About

Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.

Judy Young and Valere McFarland Guest Column: Campus Model Is Better Alternative To “Living Lots” And “Safe Outdoor Spaces”

The Albuquerque City Council is proposing to create two new “land use” zoning areas to allow 2 separate types of city sanctioned homeless encampments in all 9 city council districts for a total of 18 city sanctioned homeless encampments. Both are amendments updating the city’s 2017 Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that regulates residential and commercial zoning development and land use throughout the city.

One is called “living lots” and the other “safe outdoor spaces”. City sanctioned homeless encampments will be permitted in both areas. The “safe outdoor spaces” calls for the creation of government sanctioned homeless campsites where the homeless will be able to sleep and tend to personal hygiene. Under living lots zoning, open space areas would be designated where people would be allowed to sleep overnight in tents, cars or RVs. Empty parking lots and other unused space could be used.

Judy Young and Valere Mcfarland have submitted a guest column for publication. They have not been compensated for their article and have given their permission to publish on www.PeteDinelli.com.

JUDY YOUNG, MA, LMFT, LCDC

Judy Young is a longtime resident of Albuquerque and was born in Gallup, New Mexico. She moved from Albuquerque to Houston, Texas where her parents then resided to assist them in their elder years. When they achieved their dream of returning to Albuquerque, she retired from her position as an educator in Houston and moved to Albuquerque to be their caretaker in their final years.

While in Houston, Texas, she was a teacher and counselor for at-risk youth, many of whom were gang members. She was successful in mentoring many of these students to leave the gang lifestyle. She developed and administered the first prison rehabilitation program in a high security prison in Houston, Texas at the South Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility. The rehabilitation program Judy Young designed and implemented is still used today in Houston and in other prisons in throughout Texas.

Judy Young has a master’s degree in Community Program Development from Columbia University in New York City. Judy holds licenses as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT); and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counsellor (LCDC).While at Columbia, she worked on three very successful strategic projects that were a part of cleaning up NYC. After securing her master’s degree from Columbia, she returned to Albuquerque.

Soon after arriving in Albuquerque, she wrote the $92 million grant that started the Cancer Research and Treatment Center.She has been involved with community affairs for some time and she worked with Phil Chacon and Judy Anderson to fiercely lobby for the first publicly funded domestic violence program in the country. This domestic violence program was considered the flagship for the rest of the country to follow suit of revamping laws and provide protection for victims of domestic violence. Judy Young worked with New Mexico’s first promoter, Frank Crosby, who was widely known for promoting the Unser’s of New Mexico racing fame and representing businesses in the first Home and Sports Shows in New Mexico.

Judy has been actively engaged in the community with East Gateway Coalition, Singing Arrow Neighborhood Association, Women Taking Back Our Neighborhood, Homeless Task Force, Sheriff’s Citizens Academy, Foothills Community Policing Council. She has initiated recommendations that, when followed, significantly reversed the rise in crime. Judy Young is a candidate for Bernalillo County Commission, District 5.

www.youngbernco.com

VALERE MCFARLAND, PH.D.

Valere McFarland, Ph.D., is a former resident of Echo Ridge neighborhood located in in the Northeast heights City Council District 4 represented by City Councilor Brook Bassan. Although currently not a resident of New Mexico, she plans on returning soon and has a very strong interest in crime in Albuquerque because of contacts she still has here. She is a very active member of “Women Taking Back Our Neighborhoods” (WTBON), a group founded in 2018 in Southeast Albuquerque to inform the public and demand greater accountability from elected and other civic leaders for preventing crime on Central Ave., in neighborhoods, and in public parks.

Dr. McFarland holds degrees in gerontology, anthropology, and sociology. Her master’s degree is in education foundations, and political science. Her PhD is in education policy that overlaps to business, medicine, politics. She spent an extra year in her PhD program to gain a certificate in disability studies. She has have worked with the homeless, including disadvantaged youths her entire career. When she was doing her gerontology degree, she worked in a homeless shelter. She has worked for most of her career in education in a Research One university with high at risk of achieving, indigenous populations. During her career she has dealt with issues of poverty and homelessness and has spent a lifetime challenging and confronting unequal treatment of disadvantaged individuals, groups, and populations, through providing access to an equality-based education. She has been an officer and director of for-profit and not-for-profit boards. She is a small business owner and has deep concerns about the impact of crime in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, and all of New Mexico.

JUDY YOUNG AND VALERE MCFARLAND GUEST COLUMN

THE CAMPUS MODEL – A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE TO ENCAMPMENTS AND SAFE OUTDOOR SPACES

As members of Women Taking Back Our Neighborhoods and the Albuquerque community, we are voicing our strong opposition to the Amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances that are scheduled for vote at the City Council meeting on June 6, 2022. These amendments update the city’s 2017 Integrated Development Ordinance to create ‘living lots’ that allow sleeping overnight in tents, cars or RVs, and the other is called ‘safe outdoor spaces’ which are commonly known as ‘encampments.’ These proposed amendments will be voted on at the June 6, 2022, City Council meeting and if approved will alter the lifestyles and property values of Albuquerque residents for decades to come.

BACKGROUND

In preparing this article, we conducted a review of the literature for city sanctioned encampments in four western U.S. cities (results are listed on our complete report attached to this abstract). Cities have learned that this kind of tolerance does not allow them to perform their fiduciary, which is to first protect physical and fiscal safety of their citizenry.

The amendment proposed by Councilor Basson that would allow criminal elements to inhabit our residential neighborhoods raises the questions of:

(a) whether Councilor Basson and the majority council members are honoring their fiduciary to protect the citizens of Albuquerque; and,

(b) whether Councilor Basson and the majority council members recognize that mixing a criminal element with other unsuspecting and unprotected encampment residents would cause an inhumane condition with threats of bodily and psychic damage.

Our review of four western cities (Denver, Honolulu, Salt Lake City and Honolulu) that have implemented sanctioned encampments, with huge levels of support and services that Albuquerque cannot begin to match, has shown that irreparable damage has been sustained by these cities: not just to residents and neighborhoods where sanctioned encampments are placed, but to innocent encampment residents who have been raped, murdered, beaten, robbed and experienced what can only be described as “inhumane treatment” (while being promised safety as residents by city employees as Outreach Workers).

A DISASTER IN THE MAKING

Councilor Basson and council members showing support for her proposal are exhibiting zero accountability to put forth what our review has shown to be a disaster in the making. We reviewed the outcomes of sanctioned encampments in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Honolulu, including their new policy directives for transitional housing such as the Gibson Model, tiny home communities (done the right way); and a community/campus model. The review also includes policies of some 65 cities across the United States who, having recognized the destruction to their citizens from the encroachment of encampments, are implementing ordinances to remove all encampments.

To comply with the 2018 Boise, Idaho federal court decision Martin v. City of Boise 2018 cities must have services that include shelters and beds to accommodate the homeless population. Increasing accommodations and services for homeless bring cities closer toward compliance with Martin v. City of Boise 2018. These programs bring physical and fiscal safety to communities while reducing crime.

Thus, we request that the proposal to sanction dangerous and crime inducing encampments within the City of Albuquerque be withdrawn. If this proposal for zoning changes comes to a vote, we are asking ALL City Councilors to vote ‘NO.’

There is an alternative to this bad idea, and we have outlined it below.

THE CAMPUS MODEL

Albuquerque City’s purchase of the Gibson Medical Center (GMC) with its Gateway Hub has been a significant STEP ONE toward the City’s commitment to comply with the 2018 federal court decision known as Martin v. City of Boise, Idaho that said, ‘cities cannot make it illegal for people to sleep or rest outside without providing sufficient indoor alternatives.’ Albuquerque City is moving toward finding beds for those homeless individuals who are currently residing in unsanctioned encampments.

While Gateway Hub at GMC will be a step in the right direction, it will not be large enough to serve the needs of the homeless population in unsanctioned encampments. The Campus Model provides an additional step as an adjunct to the Gateway Hub at Gibson Medical Center for transitioning to permanent housing. This establishes it as a Viable Alternative to Encampments.

The Campus Model recognizes that there are two categories of homeless individuals: the transit homeless and the local or ‘real’ homeless. The Campus Model is geared to serve the local homeless population. The Campus Model works effectively because it separates the truly local homeless population from the non-local transient population.

The truly homeless are a local population that benefits from services and wishes to better themselves. The transient homeless is a population that travels from city to city, takes advantage of handouts, and has no desire to better themselves. This population consists of those who panhandle and/or commit crimes to feed their drug and/or alcohol addiction. They indeed welcome a handout, but they have no desire to better themselves. Thus, they can destroy a local community.

FIRST STEP: GATEWAY HUB AT GIBSON MEDICAL CENTER.

“The Gibson Medical Center (GMC) is to be an anchor facility to fill healthcare and social service gaps to Albuquerque’s homeless population. The Gateway Center will comprise a portion of the facility to provide a point of entry shelter and services to the homeless. The mission of the Gateway Center will be to “provide a safe and welcoming place that provides a low-barrier, trauma-informed shelter along with services to the homeless using a client-centered approach.”

SECOND STEP: CAMPUS MODEL

This is a viable researched based alternative that has worked in other cities and can serve as an adjunct to the city’s long-range plan to provide services to the homeless by offering a community centered approach to transition individuals who represent the local homeless population to permanent homes.

LOCATION

The CAMPUS MODEL should be located outside the city where larger tracts of land at cheaper prices can be purchased. Two possible locations are: (a) The existing Westside Emergency Housing Center. It is a county/city operated facility, but the city owns the land. The existing building will need to be razed but there is land to utilize while this is being done. (b) A second site may be the Double Eagle II airport where the city also owns large areas of land.

KEY COMPONENTS

The key components to the Campus Model would be as follows:

1. Temporary housing can be expanded to include dormitory style units with community kitchens and bathrooms for singles. Small apartments with separate bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms with accommodations for families or individuals with service animals can be built in a later stage as well.

2. Meals: Provided cafeteria style with volunteers assisting.

3. Medical care will be needed for physical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment and police drop-off. Cost-effective ways to handle some of this can include nurses or physicians assistants staffed seven days, 24-hours. Coordination with Gateway Hub (GMC) can be made for more intensive medical care.

4. Education and job training: Non-profit, education and other providers would be able to work together to deliver comprehensive care services.

5. Community center: Includes a central meeting place for activities such as self-care and community gardening.

NEED

It is clear that the Albuquerque City Council is searching for placements that involve more numbers of homeless individuals than can be accommodated in the planned Gateway Hub at the Gibson Medical Center. The Campus Model will supplement services offered at the Gateway Hub at the GMC, easing a significant gap in available space and services. The proposed sanctioned encampments with a change in zoning to create ‘living lots’ that allow sleeping overnight in tents, cars or RVs, and ‘safe outdoor spaces are destined to fail options and threaten physical and fiscal safety to residences, citizens, and businesses.

BENEFIT

The Campus Model seeks to rehabilitate local homeless and prepare them to reintegrate into society with the dignity of being able to support themselves through employment. The Campus Model supports individuals who choose to work, pay taxes, and participate in a stable civic life. Note: Several cities have directly benefitted from the Campus Model. For example, Houston used an integrative model. San Antonio used the Campus Model.

The benefits of the campus model are identified as follow:

1. Cleans up our parks and recreational sites built for family recreational purposes.

2. Supports businesses within the local economy (where they currently incur the adverse economic impact from homeless and transients).

3. Provides public safety with policies against public intoxication, drugs or alcohol, and where all residents are held accountable. The Campus Model effectively separates the truly local homeless population from non-local transients.

RECOMMENDATIONS

We offer the following four recommendations:

1. The City of Albuquerque needs to conduct and update its own point in time survey.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each year the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country. The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help understand the extent of homelessness at the city, state, regional and national levels. HUD requires that any community receiving federal funding from homeless assistance grant programs conduct an annual count. In even numbered years, only sheltered homeless are surveyed. In odd numbered years, both sheltered and unsheltered homeless are surveyed. Only those homeless people who can be located and who agree to participate in the survey are counted. The PIT count is viewed as a single night snapshot of homeless people and it is understood to be an undercount. The City of Albuquerque contracts with The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness to conduct the annual “Point in Time” (PIT). In even-numbered years, only homeless people who stay in shelters are counted. The PIT count represents the number of homeless people who are counted on one particular night. This year’s count occurred from January 26 to February 1.

https://www.cabq.gov/family/documents/2019-albuquerque-pit-count-final.pdf

There exists a strong rationale and fiscal support for a PIT survey to be conducted by the city. Any survey of need must first address the target population. The target population for all of the current piecemeal projects is local homeless. To miss the target population is to miss the mark with devastating results. The city needs to do its own ‘Point in Time’ survey and get an accurate count of homeless living on the street and camping. The new Albuquerque Community Safety department could do the survey. This could start with Coronado Park and the downtown areas of concentration and come up with numbers in each city council district.

In fiscal year 2021, the Keller Administration created the Department (ACS) with an initial budget of $2.5 million. The ACS consists of social workers and mental health care workers to deal with those suffering from a mental health crisis or drug addiction crisis and they are dispatched in lieu of sworn police or fire emergency medical paramedics. The Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) dispatches trained and unarmed professionals to respond to 9-1-1 calls that do not require a police or paramedic response. ACS is taking hundreds of calls per month, easing the burden on police and paramedics and improving outcomes on behavioral health calls. The Fiscal Year 2023 enacted budget for ACS is for $15 million to provide funding to add 74 new positions to make it a 24/7 round-the-clock operation across the city. Thus, PIT funding and staff support are available.

2. All city council members must either vote ‘no’ or withdraw the proposed amendments to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance that would create ‘living lots’ and ‘safe outdoor spaces.’ note: the meeting for the scheduled vote has been set for June 6, 2022.

3. City council approval of resolution calling for the implementation of the campus model at the westside emergency housing center, double eagle ii airport, or another suitable location conducive to campus model location requirements (outside the city parameters to prevent access to prior influences).

4. Use the $950,000 amount that was budgeted may 16, 2002 for unapproved ‘living lots’ and ‘safe outdoor spaces’ to begin campus model site prep and construction

5. Appoint a professionally mediated emergency homelessness task force to include citizens who have worked directly ‘on-the-ground with the Albuquerque homeless population.

SUMMARY

Albuquerque is at a critical crossroads. The City can either choose to instill a program of harm for decades and generations to come, or it can choose one of ‘short term pain for long term gain.’ The latter entails carefully building a comprehensive Campus Model with an integrative program for the real homeless. Instead of following a path that will lead to certain harm to residents and neighborhoods, we offer a working alternative with the Campus Model. Recommendations and working solutions to homelessness are multi-layered.

We recognize that there is a population that has barriers to obtaining services and housing. However, the priority of government leaders in Albuquerque – as it is in any city – is the physical and fiscal safety of the residents, including those locals who are homeless. This is called a ‘fiduciary’ and is inherent in a representative democracy.

We want to trust that it is a given that our safety is paramount to our elected officials. We cannot nor should we have to examine our leaders in the way they make decisions. But with the proposal to amend zoning to accommodate encampments within our neighborhoods and the lineup of votes supporting the proposal, what are we to think about these elected officials’ view of our safety?

The City Council has approved some $950,000 in the May 16, 2022 budget for the not yet approved Amendments for encampments and safe places. This money can be transferred to the Campus Model program to begin construction. We say ‘STOP’ now and put on the brakes to an idea that has been proven to not work. Encampments are a danger to our community and are unwanted!

Respectfully,

Judy Young, MA, LMFT, LCDC
Valere McFarland, Ph.D

DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Research shows that housing is the most effective approach to end homelessness with a much larger return on investment than offering government sanctioned encampments and “tent cities”. Given the millions the city is spending each year, it needs to continue with the approach of offering programs, building shelter space and making beds available for its homeless population.

CITY MEETING MORAL OBLIGATION TO HELP HOMELESS

The city has a moral obligation to help the homeless, especially those who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction. The city is in fact meeting that moral obligation with the city spending upwards of $114 Million with housing assistance vouchers, mental health care services and shelter for the homeless.

Albuquerque is making a huge financial commitment to help the homeless. Last year, it spent upwards of $40 million to benefit the homeless in housing and services. The 2023 proposed budget significantly increases funding for the homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915. The city contracts with 10 separate homeless service providers throughout the city and it funds the Westside 24-7 homeless shelter.

