JIM LARSON GUEST COLUMN: “Mayor Keller Makes Major Mistake Appointing Interim Chief Who Created The Problem”; Do Authentic National Search and Allow New Chief To Replace Any Poorly Functioning Command Staff

Jim Larson has been a long-term resident of Albuquerque. Mr. Larson has an extensive and diversified career in law-enforcement both on the Federal and State levels. His law enforcement career includes being a former United States Secret Service Agent, a Dallas Texas Police Officer, and Investigator with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and working at Sandia National Laboratories. After retiring from Sandia National Laboratories, Mr. Larson served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children. He has been involved with APD civilian police reform including serving a short period of time on the Civilian Police Oversight Board.

The following guest column was submitted by Mr. Larson for publication on this blog:

“On Thursday morning, September 10, Mayor Tim Keller along with APD Chief Michael Geier, held a press conference to announce that Chief Geier was retiring after 2 years and 9 months as APD Chief. Mayor Keller also announced that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina would be taking over as interim Chief starting Monday, September 14.

Harold Medina is the wrong person at the wrong time for the job of Interim Chief and Chief. Medina has no business being in charge of a police department that is still under a federal court approved settlement after the Department of Justice found a “culture of aggression” and a pattern of use of “deadly force”. Harold Medina was part of the problem then and with his negligent management he actually helped create, participated in, or at a minimum, did not stop the “culture of aggression.

Interim Chief’s Harold Medina’s past actions need to be remembered and highlighted.

THE KEN ELLIS SHOOTING

The January 2010, killing of Kenneth Ellis, III, a 25-year-old veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder by APD was among a string of encounters that contributed to the launch of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether APD had a pattern of violating people’s civil rights, specifically through the use of force and deadly force.

The DOJ findings found it was unreasonable for the officer to have used deadly force on Ellis. Officers suspected Ellis of vehicle theft and pulled him over in a parking lot. Ellis exited the vehicle holding a gun pointed to his head. Ellis continued to hold the gun to his head as he made several phone calls and the officers attempted to negotiate with him. After several minutes, an officer shot Ellis one time in the neck and killed him.

While it is true that Ellis was holding a gun and thus presented a clear threat of harm, there was never any indication from Ellis’ words or actions that he intended to use the gun on anyone but himself. During his encounter with police, he held the gun to his own head and did not point at police or threaten them with harm. It was unreasonable for the officer to have used deadly force on Ellis. In addition, when officers are dealing with suicidal subjects, their failure to try to de-escalate the situation is a relevant factor in evaluating the reasonableness of any force they might use.

The officer who shot and killed Kenneth Ellis was not a member of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit, but commanding officers within and over SWAT were present when Ellis was shot. Then Lieutenant Harold Medina was likely the ranking officer on the scene who should have been giving commands or approving the actions of the APD officers .

The DOJ’s investigation of the APD shooting used the department’s own reports on the shooting to make it clear what happened when it states:

“The SWAT commanding officers failed to exert control over the scene, such as by making a plan for handling the crisis, determining where officers should be positioned, or deciding what roles each officer would fulfill … The lack of scene control contributed to a chaotic environment and allowed the shooting officer to act on his own accord when he shot and killed Ellis.”

The Elis Family sued the city for wrongful death. A jury returned a verdict finding the City and the officer who shot him liable for Ellis’ death and awarding more than $10 million in damages.

MEDINA BECOMES APD COMMANDER

Acting Chief Harold Medina was employed by APD for all five of the years of the DOJ review, and at least four of the five, in a supervisory or command level. In January 2010, he was a lieutenant with Property Crimes and the officer in charge at the scene after officers suspected Kenneth Ellis of vehicle theft and pulled him over in a parking lot and later fatally shot him.

Acting Chief Medina later became the Commander for Tactical, which is identified by APD sources as the SWAT unit, where he served 19 months. He later served in the Southwest Area Command and Property Crimes before he retired from APD in 2014.

The DOJ’s investigation found:

“Other instances of officer recklessness that led to unreasonable uses of deadly force involved officers from the department’s SWAT unit who acted without proper discipline or control. In force incidents the DOJ reviewed, they found instances in which the SWAT unit did not operate with the discipline and control that would be expected of them, and this lack of discipline contributed to unreasonable uses of deadly force.”

SWAT units are generally among the most highly trained in a police department. SWAT units are called upon to handle the most dangerous situations that police encounter and officers assigned to SWAT units typically operate under strict protocols and carry out operations in a highly planned and organized fashion.

DOJ review of individual [overall] use-of-force complaints and reports informed their investigation into whether a pattern or practice of excessive force exists. The DOJ investigation

“determined that structural and systemic deficiencies—including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies— contribute to the use of unreasonable force. For too long, Albuquerque officers have faced little scrutiny from their superiors in carrying out this fundamental responsibility.”

