On October 5, 2022, an all-day status conference hearing was held by Federal Judge James Browning who is overseeing the implementation and monitoring of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating the agreed to reforms of APD. The hearing was held to review the 4th External Force Investigation Team report. The external Force Investigation Team (EFIT) is an outside team of experts that investigates APD officer involved “Use of Force” cases. The External Force Investigation Team was created when the Federal Monitor found that APD intentionally did not investigate 667 of use of force cases.
During the October 5, 2022, former Metropolitan Court Judge Victor Valdez was introduced by City Attorney Lauren Keefe to Judge Browning as the new “Superintendent of Police Reform”. Before Valdez addressed Judge Browning, Browning asked Valdez if he was at all involved with the External Force Investigation Team report that was being presented as if expressing his curiosity as to why Valdez was even attending the hearing. Valdez said he had nothing to do with the report and that he had not yet met with the External Force Investigation Team.
Valdez took the opportunity to highlight his resume, including his work for the City of Albuquerque as a Deputy City Attorney defending the city in civil rights cases involving police, dealing with the police union, and his work in private practice. He also highlighted his work as a Metropolitan Judge where he retired under the PERA Judicial retirement system.
It was disclosed by Judge Valdez for the first time to the public that he is not a full time city employee of Albuquerque but is an Independent Contractor. Valdez made it clear that he insisted that he be an independent contractor and that he viewed his role as not advocating the city’s position on APD personnel matters, but that he perform his duties and responsibilities in a “fair and impartial manner”, very much like a judge, in reviewing disciplinary actions against sworn police.
Valdez disclosed to Judge Browning that he had only 4 major responsibilities under his independent contract as the City’s “Superintendent of Police Reform”. According to Valdez, his 4 responsibilities under his contract are as follows:
- Review all APD sworn personnel disciplinary actions and review Internal Affairs files for quality of the investigations.
- Prepare reports and make recommendations to the Administration and APD to ensure the implementation and sustainability of the police reforms.
- Review APD’s training and identify deficiencies in APD training.
- Meet with the parties to the consent decree, including the stakeholders, to discuss the reforms.
IPRA REQUEST MADE
Given the representations made by former Metro Judge Victor Valdez during the October 5 hearing an Inspection of Public Records (IPRA) request was made by www.PeteDinelli.com. On October 25, in response to the IPRA request, the City of Albuquerque provided the following 3 documents requested for review:
- The independent contract signed and executed between the City of Albuquerque and Victor Valdez.
- Correspondence from the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) to City confirming review of the professional services agreement between the City of Albuquerque and Victor E. Valdez dated August 31, 2022
- City of Albuquerque job description for “Superintendent of Police Reform” and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer”
THE VALDEZ INDEPENDENT CONTRACT
The independent contract signed and executed between the City of Albuquerque and Victor Valdez is dated September 6, 2021 and is 6 pages long. Following are the edited and highlighted pertinent portions of the Valdez contact:
“1. Scope of Services. The Contractor shall perform the following services … in a satisfactory and proper manner, as determined by the City:
Contractor shall review disciplinary actions taken by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), evaluate the consistency and fairness of the disciplinary process, and advise the City of any disagreements with the actions taken. In doing such reviews, contractor shall review the quality of the investigations conducted in the office of the Superintendent.
In addition, Contractor shall review, assess and report on the operation of the Office of Superintendent and prepare a recommendation on an organizational structure of APD in connection with those functions currently assigned to the Office of Superintendent.
Contractor shall report to the administration any trends or training deficiencies observed within APD. Contractor will meet as necessary with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Monitor, Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA), Amici and other stakeholders, with regard to the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
The contractor shall be available to publicly present the Office of Superintendent reform efforts to public bodies and the media. Other duties as agreed to by the parties.
2. Time of Performance. Services of the Contractor shall commence upon execution of this Agreement, and shall be undertaken and completed in such sequence as to assure their expeditious completion in light of the purposes of this Agreement; provided, however, that in any event, all of the Services required hereunder shall be completed by August 30, 2023.
3. Compensation and Method of Payment.
Compensation. For performing the Services … the City agrees to pay the Contractor [Valdez] up to the amount of One-Hundred Thousand and No/100 dollars ($100,000.00), which amount includes any applicable gross receipts taxes and which amount shall constitute full and complete compensation for the Contractor’s Services under this Agreement, including all expenditures made and expenses incurred by the Contractor in performing the Services.