The city has bought the 572,000-square-foot Lovelace Hospital Complex on Gibson for $15 million that currently has space of 200 beds or more and transforming it into the Gateway Center Homeless shelter. City officials have said that the city is expected to launch multiple services on the property this winter, including a 50-bed women’s shelter, a sobering center and a space designed to deliver “medical respite” care for individuals who would have no place other than a hospital to recover from illnesses and injury.

The massive facility could be remodeled even further to house the homeless and convert offices, treating rooms, operating rooms and treatment rooms into temporary housing accommodations. The onsite auditorium and cafeteria could also be utilized for counseling and feeding programs from service providers.

ENFORCE THE LAW

Government officials who want to establish government sanction encampments have a hard time dealing with the facts that many homeless adults simply want to live their life as they choose, where they want to camp for as long as they can get away with it, without any government nor family interference and especially no government rules and no regulations.

The city cannot just ignore and not enforce its anti-camping ordinances, vagrancy laws, civil nuisance laws and criminal laws nor pretend they simply do not exist. Squatters who have no interest in any offers of shelter, beds, motel vouchers or alternatives to living on the street really give the city no choice but to make it totally inconvenient for them to “squat” anywhere they want and force them to move on. After repeated attempts to force them to move on and citations arrests are in order.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Providing a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve themselves, bathe and sleep at night with rules they do not want nor will likely follow is not the answer to the homeless crisis. The answer is to provide the support services, including food and lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around, become productive self-sufficient citizens, no longer dependent on relatives or others.

TELL COUNCIL TO VOTE NO

“Safe outdoor spaces” and “living lots” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. Both will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city efforts to manage the homeless through housing. The public needs to make their opinions known and tell the city council to reject both zoning allowances.

The public needs to voice their opinions and tell the city council to reject both zoning allowances.
The email address to contact each city councilor and the Director of Counsel services are as follows:

lesanchez@cabq.gov

louiesanchez@allstate.com

ibenton@cabq.gov

kpena@cabq.gov

bbassan@cabq.gov

danlewis@cabq.gov

LEWISABQ@GMAIL.COM

patdavis@cabq.gov

tfiebelkorn@cabq.gov

trudyjones@cabq.gov

rgrout@cabq.gov

lrummler@cabq.gov

City Councilor Dan Lewis’ Vote Opposing Funding For Planned Parenthood A Sign Of Things To Come To Try And Deny A Woman’s Right to Choose; New Mexico Legislature Should Call Special Session And Codify Woman’s Health Care Right’s And Right To Choose

On May 16, the Albuquerque City Council voted 7 to 2 to approve the 2022-2023 city budget. The overall budget approved by the Albuquerque City council is for $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund Appropriations. The budget approved by the council was increased by 20% over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022.

The council approved the budget on a 7-2 vote with Democrat City Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton, Klarisa Pena, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Louie Sanchez and Republicans Brook Basaan and Trudy Jones voting YES and Republicans Dan Lewis and Renee Grout voting NO. The fiscal year begins on July 1, 2022 and will end on June 30, 2023.

LEWIS CHANGES A VOTE

Initially, the city council had voted 8 to 1 to approve the $857 million General Fund budget that was part of the entire $1.4 billion budget. When the initial vote to approve the budget was taken, the City Council adjourned for a short recess for its customary “dinner break”.

Upon reconvening after the dinner break, City Councilor Dan Lewis announced that although he did not want to change his “NO” vote on the entire budget, he wanted to change his vote to correct his vote allocating $250,000 to a Planned Parenthood of New Mexico sponsorship that was sponsored by City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn.

Under parliamentary procedure rules followed by the City Council, only a counselor who voted in favor of the passage of a measure can move for consideration of that measure, in this case the entire budget. Republican Councilor Renee Grout, having initially voted for the budget, moved to reconsider the budget vote to allow Lewis to correct and vote NO for allocating $250,000 to a Planned Parenthood of New Mexico sponsorship.

Ostensibly, during the City Council dinner break, Dan Lewis was able to convince Republican Renee Grout to move to reconsider the vote on the budget, which she did once the council reconvened. Dan Lewis did not change his NO vote on the budget but rather correct his vote for allocating $250,000 to Planned Parenthood of New Mexico. Lewis was among the six councilors who had approved Democrat Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn’s amendment to include the Planned Parenthood funding in the budget.

Dan Lewis offered an explanation for his seeking to reconsider the vote on the Planned Parenthood of New Mexico sponsorship and said this:

“I was honestly looking at another amendment when we voted on this and just want to change my vote on the record.”

The budget amendment passed again on a 6 to 3 vote with Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones, who had initially voted against it, supporting its passage when it was voted upon again. The budget also repassed on a 7 to 2 vote, with Republican Renee Grout joining Lewes in opposing the passage of the budget. in the do-over.

Fiebelkorn celebrated the approval of the funding of Planned Parenthood and had this to say in a written statement:

“These funds support our local Planned Parenthood clinic to ensure that all Albuquerque women have access to family planning, abortion, and other reproductive health services. ”

The link to the quoted news source is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2501616/lewis-moves-to-correct-planned-parenthood-vote.html

LEWIS COMPLAINS ABOUT BUDGET ENACTEMENT

After the May 16 City Council meeting approving the $1.4 billion dollar budget, City Councilor Dan Lewis said in an interview that he could not support appropriating $100 million in additional revenues and that was the reason for voting NO on the budget, Lewis had this to say:

“I just disagree with the entire budget. … I think it could have been done a lot better.”

Dan Lewis failed to provide specific examples of departments or programs he felt should not be funded or that were given too much money in the approved budget.

The only appropriation Lewis singled out and objected to was the $250,000 council sponsorship of Planned Parenthood, no doubt because he is “prolife” and is opposed to Plan Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose.

Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis mouthing off and saying “I just disagree with the entire budget. … I think it could have been done a lot better” amounts to nothing more than meritless, self-righteous indignation and laziness on his part.

If Dan Lewis had a problem with the city budget, he should have offered amendments to voice his concerns and make cuts or require further approval from the City Council, but no, he just wanted to complain for the sake of complaining and for publicity.

Lewis is no neophyte to the City Council. He has just begun his third term on the city council after a 4-year absence caused by him losing his run for Mayor in 2017 in a landslide to Tim Keller.

Lewis has served as the City Council Budget Chair in the past and knows full well that he could have just as easily instructed the council to draft a proposed “substitute budget” to his liking, or sponsored amendments to the proposed budget, but that would have required effort and some work on his part.

The blunt truth is Dan Lewis could have NOT have done a better job with the budget and he just wants to complain for publicity’s sake.

Dan Lewis has already made it known privately to supporters he is running for Mayor again in 2025. His voting NO on the budget amounts to nothing more than his continuing obstructionists’ tactics he is known for since assuming office on January 1 to carry out his personal vendetta against Tim Keller.

REPEAL OF 1969 ABORTION BAN

On Friday, February 26, 2021 Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill repealing the 1969 abortion ban. The 1969 law criminalized abortion to end a woman’s pregnancy except in certain circumstances, such as rape and incest. The 1969 state statute was not enforced in the state due to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v Wade in the 1970s, which legalized abortion nationwide.

The repeal of the 1969 law was necessitated by the fact repeated attempts have been made over the years to have the United States Supreme Court reverse the decision of Roe v Wade. With the appointment of 3 very conservative supreme justices over the last 4 years, the reversal of Roe v. Wade is became more and more likely by the Supreme Court, in which case New Mexico’s 1969 law would again become law in the state.

In a statement, Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say:

“A woman has the right to make decisions about her own body. Anyone who seeks to violate bodily integrity, or to criminalize womanhood, is in the business of dehumanization. New Mexico is not in that business – not anymore. Our state statutes now reflect this inviolable recognition of humanity and dignity. I am incredibly grateful to the tireless advocates and legislators who fought through relentless misinformation and fear-mongering to make this day a reality. Equality for all, equal justice and equal treatment – that’s the standard. And I’m proud to lead a state that today moved one step closer to that standard.”

https://www.koat.com/article/gov-lujan-grisham-signs-abortion-bill-repealing-decades-old-ban/35651457

REPEAL CRITICIZED AND DEFENDED

Republican State Senator Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, said the bill’s passage was not a win for women, but for abortion providers and said:

“With the stroke of her pen, the governor has weakened standards of care for women, stripped conscience protections for medical professionals and given the abortion industry unchecked power to operate under the radar in our state. ”

Supporters of the repeal pushed back hard on the claim arguing other medical conscience protections in state and federal law will remain in place. In addition, advocates for the repeal of the 1969 law criminalizing abortion was statute of a highly sexist era.

https://www.abqjournal.com/2363746/governor-signs-bill-repealing-abortion-ban-into-law.html

LEAKED UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT DECISION REVERSING ROE V. WADE

On May 3, 2022 the on line publication POLITICAL reported that the United Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO. The draft opinion is a full-throttled, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey that largely maintained the right.

In the leaked draft of the decision Justice Alito writes

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. … It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Quoting the POLITICAL report:

“The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.

No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. The unprecedented revelation is bound to intensify the debate over what was already the most controversial case on the docket this term.

A person familiar with the court’s deliberations said that four of the other Republican-appointed justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — had voted with Alito in the conference held among the justices after hearing oral arguments in December.

The three Democratic-appointed justices — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — are working on one or more dissents, according to the person. How Chief Justice John Roberts will ultimately vote, and whether he will join an already written opinion or draft his own, is unclear.

The document, labeled as a first draft of the majority opinion, includes a notation that it was circulated among the justices on Feb. 10. If the Alito draft is adopted, it would rule in favor of Mississippi in the closely watched case over that state’s attempt to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.”

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/supreme-court-abortion-draft-opinion-00029473

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

If the United States Supreme Court does in fact reverse Roe v. Wade as is anticipated sometime soon and makes abortion an issue and a right for states to decide, no one should be surprised if Dan Lewis introduces a city council resolution that would prohibit abortions from being conducted within the city limits. It is also likely other communities in the state will do the same.

City Council and County Commission resolutions could call for prohibiting the issuance of licenses to do business to any health care provider that provide abortions. Failure to have a business license would allow government action to shut them down.

As it stands, abortions in New Mexico are now legal with the repeal of 1969 criminal law. However, abortion is already an issue in the Governor’s race with one Republican candidate running on outlawing abortion as her sole platform.

Once the final Supreme Court ruling is issued that in fact reverses Roe v. Wade, the Governor and the New Mexico legislature need to convene a special session and enact a Woman’s Health Care Act codifying Roe v. Wade confirming a woman’s right to choose and prohibiting any government within the state placing any limitations on a woman’s right to choose.

Flip Flopping Poll Numbers, Nasty Commercials, Contentious Debate Mar Race Between Brian Colón And Raúl Torrez For Attorney General; Another Poll, Another Debate; Race Considered “Toss Up”

You know a race is tight when candidates for office raise millions, exchange negative ads, different polls show a different leader and the candidates get highly personal in debates. Such is the status of the race for attorney general between Democrats State Auditor Brian Colón and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez. The primary election is on June 7, 2022 and early voting has already begun.

FLIP FLOPPING POLLS

On March 5, nearly 1,000 Democrats attended the Democratic Pre-Primary Convention and cast their voted for the office of Attorney General of New Mexico and the vote was as follows:

Brian Colón – 61.46%
Raúl Torrez – 38.54%

https://nmdemocrats.org/news/dpnm-releases-results-of-2022-pre-primary-convention-voting/

After the March 5 Democratic convention, Colón was considered to be the clear front runner in the race for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. The race for Attorney General was considered Colón’s race to lose. That is no longer the case and the race now appears to be a tossup with two polls showing different results and reflecting a 10 point spread. .

KOB CHANNEL 4 POLL

On May 12, KOB Channel 4 released a poll it commissioned with Survey USA in the Democratic primary race for Attorney General. SurveyUSA conducts market research for corporations and interest groups, but is best known for conducting opinion polls for various political offices and questions for television stations.

The SurveyUSA poll was conducted from April 29 to May The state wide survey was conducted of 583 likely registered Democratic voters and has a plus or minus margin of error of 5.7%. The results of the poll did not come as a surprise to many political observers given the negative advertising by Raúl Torrez.

The SurveyUSA poll results were as follows:

Undecided: 38%
Raúl Torrez: 34%
Brian Colón: 28%

The link to the quoted KOB news story is here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/many-voters-yet-to-take-sides-for-ag-as-torrez-holds-narrow-lead-over-colon/

The link to the Survey USA poll is here:

https://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=cab29a11-f2f6-4985-9cfa-6f437e314c34

LAKE RESEARCH POLL

On May 25, it was revealed that the Brian Colón campaign had commissioned a poll by Lake Research Partners. Lake Research Partners is a national public opinion and political strategy research firm founded in 1995. The polling firm is considered “progressive” and consistently accurate. It prides itself in being a woman-owned small business with a commitment to diversity working only for pro-choice candidates. For three consecutive cycles, fivethirtyeight.com rated Lake Research at the top of all Democratic polling firms in terms of accuracy. In New Mexico, Lake Research Partners is very well known and has been heavily relied upon in election cycles because of its accuracy.

https://www.lakeresearch.com/

The Lake Research poll was taken May 12 to 15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%. The poll used in-person phone calls to 500 likely voters. The Lake Research poll finds Colón is leading in all geographic areas including Bernalillo County, where both Colón and Torrez call home.

The Lake Research Poll results are as follows:

Undecided: 28%
Brian Colón: 35%
Raúl Torrez: 31%

NEGATIVE TV ADS BY BOTH CANIDATES

With less than 2 weeks before the June 7 primary, both Raúl Torrez and Brian Colón have commenced negative campaign ads against each other.

RAÚL TORREZ

In early April, and before Brian Colón began his TV Ads, Raúl Torrez began a relentless and aggressive TV media campaign that repeatedly hammered and faulted Colón as a “career politician” who lacks “experience in public safety.” Torrez was able to secure the endorsement of Democrat Senator Martin Heinrich who went so far as to do a TV commercial for Torrez saying we need an experienced prosecutor and that Torrez had his vote. Torrez has run a slick advertising campaign running at least 4 sperate commercials featuring him alone and negative ads against Colón. The TV stations first ran Torrez campaign ads then ran unrelated commercials followed with commercials featuring Senator Martin Heinrich endorsing Torres.

THE HEINRICH FACTOR

Historically, United Senators stay out of party contested races, but not Martin Heinrich who has now made it a habit of endorsing as many Democrats in contested races as he can. It is well known that Heinrich is said to be planning on running for Governor in 4 years. Heinrich has in fact moved his family back to New Mexico enrolling his two sons in the Albuquerque Public Schools and his wife securing a job working in Santa Fe for Meow Wolf. Heinrich likely views Colón as running for Governor in 4 years after serving as Attorney General and he likely feels that it is better to defeat Colón’ now to end Colón’s political career than to deal with him in 4 years. One thing is for certain, Martin Heinrich has done himself no favors getting involved with so many contested Democratic races to the point there is now talk that he may find himself on the receiving end of a Democrat opposing him in the 2024 election cycle.

Both Torrez and Heinrich are being disingenuous when they say being a criminal prosecutor is a qualification to be Attorney General. Ostensibly they are ignorant to the fact that former Democrat New Mexico Attorney Generals Tony Anaya, Jeff Bingaman, Paul Bardacke, Gary King and Republican Hal Stratton were never criminal prosecutors or for that matter elected District Attorneys with all being in the private practice of law as civil trial attorneys before becoming Attorney General. Attorney General Patricia Madrid was in private practice and was a District Judge before being elected Attorney General.

On May 24, Raúl Torrez began to run the most negative campaign ad of the election thus far. The ad is as dramatic as it is very misleading. It is a 30 second commercial and has the mother of UNM baseball player Jackson Weller, who was killed Darian Bashir outside a Nob Hill bar in 2019, appearing on camera telling Brian Colon to stop lying about the record of Raul Torrez and that Torrez convicted Brashir and who was sentenced to life in prison. Two years before the murder of Jackson Weller, Bashir was arrested for killing another man outside a downtown bar. Although Bashir was charged with the first murder, he never went to trial in that case. A District Court Judge found that the office of District Attorney Raúl Torrez failed to comply with court ordered deadlines, did not interview witnesses on time, and did not respond to motions and the case was dismissed and has since been refiled with Brashire awaiting trial on the first case.

