On December 1, 2017 Republican Governor Susana Martinez appointed Republican Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson as the New Mexico State Auditor to replace Democrat Tim Keller who was elected Mayor of Albuquerque.
Wayne Johnson ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Albuquerque, came in fifth and did not make the run off against Tim Keller.
Wayne Johnson, who is now running for election to keep his job as State Auditor, has announced his office will do a “special audit” to look into possible “gaps” within the Second Judicial District in an effort to combat crime in the Albuquerque metro area.
Johnson got exactly what he really wanted which was nothing more than media coverage and a front page headline in the Albuquerque Journal.
According to Johnson, his “special audit” focuses on 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.
In other words, the target of Johnson’s special audit is the entire Bernalillo County criminal justice system.
In announcing the audit, 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.”
According to his office, the district attorney pursued detention in 16 percent of all felony cases filed and indicted in 2017 but judges denied those requests about half the time.
Johnson argued that those released by judges then commit other crimes and he pointed to one suspect accused of raping a 57-year-old in her home after his release on auto burglary charges.
In response to Wayne Johnson’s call for the audit, the State District Court spokesperson Sidney Hill said:
“As a trusted and good steward of public resources, the (court) will continue to act in a financially and operationally responsible and prudent manner and will cooperatively work with the Office of the State Auditor. … The Court hopes this process will clear up the Auditor’s apparent misunderstanding of the criminal justice system, which is reflected in his use of statistics and scenarios we do not believe have a basis in fact.”
Wayne Johnson should do better understanding the duties, responsibilities and functions of his office.
FUNCTIONS OF STATE AUDITORS DEPARTMENT
What is so very disappointing and typical is no one in the media challenged or questioned if Johnson has the authority or is empowered by law to do his audit that is not financial dealing with the expenditure of taxpayer money.
The New Mexico State Auditor is a statewide elected official that eligible to serve up to two four-year terms.
In accordance with the New Mexico Audit Act, §§ 12-6-1 to 12-6-14, NMSA 1978, the Office has 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 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
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. Johnsons 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 is a red flag of ignorance of our criminal justice system unless it 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.
Johnson has now gotten 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 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.
What is so diguusting is that Johnson will require all seven government agencies to foot the bill for the audits, that will likely cost thousands per agency, when virtually all of those agencies are cash strapped as it is.
Johnson hopes his audit of the Second Judicial District will help identify problems that negatively impact the criminal justice system.
The New Mexico State Auditor’s Office has its plate full as it is performing over 1,000 audits a year, but now Wayne Johnson wants his office to perform an audit that is not financial and more political in nature.
No doubt Wayne Johnson is really hoping the audit will help him get elected State Auditor in November.
Attorney General Hector Balderas, a former State Auditor himself, should consider writing a letter of instruction to State Auditor Wayne Johnson telling him to cease and desist with his audit of the Second Judicial District 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.