secrets may or may not have been spilled at the Boondocks Lounge in a second, but here’s a bit of background for those who came in late: In May 2006, Pima County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund an estimated $2.1 billion in transportation projects over two decades.

Attorney Bill Risner, who has successfully sued Pima County to gain access to electronic databases related to ballot tabulation, suggested last year that the RTA election might have been flipped—that county election officials rigged the computers to show the RTA propositions passed even though voters actually rejected it.

Since then, we’ve had an investigation by Attorney General Terry Goddard (which critics have dismissed as a “sham”) and lots of legal jousting by Risner and the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which reached a climax when the Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to give up an appeal of the case and turned over the databases to Risner. Or, more accurately, offered to turn them over to Risner, who has been too busy to pick them since winning the case

You’re probably wondering: Why not just recount the ballots? Because state law prohibits the county from doing a recount without a judge’s order.

We’re almost to the part about the Boondocks, so stay with us.

But before we get to that: Jim March, the tech guy with the election integrity crew, says he’s been working on developing a program that might (or might not) detect any signs of fraud in the RTA database he got from the county back in January. He said yesterday that he hoped to have some results by November.

March made his comments at Risner’s press conference, where the scrappy attorney alerted the public that Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford was planning to destroy the ballots Continue reading

UPDATE: Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford: There Is A Plan To Destroy RTA Ballots

Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford says she sent notice to the political parties last month that she would be destroying the 2006 RTA ballots unless she heard an objection by Friday, July 11.

Ford says she has held off on following the state law that requires the destruction of ballots six months after an election because the ballots were considered evidence in a lawsuit filed by the Pima County Democratic Party regarding whether electronic databases were public record.

“Now I’m stuck in a position where, ‘What do I do with the ballots?’” Ford says. “Now I’m violating state law because I didn’t destroy them. So I’m stuck in catch-22.”

Ford said that after consulting with the County Attorney’s Office, she sent notice to the political parties on June 27 that she planned to destroy the RTA ballots, which are now in storage. She gave the political parties until Friday, July 11, to raise an objection.

“If I receive an objection, then I can go to the courts so the courts can tell me what I’m supposed to do,” Ford says.

Ford says she did not consult with Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry about destroying the ballots.

She says she has no position on whether the ballots should be destroyed.

“It’s fine with me if we keep them,” she says. “It’s fine with me if we destroy them.”

UPDATE: Chuck Huckelberry: No Plans To Destroy RTA Ballots

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says he’s unaware of any plans to destroy the ballots from the 2006 RTA election, as alleged by attorney Bill Risner in a press release yesterday.

“I have said, ‘Do not destroy them under any circumstances,’” Huckelberry says. “My instructions to the county attorney were to go to court if necessary to prevent those ballots from being destroyed.”

Huckelberry says he’ll be sending out a memo today to request that the County Attorney’s Office prevent County Treasurer Beth Ford from destroying the ballots.

Huckelberry says he’d be delighted to recount the ballots but the law prevents the county from doing so.

“We could have saved $250,000, $300,000 in attorney’s fees and all the aggravation we’ve gone through over the last two years if we would have been just allowed to recount the ballots,” says Huckelberry, who points out that under state law, the ballots should have been destroyed already, had it not been for the county’s decision to hang onto them. “It demonstrates how archaic election law in Arizona is.”

Huckelberry quotes Charles Dickens: “The law is an ass.”

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