BRIAN COLÓN

Brian Colón thus far has had 5 separate campaign commercials. The first was an emotional one where Colón describes his personal struggles, being raised in poverty and having to hock his dad’s wedding ring. In the second ad, Colón talks about a “shield and sword” approach to prosecutions and protecting the general public. Although well produced, both of Colón’s ads were considered by political observers as weak and ineffective with the “shield and sword” ad bordering on juvenile.

Colón’s 3rd, 4th and 5th ads are far more effective TV ads. Colón goes negative for the first time and goes into great detail about Torrez’s “failed prosecution rates” as Bernalillo County District Attorney. The ads use images of UNM baseball player Jackson Weller and 10 year old Victoria Martins. Statistics prepared by the District Court reveal the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office under Raúl Torrez has a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charge by grand juries.

At least 2 political campaign mailers have been produced by a political action committee (PAC) that opposes Raúl Torrez and that takes Torrez to task for his historically low conviction rates and botching criminal violent crimes cases. The flyers use images of 10 year old Victoria Martens. Brian Colón for his part has distanced himself from the PAC and has gone so far as to condemn it.

THINGS TO COME

Confidential sources are saying that the Colón campaign is producing a TV ad challenging the ethics of Raúl Torrez and alleging prosecutorial misconduct when he was an Assistant United States Attorney for New Mexico. In 2012, United States Federal Judge Cristina Armijo accused then Assistant United States Attorney Raúl Torrez prosecuting a drug case and trying to “unfairly alter” a transcript of a recorded encounter between drug agents and an Amtrak train passenger suspected of carrying a large quantity of crack cocaine.

At the center of the controversy was Raúl Torrez asking 2 Federal law enforcement agents to review a transcript of a recording that was found “inaudible”. Instead of calling them as witnesses to testify under oath, Torrez asked the federal agents to make changes to the transcript based on their recollection of what was said and what occurred. Torrez then had a new transcript prepared that combined their changes and informed the judge during the hearing that he wasn’t offering it as evidence but an “aid” for listening to the recording. Defense counsel objected, telling the judge “They’re trying to make an illegal search legal by making changes in the transcript.” The court agreed with the defense and entered an order.

Judge Armijo wrote in her original order:

“Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the Government attempted to unfairly alter the content of the official transcript and thus the substance of what is purported to be represented on the audio recording in the case. Specifically, the Court finds that the Government attempted to take advantage of the obviously poor quality of the audio recording and the chaotic environment in the train car by having its witnesses … make substantive changes to the official transcription of the recording in a manner that favored the government’s case.”

After entry of the order, the United State Attorney filed a motion asking Judge Armijo to withdraw her findings about Torrez and requested that the original order and the language be deleted. Armijo honored the request and also deleted other language that faulted the testimony of the 2 drug agents during the suppression hearing as being “colored or influenced by the government’s efforts.” The day after Judge Armijo filed her amended ruling, the United States Attorney office dismissed the felony drug possession case against the Defendant.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Raúl Torrez and Brian Colón have raised more than $2.5 million combined in there race to become Attorney General. The race is now clearly one of the most expensive races for Attorney General in the state’s history.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, both Raúl Torrez and Brian Colón have been given big contributions from attorneys and law firms throughout the State and country. Colón has reported contributions of over $1.5 million, while Torrez has raised over $1.07 million.

Both have each contributed more than $300,000 left over from campaign committees associated with their current elected positions. Torrez contributed $323,238 from his DA’s political committee to his AG race. Colón transferred $379,938 from his auditor’s race funds to his current campaign.

The links to quoted source material are here:

https://login.cfis.sos.state.nm.us//Files/ReportsOutput//103/9cdc8f33-a7c2-4d02-b820-fed384501751.pdf

https://login.cfis.sos.state.nm.us//Files/ReportsOutput//103/9be8522e-f6b5-47ea-8503-8cfb1f143895.pdf

https://www.abqjournal.com/2501721/ag-campaigns-rake-in-big-bucks.html

COLÓN CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

According to the latest campaign finance reports, Colón has collected more than $1 million in campaign funds between April and October of last year. Colón has been given sizeable financial support from out-of-state law firms and attorneys in national firms. The political campaign committee of current Attorney General Hector Balderas, who is term limited, contributed a total of $10,000 to Colón.

Colón’s top contributors include national firms that have represented or are currently representing the Attorney General’s Office in complex civil litigation. The Colón’ campaign reported receiving a total of $23,333 from five attorneys with the national firm of DiCello Levitt Gutzler, which is representing New Mexico in a state district court case against pharmaceutical company AbbVie Inc. and its affiliates, which are accused of deceptive marketing of a testosterone replacement drug.

Other out-of-state contributors to Colón include the Delaware-headquartered law firm of Grant & Eisenhofer, which contributed $5,000, with three of its attorneys contributing $20,000. The national firm, Robins Cloud, contributed $10,400, with partner Bill Robins of Houston adding $10,400.

Energy company Chevron contributed $10,400 to Brian Colón’s campaign and Santa Fe attorney Dan Perry contributed $10,000. Colorado attorneys Franklin and Margeaux Azar contributed a total of $20,000.

Colón had $911,546 cash on hand at the end of the May 9 reporting period. As of May 9, Colón reported spending $589,242. Most of the spending has gone to political consultants and to make media buys.

The link to the most recent Campaign Finance Reports for Brian Colón is here:

https://login.cfis.sos.state.nm.us//Files/ReportsOutput//103/9cdc8f33-a7c2-4d02-b820-fed384501751.pdf

TORREZ CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

Torrez has attracted significant contributions from in-state lawyers. Torrez reported contributions of $636,772 between April and October of last year.

Torrez’s top contributors includ the following:

Sector Solutions LLC, of Santa Fe, $10,400; Marrs Griebel Law and attorney Patrick Griebel, for a total of $10,400; James and Emily Pluhar, $10,000; and Bob Pitre, $5,200. SSIG LLC, an investment company in Washington state, contributed $10,400, according to finance reports. Torrez has received campaign donations from criminal defense attorneys who have pending cases with Torrez’s office.

As of May 9, Torrez’s expenditures totaled $694,511. Most of the spending was to pay political consultants and make media buys. As of May 9, the Torrez’s campaign reported having $382,305.

The link to the most recent Campaign Finance Reports for Raúl Torrez is here:

https://login.cfis.sos.state.nm.us//Files/ReportsOutput//103/9be8522e-f6b5-47ea-8503-8cfb1f143895.pdf

KRQE-TV 13 HEATED DEBATE

On May 9, a one-hour debate occurred on KRQE-TV. The debate was spirited. Both candidates engaged in highly personal attacks.

Torrez faulted Colón as a “career politician” who lacks “experience in public safety.” Torrez said of Colon:

“One of the things that defines this race is whether you want a career prosecutor or a career politician. … He has not prosecuted a single case, not even a parking ticket. … You know I saw Mr. Colon at the round house taking selfies with his friends, taking selfies with the Speaker [of the House]. I never heard him speak up, I never heard him step out and support publicly our fight and the governor’s fight for “rebuttable presumption”. That’s the difference between a career prosecutor and somebody who lives and dies with politics.”

The “Reputable presumption” legislation was where a defendant who is charged with a violent crime is presumed to be a threat to the public and should be jailed until pending trial without bond or any conditions of release.

Brian Colón for his part call out Torrez for his “failed prosecution rates” and said this about Torrez:

“What my opponent has is a failed track record of prosecution. A lifelong career as a prosecutor, yet at the end of the day, the numbers are abysmal. Our community is less safe than it has ever been before. … The best way to get Torrez to the office is to have a T.V. camera present. … At some point you gotta quite pointing fingers, ya gotta take responsibility. … I’ve got a failed prosecutor standing beside me. … At the end of the day, we’re not safe.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2017, District Attorney Raul Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller wrote a joint letter to the New Mexico Supreme Court requesting it to intervene and stop the plans of 2nd Judicial District Court to shift away from the use of grand jury system to a preliminary hearing system. Torrez accused the District Court of being the cause of the city’s high crime rates by dismissing cases. The District Court responded by providing an extensive amount of statistics, bar graphs and pie charts to the New Mexico Supreme Court. The statistics prepared by the District Court revealed the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office under Raul Torrez has a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charge by grand juries.

A link to a related blog article on the KRQE debate is here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2022/05/11/democrat-attorney-general-candidates-get-personal-and-pummeled-each-other-in-krqe-debate-debate-revealed-one-angry-self-righteous-politician-the-other-a-dedicated-public-servant-at-end/

NOT SO HEATED KOAT TV-7 DEBATE

On Wednesday, May 25 KOAT TV, Channel 7 sponsored a 30 minute live debate debate between Brian Colón And Raúl Torrez. The debate was a low key affair with neither candidate making any major mistakes.

No at all surprising, the mass shooting of the 19 children and two teachers that occurred at the Texas elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 and gun control was the first topic of discussion. Both candidates said New Mexico needs new gun control legislation, more enforcement resources for gun safety, or both. Brian Colón said he supports legislation to ensure safe gun storage proposed by legislators including state Rep. Pamelya Herndon of Albuquerque. Raúl Torrez said law enforcement agencies need greater funding and training to harness New Mexico’s 2020 “red flag” law that allows police or sheriff’s deputies to ask a court to temporarily take away guns from people who might hurt themselves or others.

Raúl Torrez continued his assault on Colón as having never prosecuted a criminal cases with at least one cheap shot referencing Colón saying he prosecuted a case in the law school clinical program. Colón brushed the criticism aside saying his experience as a civil attorney with 21 years experience is the type of diversified expierence the office demands and needs something Torrez lacks. Both candidates went into the weeds when the need for out of state contracts for specialized attorneys was discussed. Torrez called it “pay to play” and said the work should be done “in-house” while Colón pointing out it’s a practice embraced by prior Attorney Generals. The only saving grace of the debate was that it lasted for only 30 minutes and not the customary hour for such debates. The link to watch the full debate is here:

https://www.koat.com/article/new-mexico-attorney-general-primary-debate/40109873

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The Office of New Mexico Attorney General historically is considered by many as the “people’s attorney.” Elected Attorney Generals have gone onto higher office including Toney Anaya who was later elected Governor, Jeff Bingaman who was later elected United States Senator and Tom Udall who was also later elected United States Senator.

Brian Colón has more at stake given that his term is ending as State Auditor while Raúl Torrez will have two years left of his term as District Attorney should he lose the Attorney General’s race. Elected Attorney Generals have gone onto higher office including Toney Anaya who was later elected Governor, Jeff Bingaman who was later elected United States Senator and Tom Udall who was later elected United States Senator.

The race between both Colón and Torrez was bound to be hard fought in that both have expressed they are interested in eventually becoming Governor or going on to serve in congress. Both State Auditor Brian Colón and District Attorney Raúl Torrez are well-funded and their personal attacks on each other will likely continue until election day.

Given the back-and-forth poll numbers, the margin of error of both polls, the high number of “undecideds”, the amount of money being raised and spent, the race for Attorney General is considered by political observers as a “toss up”. Anything can happen that could change the dynamics of the race and have a major impact on the number of undecides. The May 25 debate could easily change the dynamics of the race.

Only 4 Republicans have been elected Attorney General in New Mexico’s 110-year history. In the 2022 election, Republican Jeremy Gay, a Gallup Attorney has no primary opposition.

It is likely whoever wins the Democratic Primary on June 7, 2022 will likely become the next Attorney General.

Comparing The Records Of Raúl Torrez and Brian Colón As They Run For NM Attorney General

Democrats New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez are running against each other for New Mexico Attorney General. The primary election is on June 7, 2022. This blog article in an in-depth report on the records of both candidates.

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Office of the Attorney General is one of 7 independently elected statewide offices in New Mexico. The Office was established by the State Constitution in 1912.

The Attorney General and the Department of Justice, collectively referred to as the Office of the Attorney General, represent and defend the legal interests and sovereignty of the people of the State of New Mexico. The Office of Attorney General exercises the responsibilities delegated by the New Mexico Constitution, statutes enacted by the New Mexico Legislature, and the common law.

The Attorney General has primary authority for enforcement of consumer protection and antitrust laws, prosecution of criminal appeals and some complex white-collar crimes, training and certification of peace officers, and most natural resource and environmental matters. The attorney general represents the state’s interests in civil litigation, criminal appeals, consumer protection, federal litigation, environmental issues, disputes with other states, enforcement of state compacts and even counterfeit Native American jewelry.

Additionally, the Office of the Attorney General works concurrently with New Mexico’s 13 district attorneys and other local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to carry out its criminal justice responsibilities and activities. Despite popular belief, the Attorney General is not primarily responsible for the prosecution for violations of the criminal code. Primary responsibility for prosecuting under the criminal code is the responsibility of the local, elected district attorneys. The District Attorney’s have first authority to prosecute cases that occur in their jurisdiction and not the Attorney General unless requested to do so by the district attorney or if the District Attorney refuses to act or is somehow disqualified because of conflicts of interests.

The Attorney General is the chief legal counsel and advisor to the executive branch of state government including all executive departments and to the many state agencies, boards, and commissions. The Office of the Attorney General delivers its responsibilities within an approximately $18-22 million budget appropriation through its team of approximately 200 employees.

The link to quoted source is here:

https://www.nmag.gov/about-the-oag.aspx#:~:text=The%20Attorney%20General%20has%20primary,natural%20resource%20and%20environmental%20matters.

EDITOR’S COMMENTARY: Both Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez and Democrat United State Senator Martin Heinrich, who has endorsed Raúl Torrez and who has appeared in commercials for Torrez, are critical of Brian Colón saying he has never prosecuted a criminal case, ignoring Colón has practiced law for 21 years. They are both being disingenuous when they say being a criminal prosecutor is a qualification to be Attorney General.

The office is by far more civil law in nature and not criminal prosecutions. Both ostensibly are ignorant to the fact that former Democrat New Mexico Attorney Generals Tony Anaya, Jeff Bingaman, Paul Bardacke, Gary King and Republican Hal Stratton were never criminal prosecutors or for that matter elected District Attorneys with all being in the private practice of law as civil trial attorneys before becoming Attorney General. Attorney General Patricia Madrid was in private practice and was a District Judge before being elected Attorney General.

BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY RAÚL TORREZ

On Monday, May 17, Democrat Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced that he is running for New Mexico Attorney General.

In his announcement, Torrez, 45, had this to say:

“New Mexicans are looking for somebody who’s a fighter in the attorney general’s office and someone who has real experience to take on the job. If you look at the work that we’ve done inside the district attorney’s office, we’ve been able to secure additional resources, modernize that office, transform how it operates, bringing frankly new capabilities that no one had ever envisioned.

I think New Mexicans want bold leadership and tested leadership inside the AG’s Office. … I think they want someone who isn’t afraid to take on some of the toughest challenges we’ve got in the state.

Fundamentally, I believe we don’t have a system right now that provides adequate protections for the general public. … It’s undeniable that we’ve got a very serious public safety challenge in Albuquerque. … Violent crime is unacceptably high, murders are extraordinarily high.

But what we need right now are individuals with experience in different systems, and who have worked as prosecutors and police leaders, who can draw on ideas from around the nation and try and move this community in a new direction. And I think I bring that to the table.”

Links to news sources are here:

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/district-attorney-raul-torrez-to-run-for-attorney-general/

https://www.abqjournal.com/2391604/district-attorney-torrez-enters-race-for-ag.htmlbI

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Raúl Torres was born and raised in Albuquerque. He is the son of long time Assistant United States Attorney for New Mexico Pres Torres. He is married to Nasha Torrez, who is also an attorney, and the couple have two teenage children.

Raul Torrez went to Sandia Preparatory School, graduated from Harvard University, went on to receive a master’s degree from the London school of Economics, and attained his law degree from Stanford University and went on to be a White House Fellow under President Barrack Obama before coming back to New Mexico to become an Assistant United States Attorney. In 2016, Torrez ran to for Bernalillo County District Attorney and succeeded District Attorney Kari Brandenburg who served as DA for 16 years. Torrez was elected to second term on November 5, 2020.

