During the final October 19 televised debate on Channel 4 between incumbent Mayor Tim Keller, Sheriff Manny Gonzales and radio Talk Show host Eddy Aragon, the candidates were allowed to ask questions of each other. The moderators were not told what the questions would be from the candidates. Sheriff Manny Gonzales asked his question of Mayor Tim Keller.
Following is the transcript of the Gonzales and Keller debate exchange:
SHERIFF GONZALES: Mayor Keller, where is your accountability? There are serious misconduct allegations at City Hall under your watch, allegations of your own domestic violence incident being covered up by high-ranking city officials. Another allegation of a high-ranking city official who was driving drunk and was involved driving a city vehicle and involved in a crash. And the third is also you having allegations of having an affair with a city subordinate. How can the public trust you to fight crime in ABQ when you can’t even fight crime at City Hall?
MAYOR KELLR: What a disgusting prepared question you just read. . . I don’t even know where to begin. . . I have never been involved in any of the incidents you mentioned and as my family will attest to have never, ever done things like had an affair. Look, if you’re going to just make your questions the gossip on Twitter and Facebook. I mean, I hear all sorts of stuff about everyone all the time, I don’t dignify it because I don’t believe it because there’s no evidence or truth behind any of it. And this is coming from a guy who has a litany of myths and mistruths that he says. . . . There is literally nothing behind anything your saying. You’re just saying words you saw on social media.
During and after the live debate, Sheriff Manny Gonzales never identified the two “high-ranking members of the Albuquerque Police Department with direct knowledge of the domestic incident stemming from the sexual harassment scandal.” Sheriff Gonzales also failed to identify by name the “high ranking city official who was driving drunk and was involved driving a city vehicle and involved in a crash.”
After the debate, Gonzales’ campaign manager Shannan Calland said in a statement to the Albuquerque Journal:
“We have spoken to two high-ranking members of the Albuquerque Police Department with direct knowledge of the domestic incident stemming from the sexual harassment scandal and are awaiting IPRA responses based on that information (which we expect to be intentionally covered up until after election).
The statement included the phrase in parentheses. IPRA refers to the state’s … [Inspection of Public Records Act].”
You can read the entire Journal article quoted here:
GONZALES LIE THAT RAEL INVOLVED IN DWI
Although Sheriff Gonzales did not specifically name the high-ranking city official who was driving drunk by name during the debate, the Gonzales campaign confirmed to the Albuquerque Journal that Sheriff Gonzales was referring to Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael.
On October 21, city spokeswoman Ava Montoya confirmed Chief Operation Officer Lawrence Rael was in a car accident on September 24 while driving his city owned vehicle. Montoya called the drunken-driving allegations made by Gonzales “false, defamatory and sadly motivated purely by political gain.”
The link to quoted source material is here:
SEPTEMBER 14 FENDER BENDER
It was on September 14 that Chief Operations Office Lawrence Rael, while driving his city owned vehicle, was involved in what the city described as a “minor fender bender”. According to the city, the incident occurred around 9:45 a.m. as Rael was driving on Fifth, turned left on a green light at Tijeras. Fifth and Tijeras is where city hall is located. According to the City Risk management report filed out by Rael and stamped as received on September 29, Rael hit a black truck.
City spokeswoman Ava Montoya City acknowledged that city policy requires employees in city vehicles involved with an accident to call police if they get into an accident. Montoya acknowledges that Rael did not call the police but said Rael did report the incident to Risk Management. According to Montoya:
“Following City procedures, Rael went immediately to Risk Management. He was instructed to fill out a form, which he did … Risk Management then resolves these situations following normal protocols. … [no alcohol was involved]. … Rael and the other driver both agreed to exchange information and due to the minor nature of the accident, neither driver felt it was necessary to tie up law enforcement.”
According to Montoya, the car accident resulted in minor damage to both vehicles and no injuries. City risk management compensated the driver of the truck $1,116 for the damages to her vehicle.
The link to quoted source material is here:
COO LAWRENCE RAEL
Mayor Tim Keller appointed Lawrence Rael Chief Operations Officer (COO) in December, 2017 and he has served in that capacity for the last 4 years. Mr. Rael is also a former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the city for 12 years under former mayors. Rael is an “at will employee” that works at the pleasure of the mayor and can be fired without cause by the mayor at any time and for no reason at all. As an at will employee, Rael does not have the same protections given to classified employees.
Mr. Rael is highly respected and is known for his professionalism, knowledge and understanding on how the city operates and “the nuts and bolts” of running the city and “keeping the trains running on time” as the old adage goes.
Rael may have violated personnel rules and regulations in the delay in reporting the accident and that may be grounds to take disciplinary action against him by Mayor Keller, but that’s Keller’s decision and no one else’s.
CITY IS SELF-INSURED ENTITY
The City of Albuquerque is a self-insured entity, and as such it does not carry insurance but has a Risk Management Division that employs claims adjusters, like insurance companies. The adjusters investigate and pay claims filed either by city employees or by the public. Each year, as required by state law for self-insured entities, the City Council allocates taxpayer funding to pay projected claims.
Lawrence Rael giving the driver of the truck his business car and reporting the accident to city risk management allowed City Risk management to adjust the claim and pay the $1,116 for the damages to the other driver’s vehicle. A few years ago, APD did initiate a process to encourage the general public not to call APD for minor traffic accidents where no serious injury occurs and to exchange insurance coverage. APD allows citizens to file police reports either on-line or at police substations for car accidents for purposes of insurance claims.
KOAT TV TARGET 7 REPORT
On October 21, KOAT-TV Target 7 posted a report that a Target 7 public records request in June came back showing no evidence of a domestic violence incident involving Mayor Tim Keller.
