I have to once again thank Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller, whose nutty shenanigans continue to be gold for my journalism career (if not so good for Pima County).
The crackpot politician helped me bring home a first-place trophy for "Stop the Presses," a Tucson Weekly cover story examining the strange trail of events that began when Miller's communications staffer decided to masquerade as a journalist and set up a news site under a pen name. The whole affair is way too long to recap in this space, but it involved—among other things—Miller denying her aide could do such a thing, filing identify-theft complaints with the FBI and—with no proof—accusing a Republican activist of having engineered the entire scandal. And trust me, those are just a few highlights.
As the story unfolded, we also learned, through public records requests filed by the Tucson Sentinel, that the frequently paranoid Miller was using private email to do public business because she was sure that Pima County officials had secretly installed software to follow her every keystroke. "We have to be more secretive," she told her staffers in emails that eventually were turned over by former staffers who were following the law.
"Given Supervisor Miller's demonstrated disregard for the laws of this state—including her false denials that she uses private emails and messaging in carrying out county business, instructions to District 1 staff to use their personal emails and encrypt files to avoid disclosure of what should be public records, and other behavior that multiple former staffers have called 'paranoid,' such as telling them to whisper because of 'listening devices in the walls'—it's unfortunately not at all surprising that she has continued to stonewall for nearly a year and a half rather than release documents that belong to the taxpayers and should be provided promptly on request," Sentinel editor and publisher Dylan Smith told me earlier this week.
Instead of releasing records, Miller has become obsessed with making her own broad public-records requests. Most recently, she wanted to see emails from county officials related to her idiotic Facebook comments regarding white pride, going so far as to request emails from weeks before she made the comment. (Evidently, her scheming enemies in the county knew she'd say something stupid and were laying the groundwork weeks before she declared that she felt personally attacked by criticism about Nazis marching in Charlottesville.) For someone who complains that the county wastes too much money, Miller sure has a way of wasting staff time.
But I digress. In other award news: Tucson Salvage columnist Brian Smith took second place in the Best Feature Story category for "Dorreen Martinez's dog days and summer nights on Fourth Avenue," profiling a downtown hot-dog cart owner. Smith also took second place in the Best Feature Column category for "A wandering escape finds a vigil, an altar and some gratitude."
Elsewhere in the Tucson Local Media family: Erstwhile sports reporter Brad Allis, who left us to go to work for the Town of Marana, won second place in the sports column category for "RIP, Samaniego," about the passing of 33-year-old Golder Ranch firefighter Jose Samaniego.
On the advertising side, the Tucson Local Media production department took first place in the Best Online Ad (static) and third-place awards for Best Online Ad (animated) and Best Black and White Ad. Oliver Muñoz won third place for Best Paid Ad Series for a Pima County Fair campaign.
Congrats to all the winners!