EXAMINNG THE RECORD OF RAUL TORREZ AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY

District Attorney Raúl Torrez is very well known for his attacks on the criminal justice system proclaiming that it is a “broken criminal justice system”. During his first term as Bernalillo County District Attorney, Raúl Torrez attacked the New Mexico criminal justice system and judges on 3 major fronts:

FIRST: TORREZ BLAMED COURTS FOR “REVOLVING DOOR” AND HIGH VIOLENT CRIME RATES

Soon after being elected DA, Torrez began to blame the courts for the rise in violent crime rates saying that the “revolving door” is the courts fault. Four years ago, Torrez accused the District Court and the Supreme Court’s case management order (CMO) for being the root cause for the dramatic increase in crime and the dismissal of cases. The Supreme Court issued the order mandating disclosure of evidence within specific time frames to expedite trials. Torrez challenged the case management order before the New Mexico Supreme Court and also took action against an individual judge claiming the judge was requiring too much evidence to prove that a defendant was too violent to be released with bond.

Less than six months after being sworn in as District Attorney, Torrez had the DA’s Office issue a report that outlined the problems he perceived since the issuance by the Supreme Court of the Case Management Order (CMO). The main points of the DA’s 2016 report were that defense attorneys were “gaming” the systems discovery deadlines, refusing to plead cases, demanding trials or dismissal of cases when not given evidence entitled to under the law. The District Court did their own case review of statistics and found that it was the DA’s Office that was dismissing the majority of violent felony cases, not the courts.

SECOND: 65% COMBINED DISMISSAL, ACQUITTAL AND MISTRIAL RATES

In mid-2015 the Bernalillo County 2nd District Court began shifting from grand jury use to implementing “preliminary hearing” schedule. Raul Torrez was sworn in as District Attorney on January 1, 2017 and from day one he opposed the shift to preliminary hearings.

DA Raúl Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller wrote a joint letter to the New Mexico Supreme Court requesting it to intervene and stop the plans of 2nd Judicial District Court (SJDC) to shift away from the use of grand jury system to a preliminary hearing system.

The District Court provided an extensive amount of statistics, bar graphs and pie charts to the New Mexico Supreme Court to support the decision to shift from grand jury hearings to preliminary hearing showing it was necessary. The statistics revealed the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office under Raúl Torrez had a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate with cases charge by grand juries. The data presented showed in part how overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the District Attorney’s Office was contributing to the high mistrial and acquittal rates.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/da-wants-nm-supreme-court-to-review-grand-jury-changes/5012558/?cat=500

THIRD: SHIFTING THE BURDEN OF PROOF

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez proposed a constitutional amendment that would create a “presumption” that a defendant is a threat to the public when charged with a violent crime and that they should be jailed until pending trial without bond or conditions of release. The presumption would shift the burden of proving dangerousness from the prosecution and require defendants accused of violent crimes to show and convince a judge that they should be released on bond or with conditions of release pending their trial on the charges.

According to Torrez, the cases where a defendant would be required to show they do not pose a threat to public and should be released pending their trial would include “the most violent and serious cases” such as murder, first-degree sexual assault, human trafficking, first-degree robbery, crimes involving a firearm and defendants who are on supervision or parole for another felony. Such a shift of burden of proof could conceivably require a defendant to take the stand during a detention hearing before their trial and a waiver of their 5th Amendment Constitutional Right against self-incrimination.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1318399/da-to-unveil-new-pretrial-detention-proposal-ex-some-defendants-would-have-to-prove-they-should-be-released-pending-trial.html

UNM STUDY OF “PRESUMPTION OF NO BAIL” CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

It was in July, 2019 that The University of New Mexico Institute for Social Research studied and reviewed the proposal by DA Torrez to change by constitutional amendment the way pretrial detention is handled in New Mexico. The UNM study found no evidence that Torrez’s proposal would improve public safety. Based on a review of cases in which a defendant was released despite the DA’s requesting detention, the study found that preventive detention motions filed by the District Attorney’s office did not “substantively” improve public safety as opposed to those cases in which no detention motions were filed.

The UNM study looked at more than 7,000 cases filed from July 2017 to August 2018 as part of the review. There were 1,500 cases that had preventive detention motions filed by the District Attorney’s Office. Of those preventive detention motions, 46% were granted and 54% were denied. The UNM study showed that a defendant’s current charge alone does not predict involvement in future dangerous crimes. The study found the offenses or statutes the DA listed in his pretrial detention proposal “are arguably questionable indicators of dangerousness.” The case review found no substantial differences in failure to appear and in new criminal activity rates between defendants for whom the DA did not request detention and those who were released despite the DA’s requesting detention.

“REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION OF DANGEROUSNESS”

On November 2, 2020, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez Torrez was elected to a second term. He ran unopposed in the Democratic Primary and in the general election. Torrez became embolden with his election to a second term to the point of deciding to run for Attorney General. Torrez renewed his advocacy of a “rebuttable presumption of violence” system for pretrial detention. He lobbied heavily for the New Mexico legislature to enact enabling legislation and securing the support of Governor Michell Lujan Grisham and Mayor Tim Keller.

In preparation of the 2022 legislative session, the highly influential Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) released a 14-page memo analysis of the proposed “rebuttable presumption of violence” system and pretrial detention. LFC analysts found that low arrest, prosecution and conviction rates have more to do with rising violent crime rates than releasing defendants who are awaiting trial.

The LFC report seriously challenged the question if violent crime will be brought down by using a violent criminal charge to determine whether to keep someone accused of a crime in jail pending trial. According to the LFC report, rebuttable presumption is a values-based approach, not an evidence-based one.” The LFC report said that while crime rates have increased, arrests and convictions have not. The LFC went on to say the promise of “swift and certain” justice has a more significant impact on crime rates that rebuttable presumption does not.

After the LFC report was release, legislators rejected all “pretrial detention” legislation which would have created a “rebuttable presumption of dangerousness” for defendants charged with violent crimes to be held in jail pending trial. Rebuttable presumption shifted the burden of proof from state prosecutors, who must prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict, to the defendant who would have to show they are not a danger to the public in order to be allowed to be released pending trial.

https://www.abqjournal.com/2471031/tax-cuts-crime-package-sent-to-governor.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/2468840/pretrial-monitoring-bill-surfaces-in-house-advances-quickly.html

During the 2022 New Mexico 30-day session that ended on Thursday, February 17, all legislation failed to enact the rebuttable presumption of being violent to permit jailing until trial. However, as a substitute, the legislature enacted a bill that requires the courts to turn over GPS monitoring data to police and prosecutors during a criminal investigation to allow better tracking of pretrial defendants on electronic monitoring. The goal of the GPS monitoring is to keep close tabs on a charged defendant to prevent them from committing another crime.

After the session ended, Torrez expressed no confidence in the bill. Torrez went out of his way to make the rounds with the media to say his biggest disappointments was the failure to pass the pre-trial detention bill. Torrez had this to say:

“The [legislature failed] to address the problem of the revolving door, specifically with regard to some of the most violent and dangerous defendants that we’ve got. People accused of murder, sexual assault, child abuse. Individuals who have been armed with firearms. … I’m concerned that we will once again see individuals who we have sought to have detained who have been released who will then go on to commit very serious crimes. The bottom line is the provision on GPS actually makes our jobs more difficult. It narrows the categories of defendants we can seek information on and it creates a privacy right for defendants who are considered to be in custody while they’re on GPS.

DA Torrez’s argument that the legislation “creates a privacy right for defendants” was bogus. No “privacy rights” were being created. What was created was a system where prosecutors and law enforcement must give the very bare minimum reasons why they want the information in the first place.

MIXED REVIEWS ON CASE MANGEMENT

During his 5 years as District Attorney, Raúl Torrez has had a number of high profile failures in the prosecution of cases.

DA OFFICE GETS SCAMMED UNDER TORREZ

According to a February 20, 2019 Channel 4 Investigates Report, an imposter scammed the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office” falsely claiming she was a victim in a case. The imposter demanded the charges dropped against the violent defendant and that he be released from jail. Below is the link to the Channel 4 report:

https://www.kob.com/investigative-news/4-investigates-imposter-tricks-bernalillo-darsquos-office-inmate-released/5253378/?cat=504

According to the news report, the Defendant Freddie Trujillo pled guilty in a 2017 aggravated assault case. Originally, Trujillo was placed on probation but in December 2018, Trujillo was jailed for violating his probation. Trujillo violated his probation when he physically attacked his estranged relatives, David and Mary Ann Baca. Trujillo was arrested after the attack on his relatives and jailed. One month later Trujillo was released from jail after the District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against him.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE BACKLOG

According to a February 14, 2019 Channel 13 news story, an anonymous tipster within the District Attorney’s office sent News 13 pictures of stacks of domestic violence cases piled up on a table in the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office.

Below is the link to the story:

https://www.krqe.com/news/investigations/domestic-violence-victims-left-in-limbo-for-months-after-reporting-crimes/1776417417?fbclid=IwAR2h1vFytK-efAL-ldfY8TpC1iz-eVKDnDal0qB-Lv5jSM2pOrsUFjAltFY

The photos were of 3 stacks of roughly 500 domestic violence case reports. Each one of the domestic violence reports were linked to a domestic violence victim left waiting from 2 to 5 months without hearing anything after calling police reporting misdemeanor domestic violence crimes including assault, theft and restraining order violations. Torrez went on camera with Channel 13, but only after a week had passed giving him time to clear out the backlog. District Attorney Raul Torrez explained the stacks of reports were made up of “criminal summons” cases where police did not arrest anyone for various reasons such as suspects had already left the scene of the crime.

INDICTING AN INNOCENT MAN

In March, 2017, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced and took credit for his office indicting 15 young people, ages 20 to 28, on gang related racketeering and other charges in the spring 2017. The RICO indictment was based upon an investigation of an alleged gang which APD said had started out tagging the area around West Central and escalated to committing violent crimes. District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a news conference calling the defendants “members of one of Albuquerque’s more notorious street gangs.”

On Sunday, August 18, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal reported on its front page that one of the young men indicted was 20-year-old Adan Perez-Macias. It was reported he was not a member of the gang APD was investigating or any other gang. It turns out Adan Perez Marcus did not know and never met the others indicted. Perez Marcus was not even in New Mexico at the time the crime he was accused of committing.

District Attorney Raúl Torrez labeled the wrongful indictment of Perez-Macias as “unfortunate” and said it could have happened in any case his office handled. When discussing the wrongful indictment of Perez Marcus, Torrez said this:

“We can be smart and be effective as institutions. We make mistakes and we learn from these mistakes and improve.”

Torrez had no apology, no expression of empathy and no offer of help to 20-year-old Adan Perez Marcus. When DA Raul Torrez says it’s all about justice for victims, he apparently does not believe innocent people are entitled to justice nor any kind of an apology for being wrongfully accused for crimes they have not committed.

MISHANDLING 10 YEAR OLD VICTORIA MARTENS MURDER

The most egregious mishandling of a prosecution case by District Attorney Raúl Torrez involved the August 24, 2016 murder of ten-year-old Victoria Martens whose was killed and her body dismembered and then burned in the apartment bathtub where she was killed in an apparent attempt to dispose of her body. Initially, Jessica Kelly and Michelle Martens, Victoria’s mother, and Michell’s boyfriend Fabian Gonzales, were arrested and charged for the rape, murder and dismemberment of 10-year-old Victoria. District Attorney Raúl Torrez personally took over the prosecution of the case.

On June 29, 2018 District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced he negotiated a plea agreement where Michelle Martens plead guilty to child abuse of her daughter Victoria Martens. The plea agreement negotiated was to 1 count of child abuse, recklessly caused, resulting in the death of a child under 12. The plea agreement guaranteed a 12 to 15-year prison sentence and dropped the most egregious charges of murder and rape. With the plea deal, Michelle Martens faced a possible sentence of 12-15 years, and with good time she could be out of jail within 6 to 7 years.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1191031/michelle-martens-pleads-guilty-to-child-abuse-faces-12-to-15-years.html

Torrez also announced several charges against Fabian Gonzales were dismissed. District Attorney Raúl Torrez said that much of the initial facts of the case were “simply not true”, yet Torrez had previously persisted in holding news conferences. The murder charge was dropped, but Gonzales was still charged with child abuse and tampering with evidence.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/fabian-gonzales-trial-set-for-january-2022/6112178/?cat=500

The initial APD police investigation and reports alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens watched the murder. During a press conference, Torrez stated that his office’s investigation found Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes when forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder and did not participate in the murder.

Raúl Torrez had held a press conference after press conference after press conference in the case, including private meeting with the Journal Editors and reporters at the Journal Center. He had more than 3 front page Journal stories on the case and was interviewed by Chanel 4 on the “Eye on Albuquerque” Sunday program on plea agreements he has negotiated in the case.

District Attorney Raúl Torrez in his various media interviews shared extensive details of the case and prosecution strategy on the pending criminal prosecution against two other defendants, two identified and one yet to be found.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/09/da-torrez-political-damage-control-mission-accomplished/

During a January 4, 2019 pretrial motion hearing, District Judge Charles Brown determined District Attorney Raúl Torrez had been “reckless” in his December 10, 2018 statement he made to the media about defendant Jessica Kelley’s absence of cooperation before her “no contest” plea.

On January 4, 2018, District Judge Brown said that Raúl Torrez should not have issued the December 10, 2018 statement at all. Judge Brown admonished Raúl Torrez for the statement by stating from the bench in open court:

“I don’t know if it was [intentionally done] to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, or if the goal was to shift the light away from the District Attorney’s Office or to move light to the Albuquerque Police Department … I find it to be woefully inaccurate in its ambiguity. It could be interpreted in many ways – all of them positive to the District Attorney’s office, some to the detriment of others. The District Attorney also has an obligation to protect the due process right of the defendant. … [The District Attorney] … represents the state, which is everyone including the defendant and the defendant’s families … The District Attorney’s obligation is to the system.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/qanda-bernalillo-county-rauacutel-torrez-on-30-day-legislative-session/6402099/?cat=500

THE JACKSON WELLER MUDER BY DARIAN BASHIR

On May 4, 2019 University of New Mexico baseball player Jackson Weller was killed by Darian Bashir outside a Nob Hill bar. Two years before the murder, Bashir was arrested for shooting another man outside another downtown bar. Darian Bashir was charged by the District Attorney for the first murder but never went to trial in that case. A District Court Judge found that Bashir never went to trial in the first case due to the District Attorney failing to comply with deadlines, not interviewing witnesses on time, and not responding to motions. It was revealed that an attorney not licensed to practice law in New Mexico was appointed by Torrez to handle the case.

https://www.krqe.com/news/crime/closing-arguments-held-in-trial-of-darian-bashir-accused-of-murdering-unm-baseball-player/

Darian Bashir was charged with the murder of Jackson Weller and on November 9, 2021, a jury convicted Bashir of first-degree murder in the death of Jackson Weller. On February 8, 2022, Darian Bashir was sentenced to life in prison for the murder Jackson Weller. It is likely that Jackson Weller would be alive today but for the negligent prosecution of Darian Bashir by District Attorney Raúl Torrez.

https://www.abqjournal.com/2468365/judge-hands-life-sentence-to-man-who-killed-unm-baseball-player.html

FEDERAL JUDGE FINDS PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT BY TORREZ

In 2012, United States Federal Judge Cristina Armijo accused then Assistant United States Attorney Raúl Torrez prosecuting a drug case of trying to “unfairly alter” a transcript of a recorded encounter between drug agents and an Amtrak train passenger suspected of carrying a large quantity of crack cocaine.

In her original ruling in the drug case Torrez was prosecuting, Chief U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo found that the charged defendant had been “coerced” into submitting to a search by federal 2 drug agents.

TORRES ALTERS A TRANSCRIPT

At the center of the controversy was that Raúl Torrez asked 2 Federal law enforcement agents to review a transcript of a recording that was found “inaudible”. Instead of calling them as witnesses to testify under oath, Torrez asked the federal agents to make changes to the transcript based on their recollection of what was said and what occurred. Torrez then made a new transcript that combined their changes and informed the judge during the hearing that he wasn’t offering it as evidence but an “aid” for listening to the recording. Defense counsel objected, telling the judge “They’re trying to make an illegal search legal by making changes in the transcript.” The court agreed with the defense and entered the order.