Target 7 also reported it had obtained documents on the car crash involving a city employee and a city-owned car. KOAT TV confirm a crash occurred. Channel 7 did not identify who was driving the city vehicle.
Target 7 reported it spoke with the person whose car was hit by the city employee. The woman, who didn’t want to go on camera, claims that after the crash, the city employee got out of the car, handed her his card and then left. The woman involved with the crash told Target 7:
“Real weird, no cop, it was real simple, real fast. … He said he worked for the mayor on the 11th floor. No police came or ambulance came. Nobody came. … ” the crash victim said to Target 7.
Channel 7 asked her if she thought the city employee was driving under the influence.
She said, “no I didn’t.”
The link to the KOAT TV Report is here:
GONZALES DENIED PUBLIC FINACING FOR HIS LIES, FORGERIES AND FRAUD
In a letter dated July 9, Albuquerque City Clerk Ethan Watson notified Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ that the city was denying his campaign $661,00 in public financing citing misconduct in the qualifying process and forgery of signatures on $5 qualifying donations. City Clerk Watson wrote Gonzales he could not confirm that Gonzales had complied with the city’s Open and Ethical Election Code and associated regulations.
The Keller campaign submitted to the City Clerk 149 examples of alleged forgeries on documents submitted to the City Clerk by the Gonzales campaign. The Keller campaign also filed signed statements from upwards of 40 people contacted by a private investigator hired by Keller campaign. Most of those contacted said the signatures on Gonzales’ nominating petition was theirs and half confirmed they had contributed $5 to Gonzales’ public financing effort. Nearly all said signatures on the $5 qualifying donations were forgeries.
The city’s Office of Inspector General investigated the qualifying $5.00 contribution receipts and found that there were problems with 15% of the 239 randomly selected Gonzales campaign receipts it reviewed. According to the Inspector General, the voters identified and contacted in those instances said either that they signed the receipt but never gave money or that they never signed the receipt or gave $5.
On July 14, after repeated denials of any wrong doing by the Gonzales campaign, and in a written response to an ethics complaint filed with the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices, Gonzales’ campaign stated.
“It does appear, upon the Gonzales campaign’s own investigation, that many of the qualifying-contribution (“QC”) receipts…were signed by someone other than the voter.”
DISTRICT ATTORNEY REFERS GONZALES FRAUD INVESTIGATION TO STATE POLICE
On October 12, Albuquerque City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr. wrote a letter to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas making a referral to them to investigate allegations of fraud and forgeries by the Manny Gonzales campaign to secure over $640,000 in public financing. Aguilar outlined the fraud allegations in his letter to Torrez and Balderas and said he made the referrals because his office “lacks the prosecutorial authority to investigate or file criminal charges for violations of state law.”
On October 13, District Attorney Raúl Torrez wrote a letter to Albuquerque City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr. notifying Aguilar that he will be referring for investigation the allegations of election-related fraud against Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales’ to the New Mexico State Police. DA Torrez wrote that the referral will be made only after the city’s November 2 election. Torrez wrote Aguilar:
“My review of this matter will begin immediately, but as you know, prosecutorial decisions must await the completion of a criminal investigation. … Further, my prosecutorial review must be independent and nonpartisan. … [For that reason, I will refer the investigation to the State Police] which is a conflict-free law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over this matter. [I want] to prevent the timing of an investigation or prosecution from having an effect on an election. … I will scrupulously adhere to this practice and will not take official action or make any public comment on this matter until the results of the upcoming election have been certified.”
Shannan Calland, a spokeswoman for the Gonzales campaign, denied any wrongdoing by the Gonzales campaign and said the campaign welcomed any investigations into the allegations. Calland said in a written statement:
“The Keller administration sending letters two weeks before the election is a shameless political stunt and demonstrates that Keller knows his campaign is in deep trouble.”
Matt Baca, a spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas had this to say:
“… District Attorney [Raul Torrez] has asserted jurisdiction in the case … and [the attorney general’s office will] monitor the matter in the event that we need to take appropriate action.”
The link to quoted source material is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
This whole mess of the 2021 Mayor’s election will be known as the campaign of “The liar and the lies he told during a live debate.” The allegations of DWI or other criminal conduct was nothing more than speculation and falsehoods by an elected law enforcement official desperately trying to continue with his political career. Sheriff Gonzales is the same candidate for Mayor that argued he was denied “due process of law” when his campaign was denied public finance by the city clerk, yet he makes salacious accusations and false accusations of DWI assuming guilt without due process of law afforded to those he has accused without any proof.
Sheriff Gonzales has failed to identify the 2 high-ranking members of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), if they even exist, he alleges have direct knowledge of the domestic incident involving the Keller family and an allege affair. As a law enforcement official, Sheriff Gonzales must be held to a higher standard. He has taken an oath office to uphold the law and knows that law enforcement at all levels must tell the truth. He knows he can discipline his deputies if they lie and even terminate them if they commit perjury. Gonzales has committed perjury in the court of public opinion with his lies and he knows damn well that he accused Keller of a crime and accused another of DWI with virtually no proof and he needs to be held accountable.
Sheriff Manny Gonzales has likely already lost his case to becoming the next Mayor of Albuquerque. This will likely be confirmed by the Journal poll to be published on Sunday, October 23. Sheriff Gonzales has managed to damaged, if not completely destroy, his own personal reputation of honesty and integrity, what little he had left after his reliance on forgeries and fraudulent documents to try and secure $630,000 in public finance.
If Sheriff Manny Gonzales has any shred of honesty or integrity left, he should admit to his lies and apologize to Mayor Tim Keller, the Keller family and COO Lawrence Rael. If he has any shred decency left, he should withdraw from the Mayor’s race and resign as Bernalillo County Sheriff and simply retire from law enforcement.