On March 14, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published the story “Clerk appointee withdraws name from consideration after financial issues found”.
The story was how Charlotte Little, who was appointed by Mayor Tim Keller to the position of city clerk, had withdrawn her name from consideration for the post amid Journal scrutiny of past financial trouble.
It was clear from the story that Charlotte Little owned up to her past financial mistakes and is making good on the money she owes.
There was a good chance that she would have been able to do the job as City Clerk, but we will never know.
The Journal reported that Little and her husband, Joseph, failed to pay $137,548 in federal taxes from 1996 to 2003 and $41,396 in state taxes, penalties and fees from 1998 to 2003.
Federal and state liens on the Littles’ property for the unpaid taxes were filed.
The federal liens were released in 2011.
Little acknowledged that she and her husband are on a payment plan to pay off the owed taxes and didn’t believe any liens were currently in place.
The negative coverage no doubt led to Charlotte Little withdrawing her name for consideration as she said:
“I have decided to withdraw my name from consideration for the position of City Clerk. … I am so grateful to have been considered by Mayor Keller and do not wish to bring any unnecessary distractions to the role.”
The Keller Administration downplayed the withdrawal by saying:
“Like many New Mexicans, Charlotte has experienced some financial challenges and it is our understanding that she has taken responsibility and worked to address those challenges. … As the first Native American candidate for City Clerk, we believed she would have brought a wealth of experience as an administrator. … However, we respect Charlotte’s decision to withdraw her name from consideration for the City Clerk position and wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
A MOUTH ATTRACTED TO A FLAME
On March 15, 2018, I posted on my FACEBOOK page the single sentence “Stay tuned for yet another negative editorial from the Journal” and linking the Albuquerque Journal March 14, 2018 story “Clerk appointee withdraws name from consideration after financial issues found”.
It took the Albuquerque Journal 12 days, but sure enough, like a moth attracted by a flame, the editors had to get another dig in against Keller with its March 27, 2018 editorial that said in part:
“For the sake of city taxpayers, we sure hope the Keller administration is vetting all of its appointees and that the process includes both criminal background checks and a search for any tax liens that prospective appointees may be dealing with. These appointees are, after all, the people charged with managing million-dollar budgets, supervising thousands of employees and keeping the city safe. Failure to have a robust screening system in place would be negligent.”
“Keller and his administration should know about any skeletons in a prospective employee’s closet so they can make an informed decision on whether to move forward with the hire.”
“Given how the Little situation played out, we suspect that Keller administration officials had no idea about her tax issues. Did they bother to ask? And if they did, was Little not forthcoming?”
“Couple this debacle with the questionable after-the-deadline selection of City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr., and one has to wonder what’s going on the 11th floor of City Hall. … The mayor and his staff need to figure out a way to avoid these missteps … and these misfires reflect poorly on the work he’s trying to do.”
Is anyone in city hall vetting keller’s selections?
Just two weeks before, on March 13, 2018, the Journal published an editorial on the recruiting and selecting the new City Attorney outside the application process with the editorial headline “Why did Keller sidestep the process for city attorney?” and editorialized in part:
“It’s unfortunate that the process to select … [the new city attorney] … was fraught with irregularities, and it sets a high bar for him and the administration to overcome to restore public trust.”
The editorial on the city attorney selection pointed out the names of two other city attorney applicants, including one former city councilor and a UNM general counsel, implying they were more qualified than the attorney selected because the applicants had extensive government experience.
The Journal editorial went so far as making a backhanded reference to the fact that the selected city attorney went to UNM law school at the same time as Keller’s Chief Administrative Officer.
It is fair game for the media to go after the background and qualifications of any Administration’s appointees.
It is also fair game for the public to question the political motivations when a double standard is being used to promote an agenda.
The Albuquerque Journal never gave so much attention to the vetting process of the former Republican Berry Administration when it took over eight years ago from the Democrat Chavez Administration.
