Last month New Mexico State Auditor Wayne Johnson with great fanfare announced he will conduct a “special audit” examination of the Bernalillo County criminal justice system.
Johnson wants a special audit to include seven state agencies: the District Court, Metro Court, the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Metropolitan Detention Center, the Public Defender’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office.
State District Court officials are now seeking the Attorney General’s opinion on whether the state auditor’s plan to examine Bernalillo County’s justice system “exceeds the authority and power” of the State Auditor’s office.
In a letter to Attorney General Hector Balderas, 2nd District Chief Judge Nan Nash and Court Executive Officer Jim Noel said they believe the state auditor’s plan to examine the system through a series of audits “invites needless waste of tax payer money” and may exceed his authority.
Johnson has the bright and very mistaken idea that he has the authority to audit and entire criminal justice system, especially judge’s decisions to deny prosecutor’s efforts to detain people in jail pending trial.
It should not come as any surprise that the 2nd Judicial Court is now questioning Johnson’s authority or is empowered by law to do his special audit in that the audit is not a financial audit dealing with the expenditure of taxpayer money which is all that is allowed by law.
STATE LAW IS CLEAR
In accordance with the New Mexico Audit Act, §§ 12-6-1 to 12-6-14, NMSA 1978, the New Mexico State Auditor’s office has only two statutory purposes:
“(1) to ensure that the financial affairs of every agency shall be thoroughly examined and audited each year by the state auditor, personnel of the state auditor’s office designated by the state auditor or independent auditors approved by the state auditor
(2) cause the financial affairs and transactions of an agency to be audited in whole or in part. (Section 12-6-3, NMSA 1978.)”
These two statutory purposes grant the State Auditor the authority to conduct both financial and special financial audits to identify financial irregularities, waste, fraud and abuse by the government entities.
The state statutes do not empower the authority to analyze an entire criminal justice system and the inherent powers granted to other elected officials such as judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials, all who are included in the special audit.
The Office of the State Auditor conducts and oversees audits of approximately 1,000 government entities, from large state agencies to small political subdivisions.
The authority of the office is to review the financial affairs of government agencies, including contracts, purchases agreements and make sure that the government agencies are not engaged in fraud, waste and abuse of government and taxpayer funds.
While the State Auditor performs mandatory audits each year of city, county and state agencies, due to the Office’s limited resources, a majority of the financial audits are conducted by independent public accounting firms (IPAs) whom partner with the Office.
The State Auditor requires the government agencies that are audited to foot the bill for the independent public auditing firms.
The State Auditor does not have any prosecutorial authority and when criminal wrong doing is found in an audit, it is turned over to the appropriate state or federal prosecuting agency.
JOHNSON CONTINUES TO VILIFY CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
In announcing his special audit last month, Johnson said:
“As auditors, we can look at each piece of the system and how those pieces mesh together. … We can help mend the cracks that lead to horrible crimes … When judges and prosecutors don’t have all the facts because the systems aren’t communicating, criminals … fall through the cracks. The consequences are devastating for people’s lives and for the City of Albuquerque as a whole. We can do better.”
In other words, Johnson “special audit” has nothing to do with financial matters but more to do with grinding his political axe and show his continued ignorance and contempt for our criminal justice system.
When Wayne Johnson ran for Mayor last year, his speeches and commercials took to a whole new level pandering to upset voters and to appeal to their worst fears to get votes, especially when he said he would end Albuquerque’s sanctuary city status.
His efforts as a Bernalillo County Commissioner to end the county’s immigrant sanctuary status failed miserably.
The most disturbing part of Mr. Johnson’s candidacy for Mayor was his intentional promotion of ignorance of our criminal justice system, our constitutional rights of due process of law and the presumption of innocence.
Going after and complaining about elected judges for their rulings, which Johnson wants to do with his audit under the guise of “mending the cracks”, is a red flag of ignorance of our criminal justice system.
Johnson’s special audit is just plain pandering to appeal to people’s worst fears to get votes or even worse, lying to the public.
Attacking our Judicial system and judge’s rulings is a familiar tactic of President Donald Trump and is a lesson learned by Johnson to “gin up” his conservative base in Albuquerque.
It is so easy to ignore our U. S. Constitution when you are pandering and running for Mayor and for that matter running for State Auditor and essentially say “catch them and lock them up and throw away the key”.
It is an abuse of office and authority for any elected official to undertake functions of an office that are not in fact authorized by law.
Wayne Johnson needs to read and fully understand the state laws that outline and limit his authority as State Auditor.
Conducting an auditing of a criminal justice system process that is not financial in nature is not within his powers and authority as State Auditor and a clear abuse of power.
No doubt Wayne Johnson is really hoping the audit will help him get elected State Auditor on November 6, 2018.
The Metro Court, the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Metropolitan Detention Center, the Public Defender’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office should all join in with the District Court and challenge the authority of the State Auditor to stop his special audit.
Attorney General Hector Balderas, a former State Auditor himself, should write a letter of instruction to State Auditor Wayne Johnson telling him to cease and desist with his audit of the Second Judicial District criminal justice system and explain to him it is not appropriate nor authorized by law.
Another option would be for Attorney General Hector Balderas to open an investigation of his own of State Auditor Wayne Johnson for abuse of authority and discretion of his office.
In the meantime, voters need to recognize how dangerous Wayne Johnson is to our criminal justice system and vote for Brian Colon as our new State Auditor come November 6, 2018.