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County board told: No 'censure' of Miller over 'proud to be white' comment

Public brings sting that other supervisors can't cast votes on

The rest of the Pima County Board of Supervisors isn't able to vote on any sort of discipline over Supervisor Ally Miller's remarks last month about racial pride, according to confidential legal advice released Tuesday. But that didn't preclude members of the public from calling on the District 1 Republican to resign, or at least apologize.

There is no legal basis to censure Miller for the remarks, and they didn't violate any county policies as they were made outside her official duties, on the weekend and from a personal Facebook account, legal opinions from Deputy County Attorney Andrew Flagg said.

Responding to comments about President Donald Trump's initial platitudes about the violent neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., Miller said on August 12, "I'm sick and tired of being hit for being white....It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize. I am WHITE - and proud of it! No apologies necessary."

Miller's comments followed news reports of a fatal attack, in which a Charlottesville woman was killed and more than a dozen others injured when a white supremacist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters. That Ohio man faces a murder charge, Virginia authorities said.

The supervisor's comments "appears to be an expression of her personal opinion," the attorney told the rest of the board. Flagg wrote that there is "no clear authority" to adopt a censure of Miller, who has refused to apologize for her comments, and declined to elaborate on her stance to reporters.

The board unanimously voted Tuesday to release to the public the attorney's confidential advice, waiving attorney-client privilege.

"I think our First Amendment rights are alive and well," Miller said Tuesday. "And that's all I have to say."

Supervisor Sharon Bronson had asked last month for input from Flagg after receiving comments from the public condemning Miller's remarks, and calling for the rest of the board to formally rebuke them.

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Flagg told the board that they could "adopt a resolution expressing the County's position on the issues surrounding Supervisor Miller's comments, so long as the resolution does not purport to discipline her in any way."

Bronson, the board's chair, said Tuesday that she still hoped that Miller would apologize, but that it was "time to move on."

Bronson only spoke theoretically of a possible resolution condemning white supremacy and violence, but didn't commit to pursuing such a statement from the board in connection with Miller's comments.

Miller skipped the last Board of Supervisors meeting, at which a several members of the public spoke against her statement. Tuesday, a number of speakers during the "call to the public" again made their feelings clear, while several of Miller's usual contingent of supporters made the case for her free speech. About 70 people were spread across the room as Bronson opened the meeting.

"Supervisor Miller, I don't know why you take the criticism of white hate groups personally," said Laura Hagen Fairbanks, calling on Miller to reflect on her statements. "My grandmother's change in perspective (after the white Fairbanks married a black man) shows a change is possible."

Saying "it takes no courage to be white," Darsha Stockton Doran said she had previously cast a ballot for Miller, but would now pledge $10,000 to "find someone to run against you" as a Republican challenger in the next election.

"If you really want to take pride in something, take pride in being American," Doran said. "I voted for you; I won't vote for you again."

"You can have German pride, you can have Irish pride, you can have Lithuanian pride," said Najima Rainey, of the Tucson chapter of Black Lives Matter. "You can have all kinds of pride, because those are cultures that have actual cultural traditions and rituals and identities. But when you say 'I am white and proud', what you are saying is 'I embrace a designation of superiority.'"

"Shame on you; you are too dumb to do this job," Rainey said.

Christopher King defended Miller's right to free speech, saying it was "reprehensible" that a censure could even be considered.

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"The 1st Amendment protects everybody’s right to free speech, regardless of whether you like" what is said, King told the supervisors. "If you want free speech, you have to provide it to everyone else."

Geri Ottoboni, a Miller supporter who speaks at nearly every meeting, didn't address her supervisor's comments directly but instead accused Bronson and Supervisor Richard Elias of "supporting racism" and undermining the Border Patrol. "They are the only ones protecting us from terrorists and violence at the border," said the District 1 resident.

Bryna Koch said that Miller's comments weren't an appropriate response to a conversation about "white supremacist violence," and had "no place in our community" and showed a "lack of a moral compass."

Of Miller's statement about being pressured to "apologize... for being white," Koch said, "No one has asked you to do that."

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Kathi Rush, who earlier held a sign asking for Miller to resign, criticizes the supervisor during a call to the audience Tuesday, telling Miller, 'You're out of touch.'

Ally Miller: 'I am WHITE - and proud of it! No apologies necessary'

From TucsonSentinel.com's initial report on Miller's statements, August 13:

Responding to comments about President Donald Trump's initial platitudes about the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller said Saturday, "I'm sick and tired of being hit for being white....It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize. I am WHITE - and proud of it! No apologies necessary."

Miller commented on a Facebook thread following news reports of the fatal attack Saturday, in which a Charlottesville woman was killed and more than a dozen others injured when a white supremacist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters. That Ohio man faces a murder charge, Virginia authorities said.

Miller's comments were part of a brief Facebook thread, which included a comment from Latino activist DA Morales, who noted that Trump's response did not "directly address white supremacy."

"That is vague AF and could be used in any situation. Why not use the term 'white supremacy'" just like he boasts about using the term 'Islamic terrorism'?," Morales asked.

Rather than taking the opportunity to condemn the alleged killing of a woman by an white supremacist and express sympathy for the other victims, Miller instead seemed to take personal offense at the phrase "white supremacy."

Miller's statement followed a handful of comments, and several hours, later, after 6 p.m.

The Republican county supervisor did not respond to queries from reporters about her statement last month.

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