“I take responsibility for what happens in my office with my chief of staff and my assistant. Any suggestion that I am not in control of the department (is) ridiculous. This is nothing more than petty water-cooler talk.”
APD Chief Michael Geier responding to Albuquerque Journal inquires relating to Internal Affairs Investigation of APD Chief of Staff John Ross.
On Thursday, August 13, the Albuquerque Journal on its front page and the on line news agency ABQ Reports published reports that APD Chief of Staff John Ross, who was hired by APD Chief Michael Geier, is under investigation by APD’s Internal Affairs Department for a series of nefarious conduct. Notwithstanding, the Chief of Staff is still on duty and the person who reported the incidents has been moved from APD to Animal Welfare.
The alleged conduct includes: circumventing purchasing rules, making improper purchases, by passing Chief Geier to secure a $10,000 raise taking his pay from $129,304 a year to $140,000 a year, absconding with the chief’s signature stamp that was being kept locked in a secretary’s desk drawer, yelling at and intimidating the chief’s secretary, and bringing his dog to work without approval and allowing the animal to defecate and urinate in Deputy Chief offices and instructing personnel to walk the animal.
The links to the Albuquerque Journal article and the ABQReports are here:
ALLEGATIONS MADE BY CHIEF GEIER’S ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT COORDINATOR
On July 13, Chief Geier’s Administrative Support Coordinator Paulette R. Diaz sent Cheif Geier an interoffice memo alleging Chief of Staff John Ross was “abusing his position for what appears to be [for] personal gain or otherwise evading [Standing Operating Procedures and] City procedures.” The memo was sent only after she met with Geier in private and believed that the complaints were serious enough to place in writing and to document the incidents The link to the entire 7 page memo is here:
In her July 13 memo to Chief Geier, Paulette R. Diaz provided documentation and outlined in great detail 10 allegations against APD Chief of Staff John Ross. Those 10 allegations in a nutshell are:
1.That he purchased, without department approval, a $2,400 Apple laptop computer.
2. That he purchased, again without approval, a $200 Apple TV Box that had no apparent work use.
3. Diaz said that Ross personally demanded Geier’s signature stamp, which the chief had ordered be locked up, and he used the signature stamp on official documents without approval.
4. Ross attempted to buy a ballistic vest without going through the proper procedures.
5. Ross tried to buy a “lift” for his APD vehicle, again, without approval.
6. Ross circumvented the approval process to secure what amounted to a $10,000 raise from $129,304 a year to $140,000 a year without Geiers approval and ostensibly not making a full disclosure to CAO Sarita Nair who approved the raise.
7. Ross improperly gave a pay raise to an APD staffer.
8. That during a six-week period in late 2019, Ross removed Geier from the approval chain of command for financial and travel documents and pending human resources documents.
9. Ross brought a dog to work without approval and let it jump on employees’ desks and the animal defecated and urinated repeatedly in offices causing a health hazard. According to Diaz “It got to the point that air fresheners had to be brought in and some staff has even gone to the limit of burning candles to mask the odor of what is obviously a health concern.” Diaz said other APD employees were tasked with taking care of Ross’ dog while he was at meetings and Ross had a city employee train the dog to behave during work hours.
10. Ross ruined a department-issued computer by forcing a charger not specific to the laptop into its charging port.
APD CHIEF GEIER FORWARDS COMPLAINT TO INTERNAL AFFAIRS
On July 20, Chief Geier forwarded the Diaz memo to APD’s Internal Affairs unit asking for an investigation into his Chief of Staff Ross. Chief Geier essentially
confirmed Diaz’s allegations in his memo to Internal Affairs and offered an explanation. The link to Chief Geier’s memo to Internal Affairs is here:
In his referral to Internal Affairs, Chief Geier states he believes Ross “may have violated standard operating procedures by engaging in conduct that reflects poorly on the department, altering, misrepresenting or making false statements in reports, and failing to safeguard department property.”