Method of Payment. Such amount shall be payable at the rate of one hundred eighty-five and No/100 Dollars ($185.00) per hour, which rate includes any applicable gross receipt taxes. Payments shall be made to the Contractor [Valdez] monthly for completed Services upon receipt by the City of properly documented requisitions for payment as determined by the budgetary and fiscal guidelines of the City and on the condition that the Contractor has accomplished the Services to the satisfaction of the City.
Appropriations. Notwithstanding any provision in this Agreement to the contrary, the terms of this Agreement are contingent upon the City Council of the City of Albuquerque making the appropriations necessary for the performance of this Agreement. …
4. Independent Contractor. Neither the Contractor [Victor Valdez] nor [his] … employees are considered to be employees of the City of Albuquerque for any purpose whatsoever. The Contractor is considered as an independent contractor at all times in the performance of the Services … . The Contractor further agrees that neither [he] nor [his] employees are entitled to any benefits from the City under the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act of the State of New Mexico, or to any of the benefits granted to employees of the City under the provisions of the Merit System Ordinance as now enacted or hereafter amended.
The Contractor represents that [he] has, or will secure at [his] own expense, all personnel required in performing all of the Services required under this Agreement. Such personnel shall not be employees of or have any contractual relationships with the City.
All the Services required hereunder will be performed by the Contractor or under [his] supervision and all personnel engaged in the work shall be fully qualified and shall be authorized or permitted under state and local law to perform such Services.
6. Indemnity. The Contractor [Victor Valdez] agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the City and its officials, agents and employees from and against any and all claims, actions, suits or proceedings of any kind brought against said parties because of any injury or damage received or sustained by any person, persons or property arising out of or resulting from the Services performed by the Contractor [Victor Valdez] under this Agreement or by reason of any asserted act or omission, neglect or misconduct of the Contractor or Contractor’s agents or employees or any subcontractor or its agents or employees. The indemnity required hereunder shall not be limited by reason of the specification of any particular insurance coverage in this Agreement.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Paragraphs numbered 7 to 19 have been deleted for purposes of this blog article.
20. Termination for Cause. If, through any cause, the Contractor shall fail to fulfill in a timely and proper manner its obligations under this Agreement or if the Contractor shall violate any of the covenants, agreements, or stipulations of this Agreement, the City shall thereupon have the right to terminate this Agreement by giving written notice to the Contractor of such termination and specifying the effective date thereof at least five (5) days before the effective date of such termination.
21. Termination for Convenience. Either party may terminate this Agreement at any time by giving at least fifteen (15) days notice in writing. If this Agreement is terminated as provided herein, the Contractor will be paid for work performed up through the date of termination.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Paragraphs numbered 22 to 27 have been deleted for purposes of this blog article.
The link to review the entire unedited contract is here:
PART TIME, 10 HOUR WORK, WEEK CALCULATED UNDER CONTRACT
The number hours to be work each week by former Judge Victor Valdez is calculated by reviewing the terms and conditions of contract. The contract provides that the city will pay Valdez $100,000 at the hourly rate of $185 an hour. Therefor the total number of hours that will be allowed to be worked and paid under the contract are 540.54 hours calculated as follows: $100,000 total contract amount ÷ $185 hourly rate = 540.54 hours.
Services under the contract commenced on September 6, 2022 when the agreement was executed. All services required under the contract must be completed by August 30, 2023. Therefor the contract covers a period of 51 weeks total from September 6 to August 30, 2022.
The contract provides that “payments under the contract shall be made to the Contractor [Valdez] monthly [or every 4 weeks].” The 540.54 total hours of work per week under the contract for 51 weeks translates into 10.60 hours per week calculated as follows 540.54 hours ÷ 51 weeks = 10.598 hours.
PERA REVIEW OF PROFESIONAL SERVICES AGREEMENT
Effective July 1, 2010, the New Mexico legislature change the Public Employee Retirement Act (PERA) provisions that requires the pension of a retiree who returns to work for a PERA affiliate must be suspended. The practice of allowing the payment of a pension and a salary at the same time is referred to as “double dipping”.
Under the change in law, a retired member of a PERA affiliate cannot collect both a salary and their retirement benefit if they return to work full time for a PERA affiliate government entity. However, a retired PERA member can return to work for a PERA affiliate as an Independent Contractor provided that the contract is reviewed and approved by the PERA general counsel.
On May 31, 2022, after serving nearly 2 decades on the Metropolitan Court bench, Meto Judge Victor E. Valdez retired and began being paid a pension by the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) . On September 6, 2022, a little more than 3 months later, Valdez signed his contract with the City of Albuquerque, another PERA affiliate, as an Independent Contractor.
