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Chuck Huckelberry is the bureaucratic head cheese in Pima County government. His title is County Administrator, and he serves at the pleasure of the Pima County Board of Supervisors – theoretically. The political facts are a bit more nuanced.
Huckelberry, though a civil servant serving at the pleasure of the Board, has been in his current position since 1993, a respectable period of time in which to settle in, is it were. The general feeling amongst the political cogniscetti is that Huckelberry is not just a functionary, but a king-maker. His position has allowed him to influence strongly the appointment and election of members of the Board, giving him political influence that far outstrips what his job description or the county’s charter would suggest he has.
A contextual issue that must be kept in mind is that the department of elections used to report directly to the Board of Supervisors. When Brad Nelson was hired as director, he was made a direct report to Huckelberry, instead. Thus, any whiff of scandal in the elections department reflects directly on Huckelberry, as he hired Nelson and oversees his work directly.
There are persistent rumblings about the Pima elections department being transferred by the Board of Supervisors to the bailiwick of the elected County Recorder’s office, inhabited by Democrat F. Ann Rodriguez for the past 14 years. She has expressed a willingness to undertake the task after the 2008 election if given the additional personal compensation commensurate with the additional responsibility, sufficient budget, and the policy leeway she needs to run the department as she thinks it should be. A concern for Huckelberry and Nelson is whether she would also change the leadership (very likely) and conduct an investigation into past practices and possible malfeasance (less likely, but terrifying).
A political concern for both the Democrats and Republicans at the state level, and on the Board of Supervisors, is what might happen if this trial begins to prompt the upending of rocks long left unturned in counties around the state? Thus the annoyance by his own party at Ray Carrol for cooperating, and the reticence of the Democrats to do the same. As intimated in the testimony of many in this trial, the security practices of other counties are just as bad, and often far worse thos in Pima county. It serves no insider’s interest to have potential scandals stirred up in a manner that can’t be carefully controlled.
As to Huckelberry’s testimony, it is about what one would expect from a careful administrator who is the veteran of a thousand bureaucratic death-matches. You don’t lay a glove on a guy as battle-tested as Chuck. You give him opportunities to be too smart for his own good.
One thing that became apparent was that Chuck claims credit for the decision not to release the database to the Democratic Party. That claim may warrant a closer examination at another time, but it certainly puts the public onus on him if this lawsuit doesn’t go his way.
He also clearly has no idea about the technicial issues involved and has relied very heavily on John Moffatt, his consultant who will testify in this trial, without having the curiosity to carefully question the threats his adviser was telling his the data’s release would pose. A stark contrast can be seen between Huckelberry’s unquestioning reliance on expertise, and the skeptical use of experts to draw one’s own conclusions and make a thorough evaluation displayed by the questioning of expert witnesses by Judge Miller in this trial. Keep an ear tuned here for the summary of Bryan Crane’s testimony for an example of the Judge’s style.
Another damaging admission that Chuck let slip was that Pima County had never in 30 years done an analysis of its elections systems because there has never been evidence or allegations that might warrant analysis. For an administrator who is basically asking the court to trust him, his management, and his people as the ultimate guarantor of the people’s vote, that shows a lack of diligence.
Finally, the real kicker is Chuck’s assertion on the stand that "a conspiracy of one is possible, a conspiracy of three is not." He asserts that there is no possible way that the elections department could have done anything wrong, or, in fact, could do anything wrong in the future, because it would require a conspiracy which is simply impractical. Yet, as you will see from Bryan Crane’s testimony, and likely will see again in Pima County’s expert testimony, that an exploit requiring such a large conspiracy it boogles the mind is one of the central threats they claim to justify the withholding the database from public scrutiny.
Video footage of Chuck Huckelberry’s testimony:
The testimony of James Barry is intended mainly to illustrate that the Pima County government had a deep, vested, and motivated interest in the outcome of the RTA election. They spent over $70 on Barry’s services alone in analyzing prior bond and tax elections, creating a plan to divide up projects based on possible electoral trouble areas, and creating a campaign plan. His testimony does indicate that anyone would actually work to steal the election, only that they had an explicit position and desire for approval of the measure.
