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N4T Investigators: Big bucks for Chuck - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Big bucks for Chuck

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It was in the news briefly last week: Pima County supervisors quickly approved the raise that  County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry had requested, from $280,000 to $288,000 a year, along with his request for a $550 monthly car allowance. His total compensation package with other benefits is more than $326,000 annually.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators dug deeper, to put Huckelberry's salary in perspective. Here's what we found:  Huckelberry is the highest paid county manager in Arizona, by far. He makes $60,000 a year more than the second-highest paid, the Maricopa County manager, Joy Rich, and she doesn't get a car allowance. Huckelberry makes more than Arizona's governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, combined. The only county manager we found with a higher salary is the $355,000 paid to the CEO of Los Angeles County, which has a population 10 times that of Pima County's one million residents.

“It is not fair to compare our county to many other counties,” Supervisor Valadez said before voting for Huckelberry’s new contract, “because it doesn't have that reliance on the county and unincorporated services.”

The 3 to 2 vote came after a brief discussion. Before voting yes on the contract, Democrats Richard Elias, Valadez and Sharon Bronson praised Huckelberry for improving the economy and attracting thousands of new jobs.

Supervisor Bronson said, “I think Mr. Huckelberry has done a stellar job in carrying out the economic development plan.”

Elias: “Mr. Huckelberry has done a good job of managing this county for many years during the most difficult economic times.”

The most recent U.S. Census shows that 19 % of Pima County residents live below the poverty level. The county's median household income is $46,000 a year, that's eight and a half-percent lower than the state average. Huckelberry's raise comes at a time when sheriff's deputies and other county workers are upset about their salaries.

Republican supervisors Steve Christy and Ally Miller voted against extending Huckelberry's contract. 

Christy said, “It's time for a fresh start, fresh set of eyes, and I think that's what the voters and the taxpayers of Pima County are thirsting for.” Christy added, “It's just not the most opportune time for anybody to be asking for a raise right now.”

Miller said, “Mr. Huckelberry has failed us with the roads. They're a disaster and that didn't happen overnight.”

Residents often complain about high taxes, bad roads, and about Huckelberry.  But in November voters re-elected the three supervisors who have long supported him.  We went to those supervisors' districts for an, admittedly, unscientific poll.

Manny Jacques, who lives in Elias' district, said, “Being a fan and supporter of Richard Elias, I don't support this. I think the teachers and the nurses that go above and beyond, they deserve a raise.”

Carmen Rueda, who resides in Valadez’ district, thinks Huckelberry deserves the raise.

“Yeah, I'm OK with that,” Rueda said about Huckelberry's salary. “If he's going to, if everyone's going to get a raise, he should get a raise also. Because if he's going to be doing his job, he earns it.” 

Mark Hamilton, a resident of Bronson’s district, told us, “It sounds like it's too high. You have to benchmark it against similar jobs, and it seems pretty obvious.”

But the majority of the supervisors believe Huckelberry deserves the raise, and the new contract.

All three supervisors who voted to extend Mr. Huckelberry's contract and his raise did not return our calls or emails requesting an interview, nor did Mr. Huckelberry. His salary is higher than many other county managers in part because he's been in that job longer than most, since 1993. His contract expires in 2021, when he will be 71 years-old. 

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call our tip line at 520- 955-4444.

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