In his July 20 memo to Internal Affairs, Geier said he had learned that Ross had bypassed the city’s protocol in purchasing a $2,400 Apple laptop computer, when he already had a department-issued ThinkPad laptop. Ross also purchased a $200 Apple TV box that did not appear to have any purpose for work and used predominately for entertainment purposes such as gaming . Geier states that he found out that Ross was trying to purchase a ballistic vest, which is an “off-duty jacket type vest”, despite a pending request for bid and the fact that the purchase would result in the vendor being disqualified.
Geier explains in his memo to Internal Affairs that he met with Ross for an informal discussion about the allegations. Ross admitted to Chief Geier he bought the Apple computer and TV box and offered as a defense that he thought it was OK, noting that the TV box could be used for Zoom meetings.
Chief Geier said Ross acknowledged he did not have approval to use the Chief’s signature stamp but directed his assistant to use Geier’s signature stamp anyway. Geier reported that he ended up locking up his signature stamp to prevent anyone using it without his approval or knowledge.
In his memo to Internal Affairs, Chief Geier writes:
“I explained to John that his actions portrayed him as possibly using his position to benefit himself. … I told him the ‘appearance’ of this would seem wrong to others in the agency and it gave the optics of abuse of his authority. Both outcomes could conceivably impair the efficiency of the Department and damage both his reputation and that of APD in general.”
Geier said he told Ross that it would be best if he returned the items and he trusted him to do the right thing, but Geier did not give Ross any direct orders. The items have not been returned. And the Think Pad that Ross had been initially provided crashed when he used the wrong charger.
GEIER EXPLAINS ROSS PAY RAISE
At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners. The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. The City of Albuquerque updated the list for the year 2019. In 2019 in the APD Chief’s Office, there were 10 major employees in the list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $109,017 to $183,378. The highest 5 paid employees in the Chief’s Office for 2019 were:
1. Geier, Michael Chief of Police $183,378.60
2. Gonzalez, Arturo E Deputy Chief $140,498.63
3. Garcia, Eric J Deputy Chief $140,144.28
4. Medina, Harold Deputy Chief $136,040.20
5. Griego, Jon J Deputy Chief $134,522.59
APD Chief of Staff John Ross was paid $129,304 a year in 2019, making him the 57th highest paid city hall employee of the top 250 city hall wage earners in 2019 and he is the 6th highest paid employee in APD Chief Geier’s office. He is now being paid $140,000 a year.
In his July 20 memo sent to Internal Affairs Professional Standards, Chief Geier explains the pay raise by saying Ross had asked for a “small bump” in pay, which Geier interpreted to mean “a few thousand dollars annually.” According to Geier:
“[Ross] thought he could be elevated to the same pay level as a Deputy Chief but I explained that would not be feasible due to our existing rank structure and our compensation and classification process. … I also told him that Deputy Chief Harold Medina was already upset that two other Deputy Chiefs were already getting paid more than him due to a longevity agreement from the last administration. [When I signed the memo, I] did not remember seeing the actual amount of the raise being listed on his memo or did not look at it with any scrutiny since I trusted John.”
Geier said he was surprised when he learned from the city’s website that Ross was making almost $140,000 a year, about $5,000 more than Deputy Chief Harold Medina. Geier wrote internal affairs:
“I sign a lot of documents and am very busy at times and it is possible I missed it. … However, I reminded him of our initial conversations about the possible implications of receiving such a large raise and the appearance of impropriety.”
Ostensibly what happened is the John Ross took the salary increase memo to CAO Sarita Nair and was given a significant pay raise at the rate of a Deputy Chief. CAO Nair appears to not have contacted Chief Geier to confirm his approval of the raise relying on the personnel documents that had Geier’s signature stamp.
WHISTLE BLOWER TRANSFERRED?
In her July 13 memo to Chief Geier, Paulette R. Diaz makes references of interference from Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair, saying they have provided Geier with conflicting directives about how to address the issues with Chief of Staff John Ross. Diaz wrote:
“Those directives do not support you running this department and the Mayor’s office should not be entertaining private discussions with John, or even [Deputy Chief of Police] Medina for that matter, that run contrary to adherence to the chain of command or are done for their own personal reasons. ”
It has been reported that on Wednesday, August 12, under the direction of city Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, Paulette R. Diaz was transferred to the Department of Animal Welfare until the conclusion of pending internal investigations against Chief of Staff John Ross. However Chief Geier nor CAO Sarita Nair have not place John Ross on Administrative Leave.