Video footage of James Barry’s testimony:
After the flip is a full summary of the testimony by Huckelberry and Barry. Sincere thanks to Daivid Safier, without whom this project would be impossible. Please recall that these are not intended as transcripts but condensed and paraphrased summaries…
Summary of testimony by Chuck Huckelberry
Direct Examination by Bill Risner, attorney for the Pima County Democratic Party.
Chuck Huckelberry has been the County Administrator since 1993.
The County Board of Supervisors had no role in the decision not to give the databases to the Pima County Democratic Party.
Huckelberry does not have the necessary knowledge of computers and software to understand why releasing the databases would be dangerous. He made his decision based on the advice of John Moffatt, manager of strategic technical planning.
Huckelberry knew of a report sent to him and the Supervisors saying that Bryan Crane, computer technician for the Elections Division, was printing summary reports before the close of the election. He did not ask for an investigation of the elections division.
Huckelberry was not informed that a number of county employees might “take the fifth” if they were called to testify in this trial. He only knew that it was a possibility for Crane, since he could have been charged in an investigation of possible vote tampering during the RTA election vote counting.
Moffatt, who was looking into technical and security matters in the voting process, did not tell Huckelberry that a number of employees might take the fifth.
In 30 years, Pima County has never done an analysis of its elections computers or the databases they produce, because there has never been an allegation to warrant analysis.
When asked if there needs to be evidence of fraud to warrant checks to make sure everything is working properly, Huckelberry replied that the elections division performs a number of tests.
Huckelberry was aware that Crane took backups of election data home with him prior to 1999, before the elections division had a fireproof safe. He doesn’t think Crane took home databases of election results after 1999.
If Crane took home backup tapes of employee information, that would be appropriate so long as there were no Social Security numbers on the tapes.
Cross Examination by Deputy County Attorney Christopher Straub.
A committee made the decision to hire Brad Nelson. Huckelberry appointed him Director of Elections in 2002. Professionalism in the division has improved over the years. Nelson is the best director in the past 15-20 years.
Crane is honest and trustworthy. However, because Crane’s actions have not been challenged previously, some of his actions (and those of Nelson) are subject to valid criticisms. We are trying to correct those areas.
Because of current security measures and the hand count audits after elections, it is very difficult to manipulate election results.
These discussions with the Democratic Party are the first time Huckelberry has heard concerns about election inaccuracies.
Concerns about computers and security predated the Democratic Parties suggestions. They began with the HAVA rules and the purchase of GEMS and touch screen voting devices.
The county has made reasonable efforts to cooperate with the Democratic Party. We have done everything except turn over the databases.
Redirect by Bill Risner.
The Democratic Party has been helpful in improving security. Huckelberry doesn’t know if he would go so far as to say the party has tried to “educate” the County and the Supervisors, though the party has made good suggestions.
Huckelberry read the iBeta report requested by the state Attorney General which says that GEMS software has flaws that make validation of election results impossible because of the possibility of tampering with the results without being detected. He doesn’t believe that indicates the need for independent confirmation. It calls for increased documentation.
Huckelberry is not aware of anyone in the U.S. who has attempted to hack into an election from the outside. When asked if the current system relies on the impeccable character of the people operating the computer system, he replied that having dozens of trustworthy individuals assures against tampering.
Summary of testimony by James Barry
Information from questioning by Bill Risner, attorney for the Pima County Democratic Party.
James Barry worked at Pima County from 1985-2005. He worked with special projects and public affairs.
In 1994, he became the executive assistant to Chuck Huckelberry, the Pima County Administrator.
During that time, he also worked for private committees advocating for bond measures, mainly doing polling. This was paid work, outside of his county job.
When Barry retired in 2005, he contracted with the County to look at precinct counts to predict voter turnout in various areas. He continued contracting with the county into 2007. For the 2006 RTA election, he analyzed maps to see where to expect the greatest voter turnout for that election. At the same time, he was paid as a consultant for the private committee working to pass the RTA bond.
Cross examination by Deputy Pima County Attorney Christopher Straub
Barry is not aware of any county official pressuring anyone to manipulate the results of the RTA election.