On August 31, 2022, the Public Employees Retirement Association General counsel wrote the city of Albuquerque a letter that the Valdez contract had been reviewed and that it did not violate the suspension of pension benefits provisions for post-retirement with an affiliated public employer.
The link to review the August 31, 2022 letter to the city from the Public Employees Retirement Association General counsel is here:
Metropolitan Court Judges are paid $131,516 a year which is 95% of what District Court Judges make a year. The $131,516 yearly pay rate translates into $63.28 an hourly pay rate calculated as follows: $131,516 annual salary ÷ by 2,080 work hours in a year = $63.28 hourly pay rate. Metropolitan Court Judges can retire at any age with 15 full years of service and are paid 75% of the average of their high 3 pay years which translates into a $98,637 annual PERA pension.
JOB DESCRITION FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE REFORM AND DEPUTY CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE
The position of “Superintendent of Police Reform” and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer” was created by Mayor Tim Keller to oversee the implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). Mayor Keller said at the time of the creation of the position that it was created to relieve APD Chief Harold Medina of “burdensome administrative” duties, such as personnel matters and police training, and to allow APD Chief Medina to concentrate on basic law enforcement priorities and initiatives to bring down the city’s skyrocketing crime.
According to the published city job description for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform, it is also a Deputy Chief Administrative Officer position paying $155,001.60 to $185,016.00 annually. It is an unclassified at-will position appointed by the Mayor subject to confirmation by the Albuquerque City Council. The posted job description states that the opening date for applications was November 29, 2021 and the closing date to submit applications was April 8, 2021.
The link to the published and advertised job description for “Superintendent of Police Reform” and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer” is here:
The link to review the job description for “Superintendent of Police Reform” and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer” provided by the city pursuant to the Inspection of Public records request is here:
Portions of the job description summary merit review and provide as follows:
“… Overseeing discipline and training, the Office of the Superintendent of Police Reform … is an executive-level position, developed to ensure that constitutional policing reforms are transparent and effective. … Because the Police Academy is integral to both training and creating a culture that embraces reform, the Superintendent will directly oversee all Academy operations. This includes cadet training, continuing education, development of innovative curriculum … . The Superintendent will ensure compliance with court-approved settlement agreement (CASA) requirements related to training.
… the Superintendent will also directly oversee all internal affairs matters related to the Police Department. Exercising the delegated authority of the CAO, the Superintendent will have the final say on police disciplinary matters. The Superintendent will ensure consistency and fairness in the application of disciplinary policies and compliance with CASA requirements related to discipline.
The ideal candidate has experience working within a law enforcement agency that has been through the reform process, and possesses exceptional leadership, analytical and communication skills. In addition, the ideal candidate possesses significant experience as a police officer working in both field and investigative units, project management experience, and experience with inter-agency partnerships.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The postscript to this blog article outlines minimum education and experience requirements, and preferred knowledge, skills and abilities contained in the job description for Superintendent of Police Reform.
KELLER MAKES THREE APPOINTMENTS
On March 8, Mayor Tim Keller announced the appointment of Harold Medina as the new APD Chief of Police and the appointment of Sylvester Stanley as the new “Interim” Superintendent of Police Reform and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (DCAO). Stanley was to be the Interim Superintendent while the city conducted a national search to find a full time Superintendent of Police Reform. Stanley retired at the end of December of 2021, a mere 8 months after his appointment. According to the listing of the 250 top paid city hall employees, Stanley was paid $123,219.28 for his 8 months of city employment.
Almost a full 4 months went by, and on Monday, April 25, Mayor Tim Keller announced in a press release that he had nominated La Tesha Watson, Ph.D., as the new Superintendent of Police Reform to be confirmed by the Albuquerque City Council. Dr. Watson’s nomination was very short lived and she never was actually hired by Mayor Keller. On May 3, one week after the Dr. La Tesha Watson appointment was announced, the City issued a press release announcing it was not moving forward with her nomination of for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform suggesting that after in person interviews she was found to be incapable for the job and she brought “alternative ideas and views about the path forward on reform”. The city announced the hiring process would continue. In the May 3 press release the Keller Administration said this:
“The Superintendent of Reform was created last year by the City to bring individual accountability and leadership to reform, create differential use of force and discipline processes from APD chain of command, and add overall governance to the reform process. The position is also designed to enable the Chief of Police to better focus on crime fighting.”
Former Metropolitan Court Judge Victor Valdez was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his law degree from the University of New Mexico in 1989. Judge Valdez was appointed to the Criminal Division of the Metropolitan Court in March of 2004 by former Governor Bill Richardson. Prior to his judicial appointment, Judge Valdez was also a Deputy City Attorney under then City Attorney Bob White and prior to that he practiced law alongside his father and he specializing in civil rights. On May 31, 2022, after serving nearly 2 decades on the Metropolitan Court bench, Judge Victor E. Valdez retired.