Judge Armijo wrote in her original order:

“Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the Government attempted to unfairly alter the content of the official transcript and thus the substance of what is purported to be represented on the audio recording in the case. Specifically, the Court finds that the Government attempted to take advantage of the obviously poor quality of the audio recording and the chaotic environment in the train car by having its witnesses … make substantive changes to the official transcription of the recording in a manner that favored the government’s case.”

After entry of the order, the United State Attorney filed a motion asking Judge Armijo to withdraw her findings about Torrez and requested that the original order and the language be deleted. Armijo honored the request and also deleted other language that faulted the testimony of the 2 drug agents during the suppression hearing as being “colored or influenced by the government’s efforts.” The day after Judge Armijo filed her amended ruling, the United States Attorney office dismissed the felony drug possession case against the Defendant.

Torrez in a May 9, 2016 Albuquerque Journal report said there was a “misunderstanding” of a transcript he initially offered at the hearing on a defense motion to suppress evidence. He said he never intentionally tried to mislead anyone. Torrez had this to say:

“I could have done a better job … but I had no idea there were going to be any kind of findings [from Judge Armijo] … I was pretty surprised and upset [at Judge Armijo’s’ ruling] … I’m pretty protective of my professional reputation. I’ve worked extremely hard both in school and my professional life. And the idea that I would jeopardize all of that, and my law license, for a drug case? That, frankly … doesn’t make any sense.”

As for the problems in preparing the evidence, Torrez gave the excuse that he “had 50 other cases going on [at the time].”

Torrez said he was never disciplined nor asked to leave the U.S. Attorney’s Office and said his departure was unrelated to the case, which is difficult to believe. The United States Attorney’s Office for its part has never disclosed the reasons why Torrez left and the office has declined to make any comment, saying it was a “personnel matter”.

Kenneth Gonzales, who was the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico at the time of the case and is now a U.S. District Judge, referred the Journal to “the publicly-filed briefs” and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Steve Yarbrough, who was First Assistant U.S. attorney and who signed the
motion asking Judge Armijo to withdraw her remarks about Torrez, declined to comment. He became a U.S. Magistrate.

https://www.abqjournal.com/770736/candidate-for-district-attorney-drew-ire-of-judge.html

NEW MEXICO STATE AUDITOR BRIAN COLÓN

On May 13, Democrat New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón announced his candidacy for the office New Mexico State Attorney General. In making his announcement, Colón said he sees the office of Attorney General as the logical opportunity to “take the next step” to deal with crime in the state.

PERSONNEL BACKGROUND

Colón is from Los Lunas, New Mexico, is married, his wife’ name is Aleli and the couple have 1 adult child, Rafael who recently graduated from college. Mr. Colón attended the University of New Mexico Law school from 1998 to 2001 earning his Juris Doctorate. He attended New Mexico State University from 1988-1998 and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration majoring in Finance.

State Auditor Colón is serving his first term as State Auditor having been elected to a 4 year term in 2018. He could have run for one more term as State Auditor, but has opted to run for Attorney General.
According to Colón, his motivation is rooted in his experience growing up in New Mexico and his desire to serve his community.

Prior to becoming State Auditor, Colón served as the Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. In 2010, he ran for and lost his bid for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico and in 2017, he ran for Mayor of Albuquerque. Colón is very well known within political circles for never ending positive campaigning, his fund-raising prowess not only as a candidate for office but on behalf of numerous charitable organizations. In 2017 when he ran for Mayor of Albuquerque, Colón raised upwards of $800,000.

EXAMINNG THE RECORD OF BRIAN COLÓN AS STATE AUDITOR

As State Auditor, Colón has emphasized protecting taxpayer dollars from “waste, fraud and abuse”. Colón said he wants the Attorney General’s office to take on tough cases local prosecutors shy away from, including prosecutions of bad cops or corrupt politicians. Crimes against children, sex crimes and gun crimes would also be priority. Colón had this to say:

“[New Mexico] can’t have prosperous communities until we have safe communities. … What motivates me is to fight for New Mexico’s families. … It’s what I’ve done my whole life.”

The following reported actions and audits are considered the major accomplishments of Brian Colón during his term as State Auditor.

SECRET SETTLEMENTS

On Monday, November 18, 2019 New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón announced the results of a special audit he had ordered. The audit found $2.7 million in secret settlements involving appointees of former Republican Governor Susana Martinez. The settlements lacked proper documentation, transparency, and investigations according to the audit. Colón proclaimed the settlements an abuse of power” by former Republican Governor Susana Martinez. According to Colón, the secret settlements were done to save the former Governor from embarrassment, protect her personal reputation, and to protect her political appointees and her political agenda.

The special audit came after revelations about secret settlements of lawsuits against state official appointees by former Republican Governor Susana Martinez. Some of the settlements were sealed until after the former Governor’s departure from office at the end of 2018.

Auditor Colón ordered the special audit after retired New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas went public asserting that $2 million worth of settlements of claims filed against him and the Department of Public Safety were reached in the final weeks of the Martinez administration. Kassetas protested the settlements saying the claims had not been investigated thoroughly. The settlements included “gag orders” that no party to the settlements could disclose the terms of the settlements.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2019-11-18/auditor-new-mexico-secret-settlements-were-abuse-of-power

The special audit found settlements of civil rights claims from fiscal year 2015 to the end of the Martinez Administration and the present averaged 607 days and higher. According to the audit, 18 claims were settled before Martinez left office much faster with most under 200 days. The audit also found that in a number of the settlements examined, the confidentiality periods and damages assessed for violating those agreements exceeded what is mandated by state law. The contracted state auditors reviewed the paper trail for each settlement and tried to speak with the outside attorneys hired to defend the state, along with former Risk Management Division officials and plaintiffs’ attorneys.

The special audit uncovered nearly $3 million in legal settlements from Governor Susana Martinez’s administration that were fast-tracked, approved with little or no investigation nor documentation, and contained illegal confidentiality agreements. During his press conference, New Mexico State Auditor Brain Colón strongly condemned the secret settlements by saying:

“This is about an abuse of power. It’s about a lack of transparency, and particularly as it relates to political appointees by our former governor. … We should never settle matters and use taxpayer dollars to protect political interest, political legacies and personal agendas. These are not anomalies that don’t matter … These are anomalies that actually represent secret payouts to protect the [fomer Gov. Martinez] administration’s reputation. … [W]hat’s truly concerning and what really is disgusting is that $2.7 million of those $5 million in settlements were done in secret without process and without a proper investigation. … There was virtually no proof in the files and in the records as to why these high dollar amounts were approved [by the Martinez administration.]”

You can review the entire Colón press conference here:

https://www.facebook.com/brian.s.colon/videos/10158016918094258/UzpfSTc0Mzc5NDI1NzozMDYwNjExMjk0OTk0MTQ6MTA6MDoxNTc1MTg3MTk5OjI1ODkzOTIwOTc2Mjg3OTg5NjQ/

APD POLICE OVERTIME SCANDAL

On Monday July 13, 2020 New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón announced ordering a special audit of APD’s overtime payment policies to APD Police Officers. Colón ordered a special audit of all APD overtime policies after he said his office found enough red flags related to overtime practices and internal controls at APD. According to the June 24, 2020 letter to Mayor Tim Keller, the Office of the State Auditor designated the City for a special audit “in order to examine the City’s compliance with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and procedures.”

On Friday, August 6, 2021, the New Mexico State Auditor’s long-awaited special audit report on APD overtime abuse was released. The 64-page audit covers the time period of January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020. The link to the entire 64-page audit report is here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sIsbWAGpIC2mDFs8bsbQ1BhYDOSXH8Ig/view

According to the released special audit, it was the 7th audit performed on APD overtime practices since 2014. The 6 prior audits resulted in 17 findings and recommendation made. There was an absolute failure by APD command staff to carry out and implement the changes needed to solve the overtime problem. The released audit identified that certain APD police union contract terms and conditions were in violation of the Federal Labor Fair Standards act and that the police union contract has contributed significantly to the overtime pay abuse by rank-and-file police officers.

Colón had this to say in part about the audit release:

“Six prior audits or investigations had been performed regarding APD overtime. Five of those reports have been reviewed as part of this report. This report is the seventh regarding APD overtime since the first report in May of 2014. Each of the reports had detailed findings and recommendations that were not implemented. … The 2014 and 2017 reports had all of the findings and recommendations necessary to fix and prevent the issues reported on in the 2018, 2019, and the 2020 reports. The findings were clear, as were the recommendations. However, the recommendations were not implemented.”

“There has been inadequate oversight by both the City and APD. The systemic cause is that the City did not have a procedure to ensure all open audit reports and unresolved findings were accumulated and worked on until resolved. … Continued failure to provide oversight, monitoring and accountability has resulted in abuse and contributed to the public’s mistrust. … The City and APD must not waste any time in implementing the identified opportunities for improvement.

“What we know in this case is that time and time again, leadership at APD clearly ignored the findings that were presented. … These are the kind of findings that lead to continued waste and abuse and ultimately fraud. … “The most troubling thing is that we have had findings in the past that were ignored by [the APD] administration, and that is just going to be wholly unacceptable every single time. … It’s completely inappropriate … years later still not having policies and procedures in place to protect the citizens of Albuquerque when it comes to expenditures at APD.”

Colón said he thought his office’s latest audit would make a difference. He said an annual audit for the city would look at the issue.

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/audit-makes-recommendations-for-apd-overtime-policies-practices/

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-police-department-audited-for-overtime-pay-for-7th-time/37248257

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/audit-apd-continues-to-abuse-overtime/6199260/?cat=500

https://www.abqjournal.com/2419877/seventh-audit-cites-apd-overtime-problems.html

OUSTING ENTIRE SCHOOL BOARD

On March 3, 2021, State Auditor Brian Colón released an audit of the Los Lunas Public Schools that uncovered violations of the State’s procurement code, the state Governmental Conduct Act and open records and open meetings violations.

https://news-bulletin.com/new-mexico-auditor-warns-los-lunas-board-of-education/

On May 26, 2021, based on the State Audit, it was reported that the state Public Education Department removed the five-member school board as a result of the audit and “the severe, un-remediated and persistent impairment of the education process by certain members of the school board.” The Public Education Department identified 8 violations of the state’s Governmental Conduct Act found by the State Auditor.

According to the removal letter “certain members”of the board addressed a district employee in a threatening manner at a board meeting and pressured another employee through their family to lie about “moonlighting” for their supervisor while on the job.

One member of the board was accused of asking a potential vendor to the district what was “in it” for them for setting up a possible contract. The Public Education Department also noted violations of the state’s public access laws after the board refused to hand public records over to the state, used personal email addresses for board matters and failed to provide specificity on agenda items before voting.

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/new-mexico-public-education-department-suspends-los-lunas-school-board/article_9dc341fe-be58-11eb-8db3-5391c4cc1d81.html

Colón had this to say about the audit:

“The Los Lunas schools, my alma mater, I knew almost everybody on that school board, a couple of them my whole life, but we still held them accountable.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499366/coloacuten-getting-people-to-sit-down-together-can-solve-big-issues.html

AUDIT OF LACK OF ADA-COMPLIANCE AT STATE GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS

On October 5, 2021, it was reported that an audit found continued accessibility issues at state government buildings throughout New Mexico. Upwards of 20% of New Mexicans have some sort of physical disability.

There are upwards 760 buildings in the state with ties to New Mexico state government, including office buildings, warehouses and more. The audit reviewed access between the parking lot and the front door of 23 different buildings used by various departments of state government. Buildings were tested in several locations around the state including Albuquerque and Fort Stanton near Ruidoso among other places. The audit found ADA compliance issues at 23 government buildings.

This audit detailed a 2-month study of state properties from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, to other parts of the state like Deming, Las Cruces and Las Vegas. The audit tested the number of parking spaces available for people with disabilities and pavement markings. Auditors also tested if the designated route from handicapped parking spaces to the front door of the building was the shortest available route. Among the findings, about one-third of parking lots reviewed did not have the proper number of van accessible spaces. Around 20% of the buildings didn’t have proper markings. Amid the findings state officials overseeing buildings made “compliance a priority” and made repairs.

Colón said:

“The administration immediately shifted resources to address the issue and did not wait. … That’s exceptional government in action.”

Links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.krqe.com/news/new-mexico/new-mexico-auditor-to-reveal-results-of-ada-parking-lot-compliance-audit/

https://www.kob.com/archive/audit-ada-compliance-problems-at-state-building-parking-lots/

https://www.abqjournal.com/2435609/audit-finds-issues-with-some-state-buildings-parking-lots-ex-work-to-remediate-the-problems-and-close-gaps-in-ada-compliance-is-good-government.html

COWBOYS FOR TRUMP

On March 5, 2022, it was reported that the Otero County Commission awarded a “no bid” contract to spending nearly $50,000 of taxpayer money on a so-called audit of the 2020 presidential election over objections from the county attorney and clerk. Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin sponsored the measure. Griffin is the founder of Cowboys for Trump was federally prosecuted and convicted for crimes related to the January 6, 2021 assault on the US capitol.

It was reported that where people are going door to door asking questions about how people voted. The canvassing was done EchoMail, a company that was also involved in an audit of the election in an Arizona county. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the canvassing amounted to voter intimidation or harassment and said it was a “vigilante audit.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/2476589/state-agencies-take-aim-at-otero-county-contract-ex-officials-expres.html

State Auditor Brian Colón sent a letter on March 14, 2022 to the Otero County commission saying the county was deficient in its ability to properly oversee the contract compliance by EchoMail. Colón’s letter stated that the $49,750 election audit is not in the best interest of residents and amounted to political grandstanding.

Colón wrote:

“It appears that the County Commission failed to treat their government position as a public trust and instead used the powers and resources of their public office to waste public resources in pursuit of private interests concerning unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud. … [It] appears the County Commissioners may have abused their power in approving the County’s contract with the vendor for an ‘election audit’ that was not in the best interests of constituents and seemingly purely political grandstanding. The stated purpose and methodology of the ‘audit’ gives the appearance of the entire affair simply being a careless and extravagant waste of public funds, which does not appear to serve any useful purpose to the taxpayers of Otero County. … [A]additional concerns … suggest that … volunteer canvassers at the direction of the contractor are falsely representing themselves as employed by the County. … The [Office of the State Auditor] has concerns of potential liability for the County in connection with alleged civil rights violations of its citizens.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/2479294/election-audit-prompts-pushback-from-new-mexico-auditor.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The Office of New Mexico Attorney General historically is considered by many as the “people’s attorney.” Elected Attorney Generals have gone onto higher office including Toney Anaya who was later elected Governor, Jeff Bingaman who was later elected United States Senator and Tom Udall who was also later elected United States Senator

Brian Colón has more at stake given that his term is ending at State Auditor while Raúl Torrez will have two years left of his term as District Attorney should he lose the Attorney General’s race. Elected Attorney Generals have gone onto higher office including Toney Anaya who was later elected Governor, Jeff Bingaman who was later elected United States Senator and Tom Udall who was later elected United States Senator.

The race between both Colón and Torrez was bound to be hard fought in that both have expressed they are interested in eventually becoming Governor or going on to serve in congress. Both State Auditor Brian Colón and District Attorney Raúl Torrez are well-funded and their personal attacks on each other will likely continue until election day.

Whoever wins the Democratic Primary on June 7, 2022 will likely become the next Attorney General.
A link to a related blog article is here:

Democrat Attorney General Candidates Get Personal And Pummeled Each Other In KRQE Debate; Debate Revealed One Angry, Self-Righteous Politician, The Other A Dedicated Public Servant; “At End Of The Day” Colón Won Debate

APD External Force Investigation Team Files Third Quarterly Report: 3,674 Use of Force Incidents Reported, 44.54% of Use of Force Investigations Found Out Of Compliance, 667 Case Backlog On Hold; Federal Monitor’s 15th Report; Remove Sergeants And Lieutenants From Police Union

On February 26, 2021, the City and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a Stipulated Agreement filed with the United States District Court to stay a contempt of court proceeding against the city for willful violations of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The Stipulated Order established the External Force Investigation Team (EFIT).

