Pima County officials cannot account for time spent on Rosemont Mine

How do we know that Pima County officials are working on what they are supposed to? And how much time do they spend on certain projects?

The Southern Arizona Business Coalition (SABC), an advocate for Rosemont, wanted to know how much time Pima County officials spent on Rosemont copper mine related business over the last two years. One of SABC’s interests was to find out if Pima County officials were using taxpayer money to aid groups that are opposed to the mine, as Pima County is.

SABC sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the County asking for:

“Any and all documents, timesheets, salaries, projections, calendars, meeting notes, audits, expense reports, budgets, reports, communications, correspondence, emails or other electronic transmissions relating to the amount of time and hours worked on any matters relating to the Rosemont Copper Project by any of your employees, representatives and/or consultants…..”

SABC did receive some information but much was missing. Pima County offered three excuses for its failure to provide the requested information:

1) The “majority of departments do not maintain records indicating time spent on a specific project.”

This excuse suggests that the County should change its operating procedures so that they are more accountable and transparent. Businesses require accountability from their employees. Even I, as a largely free-ranging geologist, had to account for time spent so the company could properly attribute time and expenses to specific budget items. Why doesn’t Pima County require this employee accountability?

SABC estimates that 38 County employees spent at least 10 percent of their time over the last two years on the Rosemont issue. That time cost taxpayers over $400,000 per year. And SABC estimates approximately 3% of staff time was spent over the previous 3+ years. Of course, at least some of that time would be legitimate processing of required permits, but how do we know how much. As I mentioned above, how much time and taxpayer money was spent on, shall we say, extracurricular activity that could aid opponents of the mine? Pima County will not or cannot say. Since the County did not provide adequate time allocation for the staff and legal office, SABC made assumptions based on previous information and experience in this issue and estimated that the County spent approximately $1 million on staff time (including Supervisors and their staff), outside consultants and legal fees fighting Rosemont.

2) The County Attorneys Office claimed attorney-client privilege regarding billing records.

This is a spurious argument since the attorneys are either County attorneys or attorneys hired by the County and the County is also the client. The right hand can’t disclose what the left hand is doing? This is another transparency issue. The County Attorney could have provided time allocation without violating attorney client privilege, but chose not to.

SABC says the County “would not have incurred $97,000 in attorneys’ fees had it not abused its discretion in denying the air quality permit to Rosemont. On November 30, 2011, the attorney working on behalf of Pima County found that the County’s ‘decision to deny Rosemont’s permit application . . . was contrary to law.’ Further, a Superior Court Ruling, dated July 5, 2012, determined that the Pima County Air Quality Hearing Board ‘acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and that the abused their discretion.’ Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has since taken over this process from the County. An additional $15,500 was spent by Pima County appealing the Arizona Corporation Commission line siting proceeding for the TEP power line to Rosemont. Again, they did not prevail.”

3) The County is “unable to provide documents that no longer exist.”

This is “the dog ate my homework” excuse. Pima County broke the law if it did not maintain official records. Arizona law requires the County to “carefully protect and preserve the records from deterioration, mutilation, loss or destruction and, when advisable, shall cause them to be properly repaired and renovated.” A.R.S. § 41-151.15; and A.R.S. § 39-121.

 

These excuses show lack of accountability, lack of transparency, and failure to follow the law on record keeping. Since Pima County has stated publicly it is against the Rosemont mine, one wonders how much time was deliberate delay and obfuscation in permit processing. SABC alleges that Pima County also wasted time and money by attempting to duplicate work done by 17 federal agencies.

Taxpayers deserve better County accountability no matter which side of the Rosemont issue we take.

See also:

Pima County versus Rosemont

Jaguars versus the Rosemont mine

Proposed Jaguar habitat in Arizona and New Mexico is scientifically and legally indefensible

Rosemont’s dry-stacked tailings will be greener than those near Green Valley

 

Advertisements

4 comments

  1. On your third point, the county isn’t required to keep every scrap of paper in perpetuity. Some records can be destroyed in a few days, some in a month, some in 90 days, some in a year, some in three years and some can’t be destroyed. The state department of library and archives sets the retention schedule for the varying classes of records.
    http://www.azlibrary.gov/records/schedules_and_manuals.aspx

    1. Thanks for this reference. According to one of the directives, Counties must keep “special project” files for a minimum of 5 years after completion of a project. I wonder if Rosemont constitutes a special project?

  2. Did you do the SABC get the figures from the county and state ADEQ on the amount of money they have spent on keeping the existing mines in compliance–there have been major air quality violations in both Sahuarita and Green Valley… and even Federal money taxpayers spend for EPA and Army Corp. who are involved in keeping a clean environment here. The SABC is about growth even though they know there is not enough water to go around. THe CAGRD water price has quadrupled–meaning the tax on developments outside an assured water supply provider, which is the territory of SABCm aww http://www.cagrd.com/Portals/3/Documents/2012/Approved%202012-13%20-%202017-18%20CAGRD%20Final%20Rates.pdf, So CAGRD homes that use 1 af of water will have a water tax on their property tax bill of $427 and it will go up again in 5 years to $671 annually. What are you guys doing about this public deception to new home owners??

Comments are closed.