On August 31, 2022, after passage of another 4 months without Superintendent of Police Reform, Mayor Keller announced the appointment of retired Republican Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Victor Valdez to serve as the city’s new Superintendent of Police Reform and prior to that he practiced law for 15 years, specializing in civil rights.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
On March 9, 2021, Mayor Tim Keller announced the creations of the new position of “Superintendent of Police Reform” and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer to oversee the implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) reforms of APD.
One paragraph of the job description for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform is worth repeating:
“Recognizing what the Department of Justice has described as the inherent need for internal affairs to exercise independence and have some separation from institutional politics and pressures, the Superintendent will also directly oversee all internal affairs matters related to the Police Department. Exercising the delegated authority of the CAO, the Superintendent will have the final say on police disciplinary matters. The Superintendent will ensure consistency and fairness in the application of disciplinary policies and compliance with CASA requirements related to discipline. The Superintendent will also develop policies and practices to ensure that the Police Department has a wide range of tools to foster culture change, in addition to discipline.”
On March 9, 2021, Mayor Keller also announced the appointment Sylvester Stanley as the interim “Superintendent of Police Reform” and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. Mayor Keller said of the Stanley appointment at the time:
“It was simply unrealistic and a real disservice to the realities of crime and reform to think that one leader can solve all of our challenges. … It just simply takes two in this case.”
On December 1, 2021, after a mere 8 months on the job, Interim Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanley announced his retirement at year’s end. Once Stanly announced his retirement, Mayor Tim Keller announced he was launching a “national search” for the position. Keller in his announcement had this to say:
“[We are looking for] an experienced professional to lead this cutting edge position [and] who is dedicated to police reform. … We developed this innovative position to bring about a new era for our police department. … Our Superintendent of Police Reform works hand and hand with our Chief so that each leader can focus on their core duties while supporting one another for the most benefit for the department and the community.”
WHAT NOT INCLUDED IN SCOPE OF SERVICES
Review of former Judge Victor Valdez’s Independent Contract for Professional Services reveals that the Scope of Services in the contract does not include the following duties and responsibilities outlined in the job description for Superintendent of Police Reform and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer:
Valdez will NOT be exercising the delegated authority of the CAO and will NOT will not be imposing discipline and will not have the final say on police disciplinary matters.
Valdez will not directly oversee all internal affairs matters related to the Police Department but will only have access to Internal Affairs disciplinary files.
Valdez will have no authority over the APD Police Academy and will not directly oversee all APD Academy operations, will not oversee APD academy cadet training, continuing education, nor be involved with academy curriculum development.
Valdez will not be responsible for developing “policies and practices to ensure that the Police Department has a wide range of tools to foster culture change, in addition to discipline.”
LUCRATIVE PART TIME WORK
The position of “Superintendent of Police Reform” has always been advertised and was meant to be a full time position, working a 40 hour work week, who is an “at will” employee serving at the pleasure of the Mayor and paying between $155,000 to $185,000 a year. Instead, Keller has appointed a retired Metro Judge who will be working part time, 10 hours a week, as an independent contractor. He is being paid at the rate of $185 an hour not to exceed a total of $100,000 over a full year. He is being paid is 3/4ths and upwards of 2/3rds of the advertised salaried position to work part time. Further, his hourly pay rate of $185 dollars per hour is close to 3 times his hourly pay of $63.28 as a Metro Judge. He will be paid $100,000 in a year as he collects his $98,637 a year judicial pension.
VALDEZ DOES NOT HAVE “PREFERRED KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS” MANDATED IN JOB DESCRIPTION
The published job description for “Superintendent of Police Reform” outlines minimum education and experience requirements, and preferred knowledge, and skills. The postscript to this blog article outlines minimum education and experience requirements, and preferred knowledge, skills and abilities stated in job description for “Superintendent of Police Reform.”
Former Metro Judge Valdez does not have the 10 years or more of “progressively responsible and supervisory experience working in or with law enforcement or other public safety agency”. Valdez has absolutely no experience as a police officer working in both field and investigative units, project management experience, and experience with inter-agency partnerships as outlined in the job description.
Valdez is a retired Metro Judge who was assigned to the criminal division, but has never worked in law enforcement nor for a public safety agency and a court of law does not met the definition. Given the fact that Valdez retired after almost two decades as a Metro Judge presiding over court hearings and making decisions makes it highly probable that Judge Valdez does not have the preferred knowledge outlined in the job description including knowledge of the principles and practices of police reform and constitutional community policing, principles and best practices of law enforcement, principles and practices of crime reduction strategies.