On May 16, the External Force Investigation Team filed with the Federal Court its third Quarterly Report on the progress made by APD. The third report is 38 pages long and covers the time period of February 17, 2022 to April 22, 2022. It has 8 Exhibits (A through H). The report was prepared by EFIT Administrator Darryl S. Neier.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The link to the EFIT 3rd Quarterly Report, along with Quarterly Reports 1 and 2, will be found at the below link under the title External Force Investigation Team Quarterly Reports once posted by the city:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents-related-to-apds-settlement-agreement

This blog article is a report on the findings of the EFIT contained in the report. It also touches on the 15th Federal Monitors report released prior to the EFIT Third Quarterly report and reports on the approval of APD’s budget. Reviewed together, the 15th Federal Monitors Report and the EFIT 3rd quarterly report represent that APD has taken two steps forward followed by two steps backwards in coming into compliance with the DOJ reforms mandated by the consent decree.

BACKGROUND

The APD Internal Affairs Force Division (IAFD) intentionally did not investigate 667 cases of police “use of force cases” to the point that even if investigators found officers hadn’t followed policies, they could not be disciplined because the deadlines had passed.

The External Force Investigation Team (EFIT) was established to train APD’s force investigators and ensure cases were being investigated within 90 days. Since EFIT started its work, no new cases have been added to the backlog. Federal Judge James Browning who is assigned to oversee the settlement has signed off on a plan to allow the EFIT to continue its work and also to review the backlog cases.

The EFIT is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is required to respond to all police use of force call outs within 1 hour of notification.

All Use of Force (“UOF”) investigations undertaken by the EFIT must be completed within 60 days with an additional 30-day supervisory review period for a total of 90 days from start to finish. Pursuant to the Federal Court Order, EFIT must conduct joint investigations with APD Internal Affairs Force Division (“IAFD”) of all Level 2 and Level 3 Use Of Incidents. This includes all Tactical Deployments where there is APD police Use of Force is utilized. EFIT must also assist APD with training concerning the its Use of Force policies.

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS EFIT THIRD QUARTERLY REPORT

Major highlights and findings that can be gleaned from the third EFIT Quarterly Report and that have been edited to assist public consumption are as follows:

CASES OUT OF COMPLIANCE

“As of this report, 21 out of the 229 OR 9.17% of the Use of Force investigations closed by EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division were found to be not within the APD Use of Force policies. This is a decrease from the 10.63% reported in the previous quarterly report.

Most significantly, 102 out of the 229 or 44.54% of the Use of Force investigations closed by EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division were found to be out of compliance when evaluated against the Process Narrative utilized to assess investigations. This is an increase from 34.4% reported in the previous quarterly report). This development must be an obvious concern for the Internal Affairs Force Division. (Page 5 of of EFIT report.)

As of April 22, 2022, EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division responded to and/or opened investigations on 3,674 Use of Force incidents to include 11 Officer Involved Shootings (“OIS”) and made 3 referrals to the Multi-Agency Task Force (“MATF”) for potential criminal violations.

EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division completed 229 investigations within the 90-day time period outlined in the Amended Stipulated Order. (Page 7 of report.)

EFIT assumed 10 Use of Force investigations pursuant to … the Amended Stipulated Order as those investigations became close to violating the stipulated timelines.

Pursuant to the Amended Stipulated Order, the City drafted a contract for EFIT to establish a secondary team (“EFIT 2”) to investigate and address the 667 backlog cases. While the EFIT 2 contact is pending approval with the City, the EFIT Executive Team has been diligently interviewing and securing the personnel and prepared the methodology by which the EFIT Backlog team will address the backlog cases pursuant to the Amended Stipulated Order. (Page 7 of EFIT report.)

As of August 28, 2021, IAFD met with the staffing requirement that IAFD must be staffed with 25 Detectives/Investigators. …

Currently [the Internal Affairs Force Division] has 14 civilian Investigators and 13 Detectives. [R]ecent discussions with the Internal Affairs Force Division Commanders revealed that by the end of August 2022, the Internal Affairs Force Division may lose several of the most experienced personnel due to retirements, promotions, officers requesting [to go] back to field divisions and specialized field units. Chief Medina authorized the staffing of [the Internal Affairs Force Division] to be increased to 31 personnel in anticipation of the expected loss.”

ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO DATE

“The EFIT Executive Team reported that … pursuant to the established protocols, [it began] to transition Internal Affairs Force Division detectives to conduct interviews without EFIT’s direct supervision. Nine Internal Affairs Force Division … personnel are progressing through the … the system that will ultimately lead to an IAFD Detective conducting Use Of Force investigations without direct supervision of EFIT. (Page 13 of EFIT report.)

Again, once a Detective is identified by an EFIT Investigator, Supervisor or Executive Team Member, as attaining the requisite capabilities to conduct interviews without EFIT’s direct supervision, the EFIT Executive Team will make a determination that the IAFD Detective may conduct interviews … .

As of this report, EFIT/IAFD responded to, and are investigating, a total of 367 Use of Force incidents. These investigations are completed on an average of 54.31 days. (Page 22 of EFIT Report. report.)

In addition, 229 Use Of Force investigations were closed, averaging a total of 88.01 19 days for closure. While this currently meets the applicable timelines under the relevant documents, it will need to be addressed going forward to lower this number.

Supervisor reviews still average 22.87 days however, EFIT observed slight improvement from February 1, 2022, through April 22, 2022. The average supervisor review during this time period is now 17.41 days.

Of the Use Of Force cases closed (229), 21 cases were out of APD Policy or 9.17% and 102 of the 229 investigations or 44.54% failed to comply with the Process Narrative.

These levels remain extremely high and EFIT repeatedly meets with APD to address them. During this reporting period APD experienced 5 Officer Involved Shooting incidents. EFIT identified numerous issues regarding these cases. Specifically, during this most recent quarter, EFIT observed and/or discovered numerous issues with the way [the Internal Affairs Force Division] is handling Officer Involves Shooting investigations.

IAFD Detective are assigned varying numbers of active Use of Force investigations. This is an issue that EFIT has raised numerous times. In addition, EFIT recently has been made aware that certain IAFD Supervisors may be requesting Detectives to “sit on” completed investigations so not to make others in IAFD “make look bad.” This conduct is inexcusable if EFIT is to complete its Court ordered mandate.”

CONCERNS TO DATE

“The most troubling concerns of EFIT continue to be with the Internal Affairs Force Division supervisors and the sustainability of Internal Affairs Force Division recruitment. EFIT has serious concerns with the manner in which Internal Affairs Force Division first line supervisors are handling daily supervision of the Detectives in the Division. EFIT believes that this is clearly a first line supervisory issue that, if left uncorrected, will continue to render investigations out of compliance with the Process Narrative. (Page 24 of EFIT report.)

EFIT observed improvement when the Internal Affairs Force Division Detective respond to the scene of a Use Of Force when conducting a thorough investigation and are now finally collecting the proper documentation. However, a nationally accepted standard investigative technique and requirement of the Process Narrative is that within three business days of the Use of Force, the Internal Affairs Force Division Supervisor and Internal Affairs Force Division detective along with EFITs input, must develop an Investigative Plan.

These investigative plans are not only best practices throughout the country, they insure proper first line supervision of Detectives enabling the supervisors to know the case and status, and guiding the Detectives through the Use of Force investigations along with immediate problem solving. An added benefit to the first line supervisor is that, once the case is presented for review, they already know the case and can conduct their review in an expedient manner. (Page 25 of EFIT report.)

On March 17, 2022, after months of the EFIT Executive Team offering assistance to the Internal Affairs Force Division to address consistent violations of the Process Narrative without response, EFIT Administrators Neier and Hurlock provided training to all Internal Affairs Force Division Supervisors and Internal Affairs Force Division Command Staff as to how to compile a sufficient investigative plan.

Approximately a month after providing the investigative plan training, 29 current Use of Force of investigative plans were reviewed by the EFIT Executive Team and the team found:

A. 13.79 % – Were not filed in [in the approved format];
B. . 37.93% – Investigative plan was deemed insufficient by EFIT; and
C. 62.06 % – Failure to conduct follow-up weekly meetings and/or failure to update Investigative Plans … (Page 26)

The aforementioned concerns, will undoubtably take the UOF investigations, no matter what the outcome of APD policy decisions, out of compliance with the Process Narrative. This will have the attendant consequence of prolonging EFIT’s tenure to fulfill its Court ordered mandate.

… [O]ver the last 9-10 months, supervision at all levels is severely lacking. Indeed, supervisors, at all levels, must take responsibility for compliance. IAFD is making strides with the daily mentoring of EFIT at the Detective levels. However, the Internal Affairs Force Division command must focus on all levels of supervision to ensure that the Internal Affairs Force Division reaches a 95% compliance level as required by the Amended Stipulated Order. At this point, a great deal must be done if IAFD is to ever attain this goal. … . (Page 27 of EFIT Report)

… [T]he EFIT Executive Team noted several instances where EFIT Investigators provided guidance and expertise to Internal Affairs Force Division regarding Officer Involve Shooting investigations, and such guidance was completely ignored by Internal Affairs Force Division personnel. On one such Officer Involve Shooting investigation, the EFIT Executive Team assigned two seasoned EFIT Investigator with extensive homicide and Officer Involved Shooting experience.

At the same time, the EFIT Executive Team suggested that Internal Affairs Force Division Command reassign the Internal Affairs Force Division Supervisor for lack of supervision and the Investigator with no Officer Involve Shooting experience, stating that “she had to learn some time.

The EFIT Executive Team … suggested that a second Internal Affairs Force Division investigator be assigned with her in an observation compacity, this suggestion was also ignored. [The] Internal Affairs Force Division Command ultimately reassigned the supervision of the UOF investigation. As a result, EFIT essentially assumed primary interview responsibilities for this investigation. Moreover, considerable time was unnecessarily expended as the Investigator missed several deadlines and submitted extra material after the report was issued late.

While EFIT is limited in directing the Internal Affairs Force Division, EFIT reserves the right under the Stipulated Order … [and] the Amended Stipulated Order … to complete investigations and supervisory/command review if “believes that deficiencies in the tactics or work product of Internal Affairs Force Division personnel assigned to the investigation is likely to prevent the investigation from being completed within the deadlines provided for in the CASA, APD policy, and the CBA.”

It should be noted that EFIT is not advocating speed at the expense of a thorough and complete investigation. However, EFIT believes that it is possible to have a thorough and complete investigation in a timely manner. When EFIT provides direct guidance during a UOF investigation the total completion time is averaging 88.01 days.

EFIT believes that with proper supervision by IAFD these investigation and review timelines will decrease. EFIT is concerned that the timely completion of investigations will cease upon transfer back to IAFD for the reasons articulated thus far throughout this report.” (Page 29 of report.)

ALBUQUERQUE POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION

“EFIT reported on the prior actions of the APOA where the union’s representatives interrupted interviews in clear contravention of Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). Since EFIT’s inception and after the initial meetings with the APOA, EFIT is not experiencing the number of issues originally observed. However, on occasion these issues unfortunately occur with representatives interrupting interviews or acting in an unprofessional manner.
… .

CITY LEGAL

“EFIT identified certain issues regarding the City and its legal department. These issues include but are not limited to:

1. the ability to secure the contracts and funding for the continuation of EFIT’s current contract and the EFIT backlog team;
2. issuing opinion letters regarding the interpretation of certain labor agreements; and
3. clarification of the legal protocols concerning OIS events.

SUSTAINABILITY

“Sustainability of trained IAFD Detectives/Investigators … continue to be one of the EFIT Executive Team’s main concern related to the eventual transfer of responsibility from EFIT to APD for conducting full investigations of Level 2 and Level 3 Use of Force as individual IAFD Detectives and Supervisors meet the qualifications identified in … the Amended Stipulated Order. …

The APOA contract enables sworn personnel to “bid” based in part with seniority to various Divisions. EFIT witnessed the lack of sworn personnel wanting to transfer into the Internal Affairs Force Division requiring APD to assign the bottom of the bid list to the Internal Affairs Force Division to comply with the staffing levels of the Amended Stipulated Order.

At present little is done to keep sworn personnel in the Internal Affairs Force Division. This is especially so when promotions, requests for transfer of senior sworn personnel occur and a bid is announced. The loss of these trained personnel can be devastating.

It is anticipated that by August 2022, approximately 40% of the sworn personnel that are in the transition process will no longer be assigned to the Internal Affairs Force Division. With EFIT’s concern, APD is committed to over staffing the civilians in the Internal Affairs Force Division bringing the Division to a level of 31 from the current numbers. We commend APD in that regard however a well-functioning Internal Affairs Division needs both sworn and civilian personnel.”(Page 32 of EFIT Report.)

MINIMAL CHANGES TO POLICE UNION CONTRACT AGGRAVATE INTERNAL AFFAIRS FORCE DIVISION STAFFING

“While the City has made changes regarding incentives for the Internal Affairs Force Division personnel, EFIT believes more needs to be done. While EFIT anticipated that this would be addressed further during the recent collective bargaining agreement negotiation process, minimal changes were made in this regard in the contact signed by the City and the APOA on December 30, 2021, by providing the same incentive pay as field Officers receive for staying within the same area command as those staying in IAFD or IAPS.

Pursuant to the police union contract “An officer will receive $1,300.00 for each year served for the entire year in the same Area Command or the IA Division, up to and capped at four years of continuous service or $5,200.00 per year.” …

We commend Chief Medina in providing this incentive to the civilian Investigators, however more incentives are needed to make IAFD a sought-after Division at APD with an environment that has motivated teams and provides the best equipment, training, and promotional opportunities to Officers (Page 33 of of EFIT Report.)

Additionally, a recommendation both civilian Investigators and Detectives be required to reimburse the City for training costs if they choose to leave the Internal Affairs Force Division within a proscribed period of time to be determined. The training and mentoring are a substantial cost via EFIT, and other external sources paid by the City.

The five new civilian Investigators that APD hired are continuing their onboarding and started responding to on-scene UOF incidents the end of April 29, 2022.

While the Internal Affairs Force Division is responding within one hour as required by the Amended Stipulated Order, namely, within 42.43 minutes, its average response time is longer than EFIT’s average response time which is 28.17 minutes. It is also longer than the previous the new civilian training time of 30.55 minutes.

The assigned Internal Affairs Force Division Detective is required to pick up trainees on their way to a callout. This difference in time is due to the lack of assigned vehicles for trainees as a potential cause for this newfound delay. This has the attendant consequence of increasing the amount of time an Officer who utilized force must remain on scene.

The EFIT Executive Team conducted interviews for the Backlog Force Case Investigations Team (“EFIT 2”) 31 and are currently waiting for the City to execute and fund the contract to start the onboarding process and commence the investigations of 667 Backlog Force Cases.”

FUNDING FOR DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COMPLIANCE

On May 16, the Albuquerque City Council voted 7 to 2 to approve the 2022-2023 city budget. The overall budget approved by the Albuquerque City council is for $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund Appropriations. The budget approved by the council was increased by 20% over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022.

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) continues to be the largest city budget out of 27 departments. The fiscal year 2023 approved General Fund budget is $255.4 million, which represents an increase of 14.7% or $32.8 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The approved General Fund civilian count is 665 and sworn count is 1,100 for a total of 1,765 full-time positions.

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget contains a line-item budget of $22,094,000 for the Office of the Superintendent of Police Reform. At the end of December, Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanly “retired” after a mere 8 months on the job and a national search is being conducted to find a replacement. The city is advertising the position with pay to be $150,000 to $180,000 depending upon experience.

Included in the 2022-2023 budget is funding of $1.6 million for the Federal Court Appointed Independent Monitor assigned to audit APD’s progress in implementing the Court Approve settlement agreement. There is also an increase in one-time funding of $2.6 million for the Use of Force Contract, which is funding for 24 outside investigators hired on contract and assigned to the External Use of Force Investigation Team (EFIT) which investigates police use of force cases.

The EFIT has now been assigned with the task of the investigation of a backlog 660 sworn police use of force cases that APD was highly criticized by the Federal Monitor for its failure.

In fiscal year 2022, 63 full-time civilian positions were added at a total cost of $4.9 million including benefits and reduction of $134 thousand in contractual services for a net cost of $4.7 million to support the daily operations and/or compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

The fiscal year 2023 proposed budget includes an additional 17 fulltime positions at a total cost of $1.4 million including benefits for 9 full-time positions for the internal affairs department, two victim advocates, three violent crime analysts, one investigative liaison to assist in non-critical tasks for homicide detectives, one fiscal program manager and one purchasing coordinator to support the daily operations of the fiscal department.

15TH FEDERAL MONITOR’S REPORT ON APD REFORM COMPLIANCE

On May 11, Federal Court Appointed Independent Monitor James Ginger filed his 15th Report on the Compliance Levels of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the City of Albuquerque with Requirements of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement. The 15th Federal Monitors report is a 332 page report that covers the 6 month time frame of August, 2021 to January, 2022. The link to review the entire report is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/910-220511-imr-15.pdf

The Federal Monitor reported that as of the end of the IMR-15 reporting period, APD’s compliance levels are as follows:

Primary Compliance: 100%
Secondary Compliance: 99%
Operational Compliance: 70%

These are the highest compliance level numbers since the Court Approved Settlement agreement was entered into in 2014. The 15th Federal Monitors report is also a dramatic reversal from the past 3 monitor reports that were highly critical of the Keller Administration and the Albuquerque Police Department.

The Federal Monitor Ginger said that the quality of writing and accuracy of investigations of police use of force cases has improved greatly since the creation of the External Force Investigation Team which has streamlined reviews of use of force and investigations by upper-level staff.

The Federal Monitor said this in his 15th report about EFIT:

“… optimism should be tempered by recognition of administrative and cultural obstacles that persist. … Eventually, EFIT will pass oversight responsibilities back to APD, which will test APD’s ability to sustain the obvious progress made with day-to-day external oversight.”

The link to quoted news source material is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2498594/apd-sees-significant-gains-in-reform-effort.html

APD CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA’S REACTION TO 15TH REPORT

APD Police Chief Medina was quick to react and say it was “great news” and to take credit for the latest improvements in APD’s compliance levels as mandated by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement. Medina attributed the progress in compliance in the reporting period to new leadership at the training academy and in other high-level positions.

Chief Harold Medina said APD’s goal is for the department to be in full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement in 2 years. Medina said this about the 2 year goal:

“We may not meet that goal, and we could get criticized later that we didn’t meet our goal. But we’re going to set the goal … . We’re going to believe in ourselves and we’re going to try our best. If, 2 years from now, we recognize we need one more period, well, you know what, it’s a whole lot better than anybody else has done.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

This is what you call APD taking two major steps forward and two major steps backwards in APD’S continuing 7 year saga to come into compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and implementation of the 271 mandated reforms to eliminate APS’ culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice in 2014. The two steps forward are the increases in the two compliance levels of the settlement. The two steps backwards are 3,674 Use of Force Incidents Reported and 44.54% of Use of Force Investigations found to be out of compliance.

APD took two steps forward when the Federal Monitor reported that APD reached its highest compliance levels since the Court Approved Settlement agreement was entered into in 2014. The Federal Monitor tempered his findings when he wrote in his 15th Monitor’s Report:

“The weak points of APD’s compliance efforts remain the same as they were in [the previous report]: supervisors and mid-level command personnel continue to be the weak link when it comes to holding officers accountable for their in-field behavior. Until that issue is resolved, further increases in APD’s compliance levels will be difficult to attain.”

APD then took two major steps backwards when the EFIT reported 102 out of the 229, or 44.54% of the APD Use of Force investigations closed by EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division were found to be out of compliance when evaluated. EFIT also reported that as of April 22, 2022, EFIT and the Internal Affairs Force Division responded to and/or opened investigations on 3,674 Use of Force incidents. After 7 full years of the settlement, use of force by APD incidents dealing with the public are still problematic.

When the Federal Monitor released his 15th report, APD Police Chief Medina was quick to react and say it was “great news” and to take credit for the latest improvements in APD’s compliance levels. Medina also set the goal for the department to be in full compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement in 2 years.

After over 7 years of implementing the mandating DOJ reforms, and millions spent on training, APD appears to have turned the corner on implementing the 271 mandated reforms. Medina’s goal to attain full compliance within two years commendable but actually means the public needs to brace itself for the DOJ being around for at least 4 more full years.

Under the terms and conditions of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA), once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in the 3 identified compliance levels and maintains it for 2 consecutive years, the case can be dismissed. Primary Compliance is now at 100%, Secondary Compliance is now at 99% and Operational Compliance is now 70%. The problem is APD also has a history of improving compliance levels taking major steps forward only for it return to previous lower levels.

REMOVE SERGEANTS AND LIEUTENANTS FROM POLICE UNION

Being optimistic about APD coming into full compliance within 2 to 4 years may be justified given the new compliance levels but not at all realistic given the findings contained in the third External Force Investigation Team Quarterly Report.

The Federal Monitor, and now the EFIT, have found that APD sergeants and lieutenants are failing in the use of force investigations or who are resisting the reforms. In the 15th report, the Federal Monitor said:

“What remains to be done is to focus on APD’s sergeants, lieutenants, and commanders to ensure that APD’s major compliance systems are CASA-congruent and reflect department-established oversight of uses of force, oversight of day-to-day delivery of CASA-compliant services to the communities APD serves, and oversight of the compliance functions with respect to uses of force and day-to-day interactions with the public.”

Police sergeants and lieutenants cannot serve two masters of APD management and union that are in conflict when it comes to the reforms. To achieve compliance, sergeants and lieutenants need to be removed from the police union and made at will employees. The removal will allow APD management to take appropriate measures to ensure the reforms are accomplished and hold those who resist the reforms accountable.

City Council Approves $1.4 Billion 2022-2023 City Budget On 7-2 Vote; 20% Increase In Operating Budget; 5% Pay Raises Approved; Self Righteous Dan Lewis Opposition To $250,000 Planned Parenthood Funding Sign Of Things To Come From Lewis Opposing A Woman’s Right To Choose

On May 16, the Albuquerque City Council voted 7 to 2 to approve the the 2022-2023 city budget. The council approved the budget on a 7-2 vote with Democrat City Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton, Klarisa Pena, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Louie Sanchez and Republicans Brook Basaan and Trudy Jones voting YES and Republicans Dan Lewis and Renee Grout voting NO. The fiscal year begins on July 1, 2022 and will end on June 30, 2023. By law, the city budget must be a balance budget with deficit spending strictly prohibited.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

The overall budget approved by the Albuquerque City council is for $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund Appropriations. The budget approved by the council was increased by 20% over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022.

The general fund appropriation for the 2022-2023 fiscal year is more than the present year’s $714.5 million. It is also $15 million more than the fiscal year 2023 proposed by Mayor Tim Keller and sent to the Council on April 1. The total city budget of $1.4 Bullion includes “enterprise fund” Departments, such as Aviation, that are funded by their own revenues.

The general fund provides funding for city essential and basic services such as police protection, fire protection, the bus system, solid waste collection and disposal, the zoo, aquarium, the city’s museums maintenance, city libraries, the bus system, senior and community centers, swimming pools and parks and road maintenance. According to the proposed 2022-2023 budget, in 2021 the city had 6,536 full time employees and under the approved budget will have 6,916 for an increase of 380 full time positions or a 5.8% increase.

The increase includes $107.8 million in Gross Receipts Tax (GRT), $3.5 million in property tax, $7.2 million in other taxes, $3.1 million in enterprise revenue, and $57.8 million in inter-fund and fund balances. Gross Receipts Tax (GRT), enterprise revenues, and property taxes together make up 61% of the City’s total revenues. GRT is the City’s major source of revenue and is estimated at $529.7 million or 38% of total resources for fiscal year 2023. Property Tax comprises 12.4% of total revenue. The various enterprises operated by the City are estimated to generate 10.6% of total revenue in fiscal year 2023.

The Keller administration projected that the city will have over $100 million more in gross receipts tax to spend in 2023 than it budgeted for this year. Gross Receipts Tax is the tax assessed on the sale of most goods and services and GRT revenues have been much stronger than expected creating a balance of funding that can be applied to the 2022- 2023 budget cycle.

The approved budget includes 5% pay hikes for city workers plus additional one-time incentives of up to $2,000 per employee. The 5% pay raise for city workers and one-time incentive pay of between $500 and $2,000 dollars is for employees making under $100,000 a year. The Keller Administration had proposed a city-wide 2% cost-of-living increase for the city workforce. The City of Albuquerque employs upwards of 6,259 full time employees.

The link to the proposed and enacted 2022-2023 proposed budget is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-proposed-final-web-version.pdf

LARGEST DEPARTMENT BUDGETS PASSED AND INCREASES

There are 28 city departments. The Police Department and the Fire and Rescue Department are the two largest departments for City operating appropriations, primarily due to their large workforces. The two departments together comprise 26.8% of the total fund appropriations of $1.4 billion and 43.1% of the General Fund appropriations of $841.8 million in fiscal year 2022-2023.

ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) continues to be the largest city budget out of 27 departments. The fiscal year 2023 approved General Fund budget is $255.4 million, which represents an increase of 14.7% or $32.8 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The approved General Fund civilian count is 665 and sworn count is 1,100 for a total of 1,765 full-time positions.

APD’s general fund budget of $255.4 provides funding for 1,100 full time sworn police officers, with the department fully funded for 1,100 sworn police for the past 3 years. However, there are currently 875 sworn officers in APD. The APD budget provides funding for 1,100 in order to accommodate growth. During APD’s budget review hearing, APD Chief Medina acknowledged that the department will likely not meet that staffing level and the personnel funds will help cover other operating costs.
The APD’s budget was increased to accommodate for an immediate 8% in police pay and another 5% in police pay to begin in July because of the new police union contract.

The APD budget provides for a net total increase of $1.2 million in overtime pay to accommodate the police union contract hourly rate increase that went into effect on January 1, 2022.

In fiscal year 2022, a memorandum of understating agreement was approved increasing the hourly rate of pay for 911 operators in an effort to retain emergency service operators and offer a competitive wage for a total personnel cost of $737 thousand.

Technical adjustments include funding of $6.4 million for a 5% increase in hourly wages and longevity for sworn officers in accordance to year two of the approved police union contract and 2% Cost of Living Adjustments for civilian positions, subject to negotiations for positions associated with a union. An adjustment of $2.6 million for health benefits, insurance administration, life insurance and 0.5% State mandated Public Employees Retirement increase for the employer’s share.

A net total increase of $1.2 million in overtime is included for the APOA hourly rate increase that went into effect January 1, 2022. In fiscal year 2022, 63 full-time civilian positions were added at a total cost of $4.9 million including benefits and reduction of $134 thousand in contractual services for a net cost of $4.7 million to support the daily operations and/or compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

ALBUQUERQUE FIRE RESCUE

The Fire and Rescue Department (AFR) is the second-largest city department with funding at $107.6 million and reflects an increase of 11.6% or $11.2 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget. In fiscal year 2021, AFR was budgeted for 781 full time positions and in the 2023, AFR is budgeted for 812 full time positions.

AFR and the Fire Marshal’s office are involved with code enforcement actions against substandard or vacant commercial and residential properties and the “Addressing Dilapidated and Abandoned Property Team” (ADAPT program.) AFR is also involved with the “Humane and Ethical Animal Regulations and Treatment (HEART)” Ordinance for frequent 9-1-1 callers.

Within the AFR budget, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is funded. OEM assisted with the city’s response to the pandemic, activating volunteers and City workers on everything from the distribution of protective equipment to operating points of dispensation to get the vaccine to thousands of Albuquerque residents. The Fiscal Year 2023 budget for AFR is in the top of the nation for medical calls per capita . . The AFR budget includes one-time payment of a million dollars to put towards funding and paramedic programming while maintaining proper staffing levels, and $2.4 million to increase call response capacity in high utilization areas.

The council approved 29 new positions for AFR all on the medical side. 16 of the positions will be paramedics to work on rescues in the southeast part of the city, which sees the highest number of medical calls.

There will also be 13 more positions funded for people to fill in for firefighters who decide to go to paramedic school. Traditionally, those students would be taken out of the mix during their year of study but these additional positions will make sure the department is fully-staffed during those times.

ALBUQUERQUE COMMUNITY SAFETY DEPARTMENT

In fiscal year 2021, the Keller Administration created the Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) with an initial budget of $2.5 million. The ACS consists of social workers and mental health care workers to deal with those suffering from a mental health crisis or drug addiction crisis and they are dispatched in lieu of sworn police or fire emergency medical paramedics.

The fiscal year 2022 budget for ACS was $7.7 million and the fiscal year 2023 proposed budget doubles the amount to $15.5 million to continue the service of responding to calls for service and perform outreach for inebriation, homelessness, addiction, and other issues that do not require police or EMT response.

The Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) dispatches trained and unarmed professionals to respond to 9-1-1 calls that do not require a police or paramedic response. ACS is taking hundreds of calls per month, easing the burden on police and paramedics and improving outcomes on behavioral health calls.

The Fiscal Year 2023 proposed budget was for $15 million to provide funding to add 74 new positions to make it a 24/7 round-the-clock operation across the city. However, at the Keller Administration’s request during the budget hearing, the council voted to fund the new jobs for only part of next year under the assumption they would not all be filled as of July 1.

CITY COUNCIL DOUBLES BUDGET REQUEST TO ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS

Since being elected Mayor and assuming office for his first term on Decemebr 1, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller’s addressing the city’s homelessness crisis has been a top priority. The Keller Administration has said the goal is to address the homeless crisis through a housing-first approach.

During the May 16 city council meeting, several amendments passed that increased the amount of money going toward emergency housing support for the homeless. Those amendments increased the total appropriations from $7 million to just under $15 million. The city council approved $15 million dollars in recurring funds for housing vouchers meant to help the homeless, or those on the brink of it, to pay their rent.

Funding of $3 million for supportive housing was provided as was first requested with $4 million added to go toward that cause each year.

Overall, the council approved upwards of $20 million for rental vouchers, about $15 million of it built into the budget on a recurring basis.

Albuquerque began operating its first Gateway Center for the homeless at the former Lovelace Hospital the city purchased for the Gibson Health hub. $4.7 was approved to operate the emergency shelter.

Mayor Keller’s office will now have to create a plan to use the extra money granted by the council for those in need of supportive housing. There is also $100,000 in the budget allocated toward emergency housing for victims of domestic violence.

The 2022-2023 approved city budget provides major funding to deal with the homeless including the following approved funding:

• $24 million in Emergency Rental Assistance from the federal government, which the City will make available in partnership with the State.

• $4 million in recurring funding and $2 million in one-time funding for supportive housing programs in the City’s Housing First model. In addition, as recommended by the Mayor’s Domestic Violence Task Force, the budget includes $100 thousand for emergency housing vouchers for victims of intimate partner violence.

• $4.7 million net to operate the City’s first Gateway Center at the Gibson Medical Facility, including revenue and expenses for facility and program operations.

• $500 thousand to fund Albuquerque Street Connect, a highly effective program that focuses on people experiencing homelessness who use the most emergency services and care, to establish ongoing relationships that result in permanent supportive housing.

• $214 thousand to adequately staff the senior meal home delivery program, which delivered over 390,000 meals to seniors since the pandemic started.

• $750,000 for proposed “safe outdoor spaces,” often called government sanctioned encampments for the homeless. If approved by Council, will enable ultra-low barrier encampments to set up in vacant dirt lots across the City. There is an additional $200,000 for developing other sanctioned encampment programs.

• $1.3 million for a Medical Respite facility at Gibson Health Hub, which will provide acute and post-acute care for persons experiencing homelessness who are too ill or frail to recover from a physical illness or injury on the streets but are not sick enough to be in a hospital.

• Full funding for the Westside Emergency Housing Center which is operated close to full occupancy for much of the year.

• $500 thousand to fund the development of a technology system that enables the City and providers to coordinate on the provision of social services to people experiencing homelessness and behavioral health challenges.

• $500 thousand to fund Albuquerque Street Connect, a highly effective program that focuses on people experiencing homelessness who use the most emergency services and care, to establish ongoing relationships that result in permanent supportive housing.

SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS INITIATIVES

Safe Neighborhood Initiatives deals with making strong neighborhoods marked by clean and safe public spaces and a thriving environment. The approved fiscal year 2023 budget includes the following Safe Neighborhood Initiatives:

• Full funding for nuisance abatement, including the Code Enforcement Division of Planning and the ADAPT program in the Fire Marshal’s Office to continue voluntary abatement, condemnations and clean-ups. Three years ago, the Keller Administration gutted the Safe City Strike Force, an acknowledged best practices program that initiated upwards of 1,000 enforcement actions a year against substandard properties that were magnets for crime, and eliminated $1.5 million in funding and substituted the ADAPT program that emphasizes “voluntary” compliance with city codes an avoids condemnations and code compliance measures.

• An additional $750 thousand to expand the very successful spay and neuter program to reduce the population of homeless animals in the City.

• An additional $580 thousand for City security staff to be dedicated to City parks.

• An additional $445 thousand to form an Illegal Dumping Crew that will also service cleanliness to the City’s ART stations.

• Full funding for emergency board-up activities, and the Block-by-Block program.

• Full funding for emergency board-up activities and the Block-by-Block program.

SAFE COMMUNITIES’ PROGRAMS

Safe Community programs are ones that deal with issues such as substance abuse, homelessness, domestic violence and youth opportunity makes our community safer and stronger. The Fiscal Year 2023 budget includes the following funding for Safe Community programs:

• $1.8 million to develop what will be Albuquerque’s only medical substance abuse facility dedicated to youths likely housed at the Gibson Health Hub.

• Full funding for the Violence Intervention Program that deals with both APD and Family & Community Services departments, including the first phase of School-Based VIP in partnership with APS.

• $736 thousand to fully fund the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program.

• $730 thousand for a partial year of operation of a Medical Sobering Center at Gibson Health Hub, which will complement the social model sobering facilities available at the County’s CARES campus.

• Full funding for the “Automated Speed Enforcement” program, including hearing officers, where civil speeding citations are issued with the use of “speed van” surveillance cameras. The “Automated Speed Enforcement” program was announced last year to deal with speeding. It is a “semi-judicial” program that is similar to the controversial “re light camera” program that was dismantled 7 years ago.

The program will be administered by the City Clerk and not the City Attorney. The City Attorney Office is currently funded for and staffs the Metropolitan Court Traffic Arraignment program. The Office of the City Clerk also manages the Office of Administrative Hearings and is responsible for conducting all hearings specifically assigned by City of Albuquerque ordinance, including animal appeals, handicap parking and personnel matters. The approved fiscal year 2023 General Fund budget is $4.3 million, an increase of 47.7%, or $1.4 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget.

• Full funding for service contracts for mental health, substance abuse, early intervention and prevention programs, domestic violence shelters and services, sexual assault services, health and social service center providers, and services to abused, neglected and abandoned youth.

• Full investment in youth programs in partnership with the Albuquerque Public Schools and nonprofits that keep our kids off the streets and out of harm’s way and youth violence prevention initiatives that aim to break the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration.

STIMULATING THE ECONOMY

The city has been working to support businesses and families through the economic challenges of COVID-19. The enacted 2023 budget invests in business support and economic development programs.
Highlights of approved funding include:

• $5 million investment in the Local Economic Development Act fund, which has helped the City retain and attract businesses like Netflix, NBC Universal, Los Poblanos, and Build With Robots.

• Streamlining the development process through $1.2 million in investments for process improvements, new technology, and additional staffing in the Planning Department.

• A reserve of $15 million that will provide a local 4 to 1 match if the City is awarded a federal grant to create a “Space Valley” downtown.

• $1.1 million for the next phase of Job Training Albuquerque, a partnership with CNM Ingenuity that provides an opportunity for employers to skill up their workforce and provides an opportunity for employees to gain high-demand skills and industry specific credentials.

• $547 thousand to support the City’s hosting of sporting events, including the highly successful USATF track meet and tennis, pickleball, bicycle and running events.

• Funding for the next cohort of Tipping Points for Creatives, a highly successful initiative to enhance our creative economy using an “increment of one” approach.

• Full recurring funding for the Small Business Office, which has provided technical assistance to help local businesses access COVID relief programs,

WORKFORCE YOUTH PROGRAMS

The Keller Administration since taking office 4 years ago has emphasized youth development programs to deal with crime and poverty by investing in programs that get youth off the street with before- and after-school and summer programs. COVID dramatically changed many needs of those programs. As the city populace emerges from the pandemic, the City is focusing on returning to pre-COVID levels of access and participation in summer and before- and after-school programs.

The Fiscal Year 2023 budget continues youth programming by fully funding the Head Start program in the General Fund, funding to sustain our highly successful Youth Connect system of youth programming, and support to aquatics. Funding is included for a new youth “sobering center” to provide addiction counseling and mental health services.

ONE TIME EXPENDITURES

Because of the volatility of the economy, including rising inflation and gas prices as well as fluctuating gross receipts tax revenues, the 2022-2023 approved city budget contains significantly more onetime expenses in the fiscal year. Nearly 11% of all general fund spending is line itemed for one-time expenditures which means once the projects are completed there will be no recurring budget expenses.
One-time money expenditures included in the approved budget are the following:

$10 million in nonrecurring money for city buildings, including potential upgrades to City Hall, the police headquarters and other city facilities.
$10 million for a “cost escalation fund” that will help complete existing construction projects amid soaring prices.
$5 million for future Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) grants,
$5 million for city vehicles.
$3 million for housing vouchers.
$2.6 million for a police use-of-force review consultant.
$2 million for dog parks.
$1.8 million for events sponsored by the Department of Arts and Culture.
$1.5 million to subsidize the free city bus service.

The links to quoted news sources material are here

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/albuquerque-city-council-passes-1-4-billion-budget-for-2023/

https://www.koat.com/article/albuquerque-city-council-addresses-homelessness/40015752

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499990/councilapproved-budget-would-up-spending-by-20.html

CITY COUNCIL CUTS

The city council eliminated the Keller administration’s planned $702,000 cannabis services division. To be housed within the city’s Environmental Health Department, the division would have had staff dedicated to various cannabis inspections. City councilors questioned the scope and necessity of the division given the state’s regulation of the industry.

The council also cut from the proposed budget funding for some community events. The council also removed 2 revenue generating proposals contained in Keller’s proposed budget. One was to charge a $20 “surrender” fee when owners take their pets to city animal shelters. The other would have raised the coffee price at city senior centers to 50 cents from the current 30 cents. Under an amendment, the senior centers will provide coffee for free.

The link to news source material is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2499397/council-vote-on-budget-set-for-monday-ex-citys-acting-cao-notes-so.html

CITY COUNCLORS REACT TO BUDGET PASSAGE

First term Republican City Councilor Brook Basaan was the Council Budget Chairwoman and presided over all city budget hearings that reviewed each of the 27 department budgets. Reacting to the fact the council enacted a budget with $100 million more in additional spending, Bassan had this to say:

“With inflation and the cost of services and goods, that’s part of what I’m trying to wrap my head around and accept is that things did go up globally, so I’m not surprised our budget did too. ”

The council approved the budget on a 7-2 vote with City Councilors Dan Lewis and Renee Grout voting against it. Neither explained their opposition during the meeting. After the meeting, City Councilor Dan Lewis said in an interview that he could not support appropriating $100 million in additional revenues an he had this to say:

“I just disagree with the entire budget. … I think it could have been done a lot better.”

Lewis singled out and objected to the $250,000 council sponsorship of Planned Parenthood, no doubt because he is “pro life” and is opposed to Plan Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose. Dan Lewis failed to provide specific as examples of departments or programs getting too much money in the approved budget.

During the April 28 budget hearing, Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis questioned APD for more information on its budgeting strategy on using unspent sworn police officers salaries for other priorities. Lewis said this:

“I think it’s good for us to understand this is not a budget that [actually] funds 1,100 police officers. … We’re going to give you [funding for] 1,100 officers this year. We’re going to fund [the amount] just like we did last year. We’re continuing to do that, but I think at the very least what this council is going to need and want is a very specific breakdown of where those salary savings went because we didn’t hire those officers.”

Chief Medina said that financial cushion from last year helped cover a union-negotiated 8% officer pay increase that took effect in January and was not otherwise funded. The proposed budget covers the continuation of the 8% pay increase that went into effect in January and then covers the additional 5%, for a total of 13% in APD sworn police raises that starts on July 1. 2022.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYIS

SELF RIGHTEOUS DAN LEWIS MOUTHING OFF IS SIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis mouthing off and saying “I just disagree with the entire budget. … I think it could have been done a lot better” amounts to nothing more than meritless, self-righteous indignation and laziness on his part. If Dan Lewis had a problem with the proposed budget funding and APD budgeting he should have offered amendments to the budget to voice his concerns and make cuts or require further approval from the City Council, but no, he just wanted to grand stand for publicity sake.

Lewis is also no neophyte to the City Council. He has just begun his third term on the city council after a 4-year absence caused by him losing his run for Mayor in 2017 in a landslide to Tim Keller. Lewis has served as the City Council Budget Chair in the past and knows full well that he could have just as easily instructed the council to draft a proposed “substitute budget” to his liking, or sponsored amendments to the proposed budget, but that would have required effort and some work on his part.

The blunt truth is Dan Lewis could have NOThave done a better job with the budget and he just wants to complain for publicity sake. Dan Lewis has already made it known privately to supporters he is running for Mayor again in 2025. His voting noon the budget amounts to nothing more than his continuing obstructionists’ tactics he is known for since assuming office on January 1 to carry out his personal vendetta against Tim Keller.

LARGEST BUDGET IN CITY’S HISTORY

Last year’s $1.2 Billion dollar budget was the largest budget in the city’s history and that record has now been broken. The 2022-2023 approved city budget of $1.4 Billion and with $857 million in general fund appropriations and a 20% increase over the current year’s budget which ends June 10, 2022 makes it the single largest budget in the city’s history. Information on budgets passed for other city departments can be found in the postscript to this blog.

The City Council budget process is one of the very few times that the council can bore deep down into each of the city department budgets. All too often, Mayor’s and their political operatives view the City Council more of an annoyance as opposed to being a legitimate oversight function.

All to often, it becomes a process of members of the City Council asking the Mayor and his top executives the main question “What is it in this budget do you not want us to know about?” or put it another way “What is it that you are hiding or lying about?”

The council’s approved budget will now be forwarded to Mayor Tim Keller for his final review and signature.

____________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

Other major departments budgets worth noting in the 2022-2023 budget listed from highest to lowest budgets approved in the 2023 budget are as follows:

The SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT provides residential and commercial trash collection, disposal, and the collection of residential recycling. The department oversees large-item disposal, graffiti removal, weed and litter abatement, median maintenance, convenience centers, and neighborhood cleanup support. Other services include operating the City landfill in compliance with State and Federal regulations and educating the public about recycling and responsible waste disposal. The council approved budget is for $89.8 million, of which $67.1 million is to fund operations and $22.6 million is in transfers to other funds. The Solid Waste Management Department’s fiscal year 2023 operating budget reflects an increase of 3.8% or $3.3 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget level. In 2022, the department budget lists 505 full time positions and and in 2023 there 524 full time positions listed.

The FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES has total funding at $72.4 million. Under the council approved budget its funding is increased by 24%. Family and Community Services in 2022 is budgeted for 323 and in 2023 it is budgeted for 335 full time positions.

The AVIATION DEPARTMENT operates two municipal airports: The Albuquerque International Sunport , which covers approximately 2,200 acres on Albuquerque’s east side; and Double Eagle II (DE II) Reliever Airport, which covers approximately 4,500 acres on Albuquerque’s west side. The council approved budget for fiscal year 2023, is $69.2 million, or an increase of 4% from the fiscal year 2022 original budget of $66.5 million employing 293 in 2022 and employing 298 in 2023.

The DEPARTMENT OF ARTS AND CULTURE is comprised of seven divisions. The Albuquerque Biological Park (BioPark) operates the Zoo, Aquarium, Botanic Gardens, Heritage Farm, Bugarium, Tingley Beach and the Albuquerque Museum. The fiscal year 2023 council approved General Fund budget for the Department of Arts and Culture is $49.7 million and reflects an increase of 7% or $3.3 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The Department of Arts and Culture in 2022 is budgeted for 399 and in 2023 it is budgeted for 403 full time positions.

The TRANSIT DEPARTMENT provides fixed route (ABQ Ride) and rapid transit (ART) bus service for the Albuquerque community and Para-Transit (SunVan) service for the mobility impaired population. The Fiscal year 2023 council approved budget for the Transit Department Operating Fund is $62.8 million, an increase of $13.5 million above the fiscal 2022 original budget. The department has listed 546 full time positions for 2022 and has 552 full time positions listed for 2023.

The PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT serves the recreational needs of the residents of Albuquerque and the surrounding metropolitan areas. The department is organized into the following divisions: park management, recreation services, aquatics, open space, golf, parks design, planning and construction. The council approved budget is $54.2 million, an increase of 17.1%, or $7.9 million above the FY/22 original budget. The Parks and Recreation Department employs 318 in 2022 and will 329 in 2023.

The DEPARTMENT OF MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT (DMD) operates and maintains City streets, storm drains, traffic signals, street lighting, parking operations and the development and design of capital public buildings. The fiscal year 2023 approved budget for the General Fund budget is $39 million, a decrease of 45.5% or $32.5 million below the fiscal year 2022 original budget. The major reason for the decrease is that many functions and divisions of the DMD were transferred to General Services Department including the department’s divisions of security, facilities maintenance, energy, Gibson Medical Center, Law Enforcement Center and stadium operations resulting in a total decrease to DMD’s budget of $37.8 million. Total full time positions for the Municipal Development Department will go from 546 in 2022 to 334 in 2023.

The GENERAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT (GSD) is a new department in fiscal year 2023 with the key responsibility of centralizing maintenance of major City facilities such as the Albuquerque Government Center, the Baseball Stadium and the Convention Center, which includes contract management. This department will assume responsibility for the facilitation of security and fleet operations throughout the City. GSD also includes Energy and Sustainability as well as the Law Enforcement Center and Gibson Medical Center. The fiscal year 2023 approved budget is $39 million and includes a move of facilities, security, Gibson Medical Center, 3% Energy CIP from Municipal Development, Convention Center and Railyards from Economic Development, and Fleet Services from Finance and Administrative Services. The number of full time employees for the General services department in 2021 is 247.

The PLANNING DEPARTMENT’S fiscal year 2023 city council approved budget is $21.9 million, an increase of $5.2 million or 31.6% above the fiscal year 2022 original budget. The planning department will add 21 new positions, including 10 “to streamline and expedite” development review processes, and new departmental software. In Code Enforcement, eight positions are added to increase the division’s ability to respond to customer inquiries, provide quicker review times for building permits, and to properly enforce new ordinances and initiatives. The total cost for positions and associated operating increases the budget by $571 thousand of which $28 thousand is one-time.

The CITY ATTORNEY and the Legal Department advises the City in all legal matters, and consists of six main divisions: the Litigation Division; the Employment Law Division; the Municipal Affairs Division; the Division of Property, Finance, Development and Public Information; the Policy Division; and the Compliance Division. The Litigation Division appears on behalf of the City in all courts in New Mexico and before administrative and legislative bodies. The legal department is responsible for managing and defending the City, its elected and appointed officials, and departments before all federal and state courts in relation to civil rights and tort related claims. The fiscal year 2023 city council approved budget is is $9.7 million, an increase of 22% over the fiscal year 2022 original budget. In 2021, the legal department employed 78 full time employees and in 2023 it is budgeted to employ 83.

The OFFICE OF THE CITY CLERK maintains official records for the City of Albuquerque, administers the public financing program for municipal elections, manages and administers all municipal elections, accepts construction and contracting bids from the general public, as well as accepts service of process for summons, subpoenas and tort claims on behalf of the City of Albuquerque. The City Clerk is the chief records custodian for the City of Albuquerque and processes requests for public records pursuant to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IRPA). The city clerk receives upwards of 10,000 public records requests each year. The Office of the City Clerk also manages the Office of Administrative Hearings and is responsible for conducting all hearings specifically assigned by City of Albuquerque ordinance, including animal appeals, handicap parking and personnel matters. The fiscal year 2023 city council approved budget isis $4.3 million, an increase of 47.7%, or $1.4 million above the fiscal year 2022 original budget. The city clerk has 28 full time employees.

Other much smaller budgeted city departments include Senior Affairs, the Human Resources Department, the Office of the Mayor, Office of Chief Administrative Officer, the Office of Inspector General, Office of Internal Audit and the Civilian Police Oversight Department. Smaller departments such as City Support, Finance and Administrative Services, and Human Resources have large appropriations because of the number and type of funds managed within the departments.

The link to the 244-page 2022-2023 budget to review all city department budgets is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-proposed-final-web-version.pdf