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The Tucson agenda

Pima County Supes to discuss how Huckelberry's 'double dip' happened on their watch

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher will be getting a contract for her new job, but the Pima County Board of Supervisors also wants answers about what the heck happened with her predecessor's early and stealthy retirement.

As first reported by TucsonSentinel.com, former County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry opted to exercise a clause in his contract back in July that allowed him to retire and receive a pension while still remaining at his desk with full pay from the county.

State law requires a retiree receiving a pension along with a public-sector paycheck to work no more than 20 weeks at more than 20 hours per week. So Huckelberry was in a position where he would have been forced to work part-time to comply with the law after the 19th week of taking his pension.

But, Huckelberry had a bicycle accident before the 20-week period ended and was hospitalized for months prior to his resignation earlier this month. He wasn't "working" when that clock ran out, but his pay (drawn from sick and vacation leave) was cut back to the equivalent of part-time, starting in mid-November.

He also did not tell the board back in July 2021 that he had retired. Then again, his contract did not require him to do that.

Huckelberry's move made the board look out of it, and they don't like that. So in a bizarre twist to politics makes strange bedfellows, Republican Steve Christy and Democrat Matt Heinz will take turns Tuesday, asking what's what.

Christy (who voted against Huckelberry's contract) has placed this delightful language on the county's addendum for Tuesday's meeting:

This item will also allow, include, and not be limited to matters related to Mr. Huckelberry's changed employment status effective July 4, 2021, and the events surrounding it, as well as his resignation. All documents pertinent to this item are requested for review. Further, it is requested that representatives of the Human Resources and Payroll Departments who are familiar with these details be present. Mr. Huckelberry's personal attorneys are invited to answer questions regarding their client's employment contract. 

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Go Steve, go!

Yes, that's all important information and we, at the Sentinel, have been waiting for the answers the agenda item would provide.

Heinz meanwhile wants to make sure that all future "double-dips" among senior county leadership are reported to the board as they happen. Perfectly reasonable.

As a certain columnist opined recently, if supervisors wanted to be informed about Huckelberry's retirement, they could have easily included a provision in his contract.

Right now, it seems like the county was going to simply pay Huckelberry for 20 hours and because he was salaried, who is to say how long he works. The law doesn't mention pay. It mentions hours worked.

Look world, I'm a Huckleberry fan, and his inauspicious ending should not diminish his legacy as a get-things-done kind of player  that Tucson really needed for three decades. 

Double-dips aren't as nefarious as they sound. They keep experienced people working for us, while drawing on a pension they paid into —  and a portion of their salaries are used to shore up those pension funds.

Meanwhile, the contract proposed by Lesher does not include a "retire-and-work" provision, which will run through January 2025 and pay her $262,000 a year.

The board will also vote on hiring Megan Page to run the Public Defender's Office. Page has worked in the office since 2011 and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers School of law in 2010.

Yes, Gen X. We are that old.

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The board will also take another look at a 10-year extension of an agreement with local courts to handle initial appearances for defendants charged with crimes.

The work would be split among the Superior Court, Justice Court and Tucson City Courts to handle these proceedings.

Opposition has arisen from criminal-justice-reform advocates who say city magistrates have set unfair bail amounts for those accused of petty offenses, while letting truly dangerous people out too easily.

Contaminated water, clean parking

The Tucson City Council will get an update during its Tuesday study session on the degree of polyflouroalkyl substance contamination in the community's water supply.

PFAS products are used in firefighting foam prescribed by the Federal Aviation Administration as far back as the 1970s so contamination is found closest to Tucson runways. The chemicals do not break down, which makes them more problematic.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is still gathering information about the effects of PFAS but they have yet to draw direct links to illnesses. That sort of thing takes time. The EPA has warned that levels above 70 parts per billion harm people and animals.

Contamination above that has been concentrated at Tucson International Airport and to a lesser degree near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and West Prince Road and Interstate 10.

Tucson Water shut down contaminated wells last summer. 

The Council will also be voting on proposed requirements for  electric vehicle charging stations in new developments.

The nearly-year-long process of putting the plan together after community meetings and discussions with those who would be affected has produced a pretty simple plan for new parking spaces, depending on the type of project.

So, new residential development would require 25 percent of parking spaces be EV compatible. The numbers would be 15 percent for commercial and 10 percent for retail.

Here's some good news. The city will to vote to adopt an "comprehensive economic development strategy." Here's the sobering news. No further information is about it is available. 

Sigh ... I had such hopes ... Just assume Tucson will be a low-wage town until we hear different.

Pensions and wildfires on the Northwest Side

The Oro Valley Town Council has a pretty quick meeting and the meat of it will be to get a presentation on the position of its public safety personnel retirement system.

The good news is that Oro Valley's share of unfunded liabilities on pension obligations decreased by 5 percentage points. The bad news is that it stands at a hardly satisfactory 66.1 percent and all of its gains came from gains in market value of its assets. That's highly variable. 

Cities and counties kick into the statewide system. What they owe depends on the deals they made with police unions. During the aftermath of the great recession the statewide fund fell below 55 percent of the assets needed to pay for its obligations. Cities funded at just 45 percent were common around Arizona.

The Nogales City Council had $33 million in unfunded liabilities and have  recently taken out a risky bond to pay off a half of what the city owes.

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So Oro Valley isn't in a horrible position but they aren't in a great spot either.

The Marana Town Council will vote on a final subdivision plan for 90 units to be expand the Saguaro Bloom development south of West Lambert Lane along North Quarry Road.

The council will also vote to approve an deal with the state department of Forestry and Land Management to host at Marana Regional Airport state air tankers used to fight wild fires.

The town is waiving any fees involved. Rule No. 1 of municipal government: Don't charge the people putting out the forest fire coming to eat the town.

Santa Cruz contracts

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors would meet two hours after Armageddon. These guys seem to never miss a week.

Tuesday, the board will vote to award a a $59,000 contract to Knowledge Capital Alliance to help the county with testing, tracing and vaccination for coronavirus.

If approved, the six-month contract is effective January 1, 2022. Yeah, three and a half months ago. However, and this is clutch for Pima County when hiring justices of the peace pro-tem,  there is language in Santa Cruz County's contract to make the contract retroactive if it's executed after the effective date.

The prior snark is a smooth transition to the Santa Cruz County Board voting Tuesday to approve Concepcion Bracomante as justice of the peace pro tempore, effective July 1.

She is currently a judge with the Santa Cruz County Superior Court. 

Supervisors will then hold a study session to receive a presentation by University of Arizona faculty about the economic impact of "nature-based restorative" tourism in the area.

Bridge to the future

The Vail Unified School District Governing Board will get a tour of the Bridges Innovation Tech High School, hosted by the Joint Technical Education District board.

The boards will then hold a joint meeting to discuss possible future collaborations.

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The study session will also provide the governing board with an update of how JTED-related programs at VUSD are working out for both parties.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Who was that masked man with two scoops of salary? Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry resigned following a nasty bicycle accident — with his leaving coming 9 months after he retired and told no one.

The Tucson agenda

Local public meetings this week:

Pima County Board of Supervisors

Tucson City Council

Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors

  1. Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., regular meeting
  2. Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., study session

Marana Town Council

Oro Valley Town Council

Vail Unified School District Governing Board

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