Judge Valdez was a respected Metro Judge. However, Valdez has absolutely no experience in the implementation of federal police reforms anywhere, he has never overseen police internal affairs in any police department, he has never been responsible for police disciplinary matters, functions and processes and he has never dealt with APD academy operations, cadet training and education, all of which are required under the job description for Superintendent of Police Reform.
Judge Victor Valdez credentials for the position of Superintendent of Police Reform are very dubious at best and he is not a good fit for the job. He is essentially an unknown to those involved with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement process. During the last 7 years of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement, Judge Valdez has never attended a single federal court hearing on the CASA. His actual knowledge of the CASA in all likelihood is negligible and he has 7 years of catching up to do when it comes to the 261 mandated reforms.
The rational for Judge Valdez’ appointment as Superintendent of Police Reform is an absolute mystery to many, other than being a political appointment because of his prior work as a Deputy City Attorney working under then City Attorney Bob White who is now Associate Chief Administrative Officer.
The appointment is a far cry from what Mayor Keller declared as a “cutting edge” position. It is nothing more than a blatant “sweet heart deal” to prevent suspension of a PERA judicial retirement. Given the fact the independent contract “scope of duities” falls pathetically short of what is called for in the job description, the actual need for the position is in serious doubt. What is certain is that APD Chief Harold Medina has not relinquished any authority over the department as envisioned by Keller to the Superintendent of Police Reform and Medina remains in full control despite what Keller said when he announced creation of the position which was:
“It was simply unrealistic and a real disservice to the realities of crime and reform to think that one leader can solve all of our challenges. … It just simply takes two in this case.”
The published job description for “Superintendent of Police Reform” outlines minimum education and experience requirements, and preferred knowledge, skills and abilities as follows:
“Minimum Education, Experience And Additional Requirements
- Bachelor’s Degree or higher from an accredited college or university in a law enforcement related field preferred.
- Ten (10) years or more of progressively responsible and supervisory experience working in or with law enforcement or other public safety agency(ies) or equivalent preferred.
- Experience supervising in an organized (union) environment preferred.
- Ability to successfully pass a background investigation.
- Ability to obtain a valid New Mexico Driver’s License.
- Ability to obtain a New Mexico Law Enforcement Certification: Must currently hold a law enforcement certification and be eligible to qualify for the New Mexico Law Enforcement Certification by Waiver course (Non-NM applicants).
- Principles and practices of police reform and constitutional community policing
- Principles and practices of employee disciplinary policies and best practices
- Principles and practices of project management
- Administrative organization principles
- Principles and practices of management and staff supervision.
- Principles and practices of crime reduction strategies
- Contract negotiation and administration
- Conflict resolution techniques
- Principles of budget development and monitoring including development of control measures to remain within budget
- Computer systems and applications
- Principles and techniques for persuasive presentation of ideas and concepts in both oral and written formats
- Municipal government and organization
- Applicable Federal, State and local laws and regulations
- Understanding of collective bargaining agreements
Preferred Skills & Abilities
- Plan and coordinate project work, timelines, roles and responsibilities; establish, evaluate and implement administrative/operational policies, practices and procedures; assess, develop and administer appropriate organizational and staffing structures
- Assess, procure and implement multi-user data collection and analysis systems.
- Supervise and direct multiple and diverse functions
- Prepare, develop and administer a large and complex budget system; negotiate and administer a variety of contracts; employ cost containment strategies
- Develop and maintain positive relationships with community leaders, organizations, businesses and staff; coordinate a variety of projects and activities inter-departmentally and with outside agencies; plan, organize, direct and coordinate a variety of functional specialties and activities with overlapping work areas
- Provide leadership and direction to staff; supervise and direct subordinate professional and support staff; interpret and enforce administrative/operational polices, practices and procedures; analyze and solve problems of a complex nature; maintain departmental and state safety standards
- Analyze complex technical, administrative information and/or telecommunications systems problems, evaluate alternative solutions and recommend or adopt effective courses of action
- Communicate effectively and persuasively; speak in large and small group settings; prepare and analyze comprehensive reports; conduct staff meetings
- Exercise sound independent judgment within general policy guidelines
- Establish and maintain effective work relationships with those contacted in the performance of required duties
- Work effectively with diverse community groups
- Encourage and leverage different perspectives, wisdom and experience of group members
- Develop inclusive solutions
- Cultivate shared responsibility and collective accountability
- Perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation”