One Damn Thing After Another: More Mix-Ups in Pima County’s Election

If this were medieval England, John Brakey and his fellow election-integrity activists would have Pima County elections director Brad Nelson’s head on a platter, probably garnished with the fingers of County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and county information-technology chief John Moffatt.

OK, let’s not go too far. What the activists really want is Nelson to lose his job. But since Huckelberry is in charge of personnel and is Nelson’s supervisor, the chances of that happening are nil. And that comes straight from Huckelberry’s mouth.

“Lynchings were outlawed long ago,” Huckelberry says.

What started the latest high-tech lynching attempt of Nelson was the arrest of AuditAZ’s John Brakey, who was working on Sept. 6 as an observer for the Democratic Party during a post-primary ballot hand-count and audit. According to the arrest report, Brakey was told by Nelson to stop talking to the people who were doing the hand-count.

After Republican observer Judi White complained to Nelson, Nelson asked Brakey to stop and to bring any questions directly to him. Brakey didn’t stop; Nelson told him to leave; Brakey didn’t leave; Nelson had him escorted from the counting area by a Pima County sheriff’s deputy. The deputy asked Brakey to leave, but he wouldn’t, and told the deputy he wanted to be arrested.

The deputy cuffed him (with his hands in front of his waist because of an arm injury Brakey was still on the mend from) and took him downstairs. The deputy cited Brakey with criminal trespass in the second degree, took the cuffs off and gave Brakey his phone to call his attorney.

It’s worth noting that the deputy turned down Brakey’s request to cuff him again and take a picture of him with his cell-phone camera, according to Continue reading

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ScrambleWatch Q&A: Republican Ann Day on Growth and Conservation

Republican Ann Day, who is seeking a third term on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, is facing a challenge in the Sept. 2 GOP primary from businessman Joe Higgins.

If you opponent wins, what advice would you give him?

I hope he knows how to count to three. Because there are three votes on the board he will have to face. Because of those three votes I’ve had to take a stand. I’m in the minority. You have to keep in mind much of what we work on is not partisan and you have to be willing to work with everyone in the board.

What about working with County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry? This past budget process you didn’t always agree with him.

He can be arrogant. He can make decisions that I don’t agree with. I certainly point that out to him.

He often gets blamed for many of the problems the county faces. Do you think that’s justified?

Look, he’s 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.”

ScrambleWatch Q&A: Donna Branch-Gilby Talks About Whether Republican Ray Carroll Recruited Her To Run

Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby talks about why she thinks new leadership is needed on the Pima County Board of Supervisors and addresses rumors that she was recruited to run by Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll. Branch-Gilby is challenging Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the Sept. 2 Democratic primary. Find out more about the race here or pick up this week’s print edition of the Tucson Weekly.

Some county critics complain that County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is in charge of the county, not the elected officials. What do you see happening?

The thing is he needs to be under the direction of the board, not vice versa, and they have to put themselves in a position where it is hard to be prepared for his advice, because they don’t meet together. The only time they meet together is when Huckelberry is there, Chris Straub and all of the public.

The Board of Supervisors is often scheduled to have these study session, but they frequently get canceled. Would you bring back study sessions?

By state law they are required to hold a study session. I said to one of the staff, “How do you ever communicate?” because it’s against the open meeting law Continue reading