In response to questions about the transfer of Diaz, City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr. said APD administrative investigations are a routine process to determine whether employees followed policies. City Attorney Aguilar had this to say:
“Temporary reassignment of employees is a common option to protect both sides during an investigation and is not retaliatory Unclassified, exempt employees are also subject to reassignment or other status changes at any time. Here, the allegations being investigated have to do with the compromise of confidential information, so reassignment is advisable.”
APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said Diaz:
“has been the subject of allegations that predate the current situation, as well as the potential compromise of confidential information.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The litany of complaints by Paulette Diaz can only be characterized as abuse of authority for personal and financial gain by John Ross. If there is any truth to any of the allegations, it is a reflection of greed and self-entitlement that any one of APD’s high command can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and get away with it with a double standard for subordinates such as Paulette Diaz.
Bypassing the city’s purchasing procedures and ordinances is extremely serious. It is an abuse of authority and under the State and City purchasing code and ordinances is a misdemeanor. What is far more serious is the unauthorized use of a signature stamp and pad for memos and documents without Chief Geier’s knowledge or coercing another employee. If true, such conduct can be characterized as forgery or fraud to secure personal gain, and any prosecutor worth their salary would bring criminal charges for such conduct.
APD COMMAND STAFF HAVE BECOME A “MASH UNIT”
Chief Geier’s memo to the Internal Affairs is tantamount to a defense of his Chief of Staff to avoid any disciplinary action. The facts that Geier and CAO Sarita Nair have not placed Ross on Administrative Leave without pay until the IA investigation is completed, have not order Ross to return the $2,400 laptop, nor have they rescinded the pay raise are clear indications they intend to do absolutely nothing. What is even more troubling is that it was Paulette R. Diaz, who likely falls under the legal definition of a whistle blower, has been transferred to a completely different department, the Animal Welfare Department.
When Chief Geier says “I did not remember seeing the actual amount of the raise being listed on his memo or did not look at it with any scrutiny since I trusted John” you can only envision that John Ross is APD’s version of “Radar” O’Reilly and APD Chief Geier is APD’s version of clueless Lieut. Col. Henry Blake on the TV series MASH where Pvt. Radar O’Reilly was always slipping orders and documents to be signed and not read by Col. Blake.
POLITICIZING A LAW ENFORCEMENT DEPARTMENT
When Diaz makes references of interference from Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair, saying they have provided Geier with conflicting directives about how to address the issues with Chief of Staff John Ross, it is clear proof that the CAO and the Mayor are getting involved into the minutia of enforcing personnel rules and regulations which is very troubling. Diaz wrote:
“Those directives do not support you running this department and the Mayor’s office should not be entertaining private discussions with John, or even [Deputy Chief of Police] Medina for that matter, that run contrary to adherence to the chain of command or are done for their own personal reasons.”
The transfer of Paulette Diaz form the 4th floor Offices of APD’s Main Office as Chief Geier’s Administrative Support to the Animal Control Department, and the comments made by City Attorney Estaban Aguilar and APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos smack of political retaliation against a whistle blower.
The Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair does have the duty and responsibility to enforce the city’s personnel rules and regulations. However, no Mayor has any business getting involved with personnel matters as described by Diaz and it smacks of political influence over a department that should be devoid of politics. Chief Geier has over 40 years of experience in law enforcement and is a former Rio Rancho Police Chief, he should know what he is doing when managing the Department, yet Nair and Keller, neither who has ever managed a law enforcement department and getting involved, sends the wrong message to APD’s chain of command.
REPUGNANT COMMENT REFLECTING INCOMPETENCE
After reading both the July 13 memo to Chief Geier from Paulette R. Diaz and Chief Geier’s to APD’s Internal Affairs unit asking for an investigation into his Chief of Staff Ross, it’s downright repugnant that APD Chief Michael Geier would actually say “This is nothing more than petty water-cooler talk.” If APD Chief Geier actually feels that way, Chief Geier needs to be thanked for his services by Mayor Tim Keller and be terminated along with his Chief of Staff John Ross. This is one season of MASH that needs to be cancelled.