The Journal never suggested that the Republican Administration vet all of its appointees by including “both criminal background checks and a search for any tax liens that prospective appointees may had dealt with.”
For a full eight years, under a Republican Administration, the Journal showed no concern about who was being appointed to “positions responsible for managing million-dollar budgets, supervising thousands of employees and keeping the city safe”, especially when it came to the Albuquerque Police Department.
Never has the Journal said that failure to have a robust screening system in place would be negligent, that is until a Democrat was elected Mayor.
For eight years, the Albuquerque Journal made no comment on all the appointments of political Republican operatives by the former Republican Mayor nor did it ever report on the “vetting” it had done on those appointments.
The Albuquerque Journal said absolutely nothing when Republican operatives like Darren White was appointed Chief Public Safety Officer and Rob Perry was appointed City Attorney and then Chief Administrative Officer, as if neither one of these individuals did not have any “skeletons” in their backgrounds that the Journal should have been concerned about.
Other very well know Republican operatives with ties to Republican Governor Susana Martinez were also appointed as Department heads by the Republican Berry Administration.
The Journal asked no questions of what role Jay Mc Clusky and Governor Susana Martinez had in the Berry appointments.
Jay McClusky managed both the Governor’s and the Mayor’s first campaigns and their subsequent re election campaigns using “slash and burn” tactics to take out their opponents.
There were city department directors that originally worked for the Governor and then went to work for the Mayor at significantly higher salaries.
Jessica Hernandez was the Governor’s general counsel and became city attorney and Gordon Eden who was the Governor’s Public Safety Cabinet Secretary and then appointed APD Chief.
To the winner goes the spoils as the saying goes.
For eight years, Albuquerque had a shadow Mayor and New Mexico had a shadow Governor with McClusky calling the shots with many high paid positions on the 11th floor at city hall and the fourth floor of the roundhouse.
The Journal said nothing when Democrat David Campbell was appointed Chief Administrative Officer nor when Campbell stepped down after less than a year with rumors of having been squeezed out by Republican operatives Darren White and Rob Perry so that either White or Perry could take over as Chief Administrative Officer.
True to form, Rob Perry took over as Chief Administrative Officer and within a year made sure he got a $40,000 pay raise to become the highest paid employee at city hall making $200,000 a year.
The Journal editors said nothing when Perry made sure he got his $40,000 raise and Perry made sure that city employees were given only 1% to 2% pay raised for eight years.
Then there was the farce of selecting Republican operative Gordon Eden as APD Chief after a so called national search with Rob Perry in charge of the selection process.
Eden was selected Chief of Police, even though he had absolutely no prior experience in managing a municipal police department and even though such experience was specifically called for in the job description as well as the posting for the position, and the Journal Editors said nothing about Eden not having the experience to run a municipal police department.
Eden was hired over numerous other applicants that included Deputy Chiefs from other major cities that no doubt could have done a far better job.
The Albuquerque Journal never reported and the editors made no accusation that the fix was in with the Gordon Eden appointment even though he was a political operative who served as the Public Safety Cabinet Secretary under Republican Governor Martinez and with Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry having close contacts with Jay Mc Clusky, the Governor’s go to guy for appointments.
Less than four (4) months into the four-year Keller Administration, Mayor Tim Keller has had seven (7) negative editorials on his decisions, his administration and his appointments.
The first six months of any elected officials term usually sets the tone and the direction for the entire remainder of the term and the people appointed help the Mayor set that trajectory.
In politics, way too often, the relationship between an elected official and the media is confrontational and it lasts for the entire term, especially when you’re a Democrat dealing with the Republican leaning Albuquerque Journal.
In politics, you must always pay attention as an elected official when it comes to the news media and presume you will not be treated the same way as your Republican predecessor when you’re a Democrat being reported on by a Republican leaning newspaper.
Keller should change his party registration from Democrat to Republican and perhaps only then will the Albuquerque Journal get off his back and ignore mistakes or even failed leadership like they did for eight years not only in Albuquerque but in Santa Fe and the Governor’s Office.