COURT APPROVED SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

Former Mayor Richard Berry and APD Chief Gordon Eden were never fully committed to the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and the 270 mandated reforms that they negotiated with the Department of Justice. They were insincere partners in the development of the CASA, essentially to avoid their reputation being further bludgeoned by a lengthy civil suit they were likely to lose. Once the CASA was negotiated, the Federal Monitor for 4 years found that under Berry and Eden, the APD command staff engaged in a pattern of delay and obstructionists’ tactics and resisted the reforms.

The CASA represented a new strategy with requirements to try to force a cultural shift to achieve it. For all its benefits and blemishes, it is now part of APD’s legacy that remains uniquely APD’s and cannot be traded as if it were a used car. Cultural inclinations are well entrenched, for good or bad. APD leadership for the first three years under the consent decree were a significant obstacle to movement for cultural change with their own resistance to change, continued tolerance of mediocrity, and suspicions of outsiders. Former Chief Michael Geier served as Commander for nearly five years in APD and retired from APD in April 2014. Harold Medina also retired in 2014 after serving as a Lieutenant and a Commander.

It was on April 10, 2014 that the serious and appalling DOJ investigative report conclusions were made public that highlighted the SWAT unit for officer recklessness that led to unreasonable uses of deadly force involved officers from the department’s SWAT unit who acted without proper discipline or control and the SWAT unit did not operate with the discipline and control that would be expected of them, and this lack of discipline contributed to unreasonable uses of deadly force.

The link to the April 10, 2014, forty-six page DOJ investigation report is here:

https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-nm/legacy/2015/01/20/140410%20DOJ-APD%20Findings%20Letter.pdf

Three more years after Berry and Eden, under the leadership of Mayor Tim Keller and with the re-tread APD leadership of former Chief Geier and First Deputy Chief Medina, APD continues to struggle with cultural intransigence to the cultural change in APD envisioned by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement and the City’s newly approved Civilian Police Oversight Agency. The CASA monitoring team’s 11th Report observed examples of some APD personnel still failing to adhere to the requirements of the CASA.

The federal monitor in his 11th Monitors report found instances moving beyond the epicenter of the issue supervision to mid- and upper management levels of the organization. The monitor found:

“Some in APD’s command levels continue to exhibit behaviors that build bulwarks preventing fair and objective discipline, including a case of attempting to delay—in some cases successfully—oversight processes until the timelines for administering discipline have been exceeded, thus preventing an effective remedial response to behavior that is clearly in violation of established policy.”

Chief Geier and Deputy Chief Medina, as well as some other Command Staff, were in leadership positions during the culture that led the DOJ to “determine that structural and systemic deficiencies—including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies— contribute to the use of unreasonable force (emphasis added) and for too long, Albuquerque officers have faced little scrutiny from their superiors in carrying out this fundamental responsibility.”

Six years into the CASA APD continues to struggle with the DOJ finding that APD engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force during the course of arrests and other detentions and officers too often use deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms. All of the 11 Federal Monitor reports lends credence that it is APD’s management and the re-hiring command level department personnel to change the culture that they themselves contributed to, participated in, or turned a blind eye have impeded the reforms .

Mayor Keller needs to find and bring in the best that can be found to take over APD. The city needs to find those with the highest potential and get the right people in the right positions which will mark the difference between success and failure. Yet surprisingly, Mayor Keller after unceremoniously removing Chief Geier, seems unable to meet that challenge, once again reverting to someone that thrived in the old culture, a strategy that failed with the appointment of Chief Michael Geier and that is likely to fail again.

MAYOR KELLER NEEDS TO REMOVE MEDINA AS WELL

In imperfect systems initial mistaken calls by well-meaning, smart, and competent people of general good like Mayor Keller are bound to happen and reconsideration is always difficult at best. An opinion once formed is hard to abandon. A conclusion once broadcast is hard to withdraw. But the open mind has to persist beyond the first call in decisions. One’s understanding of the truth, whether that’s the correctness of a fact or conclusions drawn in an investigation, should never be unalterable.

Keller’s appointment of Harold Medina as interim Chief needs to be reversed while there is still time and before he is made permanent. Keller needs a more careful review of the wisdom of re-hiring someone as Deputy Chief and then cursorily removing the Chief and replacing him with a Deputy Chief whose advancement and actions in leadership positions during culture that led the DOJ to determine that structural and systemic deficiencies—including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies— contribute to the use of unreasonable force emphasis added and for too long, Albuquerque officers have faced little scrutiny from their superiors in carrying out this fundamental responsibility.

This is all the more important when that person was a leader and commander of a unit that was specially called out as a problem in the DOJ investigation. I would hate to see the incredible changes and improvements that the SWAT unit has made while receiving excellent reviews from the DOJ Monitor negatively impacted.

The length of time to do another “national search”, which many in the community and APD believe a charade, is likely very long given the circumstances and timing of the next mayoral election, so this interim Chief decision has incalculable importance for moving forward. The APD officers and personnel and citizens of Albuquerque deserve a more thoughtful and considered decision for the interim Chief than the default again to re-tread, Deputy Chief Harold Medina, especially given his known history and DOJ findings in the SWAT unit he commanded.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pursuant to a clarification provided by APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos on September 17, the above blog article has been modified by author Jim Larson to clarify the information regarding Interim Chief Harold Medina’s work history and time period as an APD Lieutenant and Commander. The opinions expressed in the above article are those of Jim Larson and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com. Mr. Larson was not compensated for the column.

DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Interim APD Chief Harold Medina was hired by APD in 1995 and retired from APD after 20 years of service. He served with APD until 2014, when he retired and became Chief of the Pueblo of Laguna for three years. Medina returned to APD as a Deputy Chief when Keller took over as Mayor in December, 2017. APD First Deputy Chief Harold Medina went from being paid $136,040.20 in 2019 to being paid $145,017.60 within a few months after repeatedly complaining to Chief Geier and CAO Nair he was paid less than the other Deputy Chiefs. Former APD Chief Michael Geier was paid $183,378.60 a year and it is likely Medina will be paid the same or near that amount as Interim Chief.

Interim APD Chief Harold Medina has the tragic distinction of shooting and killing a 14-year-old Cibola High School student in 2004 when he was an APD field officer. At the time of the shooting, Harold Medina was 30 years old and was a seven-and-a-half-year veteran of APD. According to news accounts, 14-year-old boy Dominic Montoya went to Taylor Ranch Baptist Church looking for prayer. Montoya was reported as saying he was possessed by demons and went to church for help. Some one noticed the teenager was concealing a weapon and APD was called. It turned out it was a BB gun and when APD showed up, the 14-year-old was fatally shot by police after pointing the BB gun at the officers. It was the APD Officer Harold Medina who fired 3 shots at the 14 year old, Cibola High School Student with two hitting the juvenile in the abdomen. It was reported that the BB gun was indistinguishable from a real gun and Medina said he was in fear for his life.

Links to news coverage is here:

https://www.theintelligencer.com/news/article/Police-Kill-Teen-Gunman-in-Church-10499991.php

https://apnews.com/41e13a7f6393b3ea5b92ccfadae5ccd6

APD leadership and management is crumbling around Mayor Tim Keller who is failing to keep his campaign promises of reducing high crime rates, returning to community-based policing, increasing the size of APD and implementing the DOJ reforms. The abrupt departure of Chief Geier no doubt will have a major impact on implementing the DOJ mandated reforms.

Keller appointed Geier after a “national search” and after Geier retired for a 3rd time from law enforcement. The national search was a sham. Appointing First Deputy Chief Harold Medina as Interim Chief confirms insider information that APD is in total disarray and its management in shambles as result of infighting, with much of the infighting created by Harold Medina. Keller has announced that another national search will be conducted to find a new Chief, and if its anything like the search he conducted that resulted in Chief Geier being appointed Chief, it will be sham. The link to a related blog article is here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/14/national-search-for-new-apd-chief-a-sham/

It is no secret at city hall that Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair is very much involved with the day to day management of APD and that Deputy Chief Harold Medina have developed a strong working relationship with CAO Nair. According to sources, Harold Medina will do whatever he is told to do by CAO Nair and Mayor Tim Keller. Confidential APD command staff have been reporting that Harold Medina was making it known to them that he intended to be the next Chief of APD.

CLEAN SWEEP IS NEEDED

When candidate Keller was running for Mayor, he promised sweeping changes with APD, a national search for a new APD Chief and a return to Community based policing. During Mayor Tim Keller’s first 8 months in office, Keller did not make the dramatic management changes he promised, but a relied on past management of the department and past practices. The current Deputy Chiefs are not outsiders at all but have been with APD for years.

APD needs a clean sweep in management and philosophy to remove anyone who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process during the last 3 years of the consent decree, including Harold Medina. Keller’s “new” and present Deputies are a reflection of APD’s past and all have been with APD for some time. APD’s current command staff are not a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing practices.

Mayor Tim Keller needs to conduct a national search to find a new Chief and Deputy Chiefs who are not already with APD and allow whoever is chosen to run APD free of his interference or the interference of CAO Nair. Interim APD Chief Harold Medina is part of the very problem that brought the Department of Justice here in the first place. It is not at all likely, despite whatever public comments he makes, that Medina will ever get behind the Federal mandated reforms which should disqualify him from being Chief. Harold Medina should also be thanked for his service and move on giving him a good letter of recommendation as he seeks employment elsewhere.

APD Chief Geier Says He Retired; Scathing ABQ Journal Editorial On Geier’s Departure; Strange Bedfellows Should Be: Mayor Keller And Sheriff Manny Gonzales Finding New APD Chief Together

On September 10, a blog article was published entitled “Mayor Keller Abruptly Terminates APD Chief Geier; Appoints First Deputy Chief Harold Medina Interim Chief; Keller Should Replace All Deputies; Freshman City Councilor Brook Bassan Shows Entire City Council How To Do Their Jobs”. The link to the blog article is here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2020/09/10/mayor-keller-abruptly-terminates-apd-chief-geier-appoints-first-deputy-chief-harold-medina-interim-chief-keller-should-replace-all-deputies-freshman-city-councilor-brook-bassan-shows-entire-city-co/

The approach taken by the blog is to first report on the news with sources and research material and then provide political COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS. Blog articles posted on the political blog www.PeteDinelli.com are separately emailed to anyone who is mentioned as a matter of common courtesy. Links to blog articles are emailed to allow people to freely challenge and question the accuracy of the blog article.

Within hours of the September 10 blog article being published, APD Chief Michael Geier sent an email objecting to the characterization that he was “terminated” saying he in fact “retired.” Subsequent to the publication of the blog article, information was provided to the blog by confidential sources as to the circumstances surrounding Chief Geier’s departure from APD.

NEWSWORTHY EMAIL EXCHANGE

Below are 3 emails relating to a blog article posted September 10. The contents of the emails below are being published because they involve what is essentially a communication from the top APD law enforcement official to a political blogger. Normally, such communications are totally ignored, not responded to and blocked. The fact that the hostile email was sent by the APD Chief to a private citizen makes it news worthy.

The first email is from Pete Dinelli to APD Chief Michael Geier containing the link to the blog article and is as follows:

Date: 9/10/2020 12:53:47 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: Michael Geier
From: Pete Dinelli

Subject: Link to Dinelli blog article “Mayor Keller Abruptly Terminates APD Chief Geier; Appoints First Deputy Chief Harold Medina Interim Chief; Keller Should Replace All Deputies; Freshman City Councilor Brook Bassan Shows Entire City Council How To Do Their Jobs”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: THE EMAIL CONTENT WAS ONLY THE FOLLOWING LINK TO THE BLOG ARTICLE)

https://www.petedinelli.com/2020/09/10/mayor-keller-abruptly-terminates-apd-chief-geier-appoints-first-deputy-chief-harold-medina-interim-chief-keller-should-replace-all-deputies-freshman-city-councilor-brook-bassan-shows-entire-city-co/

The second email is a reply from APD Chief Michael Geier to Pete Dinelli sent a little over and hour after the first email sent to Geier. Follow is the email:

Date: 9/10/2020 2:14:30 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: Pete Dinelli
From: Michael Geier

Subject: Link to Dinelli blog article: “Mayor Keller Abruptly Terminates APD Chief Geier; Appoints First Deputy Chief Harold Medina Interim Chief; Keller Should Replace All Deputies; Freshman City Councilor Brook Bassan Shows Entire City Council How To Do Their Jobs”

In a message dated 9/10/2020 2:14:30 PM Mountain Standard Time, mgeier writes:

[EMAIL CONTENT;]

“Hey Pete. Now that I’m retiring I can tell you that it would be nice if you got your facts right before you spew your crap. SO for the record, I did NOT get terminated. Which reminds of when you ran the safe city strike force. How did that work out for you? Or your failed attempts at running for mayor or your very short stint as our public safety director. Hmmm, that didn’t end well either. I also plan to write a blog now that I will have some free time and I plan to mention you in many of my articles. Issue 1 will talk about the lawsuits filed against the Safe City Strike Force costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The third email is from Pete Dinelli sent to Chief Geier in response to his email.

Date: 9/10/2020 6:20:17 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: Michael Geier
From: Pete Dinelli
Subject: Response to your departing email to me

[EMAIL CONTENT]

Chief Geier:

Thank you for your email, but please confirm if it was written by you, Gilbert Gallegos, John Ross or Sarita Nair.

It is interesting that only now you write me about my blog. I sent you all the blog articles over the last 3 years out of courtesy to you whenever you were mentioned. Not once did you ever write to complain or demand a correction to what was said. Please also recall the times I offered to publish guest columns written by APD and the offer was declined.

Good luck Chief as you try to do a blog on your own and I do wish you success. You may want to find other topics for your blog other than me. I have already written articles about the safe city strike force, my run for Mayor as well as that federal lawsuit that the city failed to defend and that was filed only after I retired. Also, please do not get discourage if no one reads your blog at first. It took me over three years to get to over 72,000 views and reads a year of my articles.

I suggest that as a topic for your first article, you write about how Keller summoned you to a city park over the Labor Day holiday to met with him and Nair about your continued employment as opposed to your termination and your subsequent meeting with Nair. I also suggest you write about the legal matters you will be dealing with after leaving the City namely any news involving the Attorney General or State Auditor regarding you own job performance.

Best wishes and I do hope you enjoy your retirement as much as I do.

A LABOR DAY WEEKEND WALK IN THE PARK

On September 10, after the blog article was published, confidential sources provided information that APD Chief Michael Geier was summoned to a city park by Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair during the September 5 Labor Day Holiday weekend. The purpose of the meeting was that Keller had decided to let Geier go, that his services were no longer needed and it was time for Geier to leave APD.

According to the sources Keller told Geier he wanted to take APD in a different direction. Geier was given the choice between termination or retirement and Geier agreed that it was time to retire. Soon after their walk in the park, sources say that Geier met CAO Nair in her office at city hall and the meeting became hostile. On Thursday morning, September 10, the details of Geier’s “retirement” were worked out and the press conference was held by Keller where Geier read his statement.

SECOND VERSE SAME AS THE FIRST

The reasons given by Chief Geier for retiring from APD are remarkably similar, some identical, to those he gave when he retired as Rio Rancho Police Chief close to 3 years ago.

EXCERPT FROM CHIEF GEIER’S RETIREMENT STATEMENT

Below in part is the statement read by APD Chief Geier at the September 10 press conference announcing his retirement:

“ … I have always known that the day would come when I would retire. The last several months have taken its toll on all of us. We have faced unprecedented challenges with COVID, protests in the wake of the George Floyd incident, increased violence in our city and let’s not forget, the never-ending scrutiny of our consent decree. Over my career I have been unable to spend quality time with my own family that they deserved. I will never be able to recoup what I missed but I now believe I can make up for lost time. My wife, children and grandchildren always placed my career at the forefront. They endured the varied work schedules, long hours on graveyard shifts, 24 hour on-call status, missed little leagues games, birthday parties, weekends and holidays worked, etc, etc. My goal is to now put all of them on the forefront and spend many hours of quality time I missed out on during my career. It has not been an easy decision but I will be retiring from APD in the next few weeks. …”

CHIEF GEIER’S RETIREMENT FROM RRPD

On January 28th, 2017, it was reported that then Rio Rancho Police Department (RRPD) Chief Michael Geier was stepping down as Police Chief. Geier joined RRPD in 2014, following a 20-year career with the Albuquerque Police Department.

Reasons given by Geier for retiring from the RRPD were he wanted to spend more time with his wife, who suffers from the rare skin disease scleroderma. Geier said in 2017:

“I’ve been doing this for 43 years and, at some point, you’ve got to put something first. We’ve been together 42 years …right now, I need an extended sabbatical to help her and give that attention.”

A link to the news coverage is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/937902/police-chief-to-step-down.html

KELLER ARTICULATES REASONS FOR GEIER’S DEPARTURE

Keller and Geier have known each other for 15 years. They met when Keller was a freshman state senator representing Albuquerque’s International District and Geier was the APD area commander. Chief Geier was one of the first appointments made by Mayor Tim Keller when he took office on December 1, 2017. Confidential sources have said that in 2017, then State Auditor Tim Keller running for Mayor, met with Geier and asked Geier to be APD Chief if Keller was elected Mayor and Geier agreed to serve with the understanding it would be for a full 4 years.

On September 10, in a written statement, Keller said of Geier:

“Chief Geier came in at a pivotal moment for the Department, and did a courageous job righting the ship through our first year, getting new leadership in place, focusing on gun violence and getting reform efforts on track. … I deeply appreciate the extremely difficult job he took on nearly three years ago. He helped move APD in the right direction in so many important ways.”

During the September 10 press conference, Keller said there were many factors contributing to the decision for Geier to retire. According to Keller, those factors included the “big issues our city is facing” as well as “small distractions.” Keller put it this way:

“As we saw the need, I saw the need, for also just increased progress for a faster rate of change. … We think it’s the right time for new leadership at APD. So, I think it’s a mutual decision. We want to move faster and we think it’s time for new leadership and he’s also ready to retire. So, I think it’s the way it should be.”

“Any time we have rising crime, we’re not where we want to be, that’s certainly the case. … Any time our Department of Justice reforms are stalled out, that’s not where I want to be, that’s absolutely the case. But I think you also have to be thoughtful and timely about those issues and when you make changes, and I think now is the right time.”

Keller addressed the internal investigation Geier opened into Chief of Staff John Ross over the summer for allegedly improperly purchasing electronics with Geier’s signature stamp and other “conduct that reflects poorly on the department ” and said it was a distraction by saying:

“That’s also something that no one wants to see. … I don’t want to see that either because I want everyone focused on fighting crime.”

Mayor Keller went on to say he felt the city’s 6 yearlong police reform effort under the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) should be moving faster. Geier’s departure from APD occurs soon after the New Mexico State Auditor’s Office and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office announced APD is under investigation for alleged overtime pay fraud.

Mayor Keller, Chief Geier and APD also faced severe criticisms for APD’s releasing crime stats that were seriously flawed and exaggerated the reduction in crime rates. At the time when the statistics were released, Keller held press conferences to announce the statistics and essentially took credit for reducing crime.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1495117/chief-geier-to-leave-albuquerque-police-department.html

ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL WEIGHS IN ON GEIER’S DEPARTURE

On Sunday, September 13, the Albuquerque Journal weighed in on Chief Geier’s departure as follows:

Editorial: With APD’s Geier out, we need a strong chief who’s allowed to tackle rampant crime
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
Sunday, September 13th, 2020 at 12:02am

“City to seek federal help in boosting APD”
– Sept. 2, A1
“Most NM voters back police, oppose cuts”
– Sept. 10, A1
“Bust leads to gun store suspect”
– Sept. 10, A1
“Keller administration grilled on handling of APD”
– Sept. 10, A5
“Chief Geier to leave APD”
– Sept. 11, A1

These are but a few of the headlines from recent Albuquerque Journal pages. You don’t have to look far to find law enforcement in the news.

And there’s no question a community’s police chief, and its police department, are among the highest-profile and highest-scrutinized jobs and agencies in local government. But the Albuquerque Police Department has had more than its share of well-deserved controversy over the years – the most recent being questions regarding the fatal shootings of people suffering with behavioral health issues.

The department has been under a Department of Justice settlement agreement since 2014 as civilian and police officials work together to ensure reforms lead to constitutional policing.

And yet, given all this plus a checkered history that includes an evidence-room scandal and social media postings of “human waste disposal,” and in light of truly horrifying deaths of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police across the nation, a recent Journal Poll found New Mexicans overwhelmingly support their police officers – 74%. And that a large majority oppose cutting funding from those officers’ departments – 61%.

The support is there because most of us realize we count on these men and women in uniform to answer our calls for help – and that the vast majority do their best to answer those calls.

Still, questions arise when 80 people are killed in Albuquerque in 2019 and only 50% of those cases are solved.

Or when rioters follow a Black Lives Matter protest Downtown this summer by lighting fires, smashing windows and throwing bricks at officers and APD arrests few, if any, responsible for the vandalism that occurred in front of them.

And when protesters and counter protesters clash over the statue of conquistador Don Juan de Oñate in Tiguex Park, with plenty of weapons: chains, pickaxes and rifles. But no cops, until someone is shot. APD had been ordered to stay in the nearby Albuquerque Museum because officers’ mere presence could inflame the crowds. Their distinct absence created a vacuum the so-called New Mexico Civil Guard and armed thugs were ready, willing and able to fill. District Attorney Raúl Torrez says APD’s response then bungled the investigation.

To be clear: Geier has dedicated decades to public safety, in the Chicago area, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. He has helped institute policies at APD that have cut auto theft from record highs, focused on gun violence and helped get court-monitored reform efforts on track.

But whether by choice or by orders from the 11th floor, Geier was never the public face of crime-fighting the city needed, especially once Albuquerque was deemed one of the most violent cities in the nation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Just last week, City Councilor Brook Bassan publicly questioned Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair on whether the mayor’s office was overmanaging the police department and whether Mayor Tim Keller and his team were pushing Geier out. Nair sidestepped the queries, criticizing Bassan for churning the “rumor mill.”

Less than 24 hours later, it was announced Geier was retiring.

As questions swirl about who’s really been in charge of the department – Geier, a 20-year-veteran of APD who came out of retirement three years ago to take the helm, or Mayor Tim Keller’s progressive administration – let’s remember:

• The department issued rosy statistics on crime last summer, then had to take them back and acknowledge that while property crime had decreased, violent crimes including homicide, human trafficking, kidnapping and assault had remained constant and drug offenses, prostitution and animal cruelty were up 9%.

• Geier was mum while $9.7 million in federal grant money for police officers hung in the balance over the city’s immigrant-friendly policies. Then-Deputy Chief Harold Medina (now interim chief) didn’t hold back, calling it “political extortion.” The federal grant, approved by the City Council 7-2 Wednesday night, will pay the salaries of 40 new officers for three years. It is the kind of thing a police chief is expected to vocally advocate for.

• A survey of 433 APD officers this summer showed 62% of them did not feel supported by their police chief; even more did not feel supported by their mayor.

• Then APD posted a tweet on its official account, ostensibly by Geier, denouncing the high-profile police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as “senseless.” APD later deleted the tweet, with a department spokesman acknowledging it was sent without Geier’s approval.

• Other internal strife was revealed when a whistleblower said Geier’s chief of staff, John Ross, bypassed city rules to buy a $2,400 Apple laptop computer and $200 Apple TV box that didn’t appear to have any work purpose and wrangled himself a “significant” pay raise without the chief’s approval by lobbying Nair. The department is facing an internal affairs investigation into Ross as well as a special audit for ongoing questionable overtime practices.

The FBI reports Albuquerque has a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average. When the coronavirus hit this spring, Albuquerque stopped dispatching officers to property crime calls, instead asking victims to call and leave a message. None of this is reassuring to locals. None of this looks good in economic development or tourism pitches.

As the Keller administration begins its search for Geier’s replacement, career law enforcement candidates should be sure to pin down how much authority they will really have. And the administration should step back and recognize that while it oversees the department, it is the new chief and his or her staff who have the public safety training and experience to lead our law enforcement officers.

The results – or lack thereof – of the last three years prove that, and that Albuquerque needs a crime-fighter who is front and center.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

The link to the Albuquerque Journal Editorial is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1495890/chief-concerns-with-apds-geier-out-amid-questions-of-whos-in-charge-we-need-a-strong-chief-whos-al

KELLER SHOULD SEEK HELP FROM SHERIFF MANNY GONZLAES FINDING A NEW APD CHIEF

When the Albuquerque Journal editors say “that Albuquerque needs a crime-fighter who is front and center” the one name that pops to mind is Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales. The Sheriff has been “up front and center” with his law enforcement sweeps in the South East area of the city not to mention his involvement with “Operation Legend”, the federal initiative targeting violent crime. Sheriff Manny Gonzales has made it known he wants to run for Mayor next year before his term has ended and he has all but announced that he is running for Mayor.

Frankly, Sheriff Gonzales should not run for Mayor next year. Sheriff Manny Gonzales has some severe shortcomings that make it unlikely he will be the next Mayor or more importantly a good Mayor. Those shortcomings include his opposition to lapel cameras even after the Bernalillo County Commission asked that his department use them and allocated $500,000 funding for them, the deadly use of force cases in his office that have cost taxpayers millions to settle, his opposition to the DOJ consent decree reforms and mandates and having no experience other than a career in law enforcement.

Then there is the matter of Sheriff Gonzales cozying up to Republican President Trump and Attorney General William Barr over Operation Legend. Gonzalez said at first he was going to Washington to meet with Trump and it turns out he went to watch a press conference, nothing more. The trip to Washington damage him politically with Democrats with even Senator Martin Heinrich demanding that the Sheriff resign. If two Democrats run for Mayor, it’s likely that the Republicans will field a candidate of their own and the city will see a repeat of the Mayor Chavez-Romero-Berry race where Richard Berry was elected Mayor.

Sheriff Gonzales has been a good Sheriff, but the qualities of a good Sheriff do not necessarily mean he will make a good Mayor. Sheriff Gonzales is needed now in law enforcement, at least to the end of his term which is in 2022. As far fetched as it may sound, Mayor Tim Keller would be remiss if he did not at least consider asking Sheriff Manny Gonzales for help finding a new APD Chief, perhaps even heading up the search committee. What would really make strange bedfellows would be if Keller asked Gonzales to resign as Sheriff and become the APD Interim Chief without any strings attached. The no strings attached would include allowing Gonzales to run for Mayor next year if he wants.

What makes Sheriff Gonzales qualified to help APD find a new chief is that he is career law enforcement, a well-liked politician as Sheriff, knows the community and knows APD having worked with it over his 20+ years as a Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff. Sheriff Gonzales no doubt has contacts throughout the United States he has developed over his long career in law enforcement. Gonzales has run a law enforcement department and proven he is a crime fighter who is front and center. Sheriff Gonzales is always there when it comes to his department even when things go wrong and when the proverbial “it” hits the fan to take responsibility and deal with a crisis. Such conduct is a far cry from what the city has had with APD Chiefs in the past like Michael Geier, Chief Gordon Eden, Allen Banks and Ray Schultz who all tended to hide in a bunker when confronted with a crisis.

Both Keller and Gonzales have more to lose by not working together to find a new chief than they have trying to upstage each other as to who is the best crime fighter, which is what is happening now. If APD management is not turned around in a hurry the ones that get hurt are the APD rank and file and all the citizens of Albuquerque who are sick and tired of all the violent crime and just want to be safe on the streets and in their homes. Both Keller and Gonzales need to set aside thier own future political ambitions for now and find a new APD command staff that can get the job done. They owe it to the community they both still serve now no matter their future ambitions that may conflict.

Come January 1, 2022 when the Mayor is sworn in after the 2021 election, whoever it is, will be dealing either with a new competent high command management staff or the same old APD department management Geier and Keller put in place that is a throw back to the Ray Schultz years and whose time has also come to move on and retire. APD needs a new generation of police officer in the Chief’s Office NOW who are fully committed to constitutional policing practices.

Gieir’s “Walk In The Park” Ends With His “Retirement”; “Ask Me No Questions, You Internet Rumor Monger!”; Pollster Explains Keller’s 60% Approval Rating Result Of Corona Virus PR Campaign

On Wednesday, September 9, during a meeting of the Albuquerque City Council, Republican Albuquerque City Councilor Brook Bassan asked questions of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair if APD Chief Michael Geier still had the confidence and backing of Mayor Tim Keller who appointed him Chief. During the day, rumors of Chief Geier’s immediate departure circulated throughout City Hall and the APD main office building downtown. The line of questioning and answering between Councilor Bassan and CAO Nair became extremely tense and viewed as hostile by many. As is the case with city council meetings, Mayor Tim Keller was not present and CAO Nair responded on his behalf.

LINE OF QUESTIONING

City Councilor Bassan asked questions of CAO Nair on how much direction the Mayor’s Office was giving APD. Bassan asked about a social media posts that alleged that Mayor Keller and his Administration were pushing Chief Geier out. CAO Nair responded that neither she, Mayor Keller nor anyone on City Hall’s “11 th floor”, a reference to where the Mayor’s offices are located, were making tactical decisions for APD.

Nair did not give a definitive answer when Bassan asked directly if Geier had the administration’s support. Nair dismissed the question as “disrespectful” and did not give a direct answer. Nair told the council that Geier was the “right person for the job” when he was hired nearly three years ago. CAO Nair responded this way:

“I think it’s really important that we can dispel myths, but that we don’t fall into the rumor mill. … Chief Geier was one of the first appointments that the mayor made; he was so clearly the right person for the job at that time that even when we went through a national search, he emerged as the top candidate. … I’m sure it’s not your intent, but it is deeply disrespectful to Chief Geier to engage in internet rumormongering at this point.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1494988/councilor-grills-keller-official-on-handling-of-apd.html

NOT THE FIRST TIME

The September 9 City Council meeting was not the first time Bassan had asked CAO Nair about APD nor Geier. During an August City Council meeting, Bassan questioned Nair after media reports that Geier had requested an Internal Affairs (IA) investigation into his Chief of Staff John Ross for engaging nefarious conduct. The alleged conduct was outlined in a complaint to Chief Geier by his Administrative Secretary. The conduct includes:

1. Ross circumventing purchasing rules to make improper purchases,
2. Ross by passing Chief Geier to secure a $10,000 raise taking his pay from $129,304 a year to $140,000 a year
3. Ross absconding with the chief’s signature stamp that was being kept locked in a secretary’s desk drawer,
4. Ross yelling at and intimidating the chief’s secretary, and
5. Ross takin his dog to work without approval and allowing the animal to defecate and urinate in Deputy Chief offices and instructing personnel to walk the animal.

Chief Geier for his part said:

“I take responsibility for what happens in my office with my chief of staff and my assistant. Any suggestion that I am not in control of the department (is) ridiculous. This is nothing more than petty water-cooler talk.”

The link to a related blog article is here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2020/08/14/a-police-chief-of-staff-engaging-in-nefarious-conduct-for-financial-and-personal-gain-is-not-petty-water-cooler-talk-geier-needs-to-go-and-take-his-chief-of-staff-with-him/

THAT TWEET THAT WAS

During the September 9 City Council meeting, Bassan asked questions regarding the recent controversy in which APD deleted a tweet from its official account that quoted Chief Geier calling the police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where and African American was shot in the back 7 times by a police officer, as “senseless.” Chief Geier later claimed he was not aware of the shooting and said he would not have issued the statement without knowing all the facts surrounding the shooting.

The tweet was removed and Geier issued an apology for the TWEET saying he did not authorize the TWEET. Department Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos later admitted he was the one who wrote and sent out the TWEET without Geier’s approval. When Bassan asked Nair about the TWEET, Nair said that it was “uncommon” to quote officials without their permission. Nair said that APD Spokesman Gallegos had “stepped up to take accountability for that very human mistake.”

ONATE PROTEST HANDLING QUESTIONED

On June 15, a man was shot in Old Town over the “La Jornada” (The Journey) sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum. The June 15 event was originally scheduled to be “prayer vigil” for the removal of the Juan de Oñate statue from the Albuquerque Museum. The prayer vigil erupted into a protest riot and a shooting occurred during the protest for the removal of the figure of Juan de Onate de Salazar in the sculpture. APD’s response and its subsequent shooting investigation came under severe criticism from city councilors and the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office.

During the September 9, meeting, Bassan raised questions regarding APD’s handling of the Juan de Oñate protest. Bassan said she was concerned that the Mayor’s Office had helped make decisions about how APD handled the Onate protest and other protests, an allegation Nair rejected. CAO Nair responded this way to the line of questioning:

“Let me be clear: To the extent you’re suggesting that the 11th floor, as we call it, is making operational or tactical decisions about the Police Department, we are not.”

More than one confidential source has reported that Mayor Tim Keller was in constant contact with CAO Sarita Nair during the June 15 Onate Statue protest at the Albuquerque Museum. According to sources, Keller and Nair were particularly concerned to what extend the Onate statute should be protected and if it even should be protected at all. Mayor Keller had already been informed that the Albuquerque Museum Board of Directors had decided a week earlier that the Onate statue was to be removed and stored until a decision could be made what to do with the statue. As a work of art, the Onate statue is worth upwards of $100,000 and when combined with the other statues, the exhibit originally cost the city $800,000 paid for by voter approved bonds.

CHANNEL 13 NIGHTLY NEWS

On Wednesday, September 9, within a few hours after the City Council meeting, KRQE News 13 during its 10:00 pm news cast reported that effective September 30, APD Chief Michael Geier had been relieved of his duties and was out as APD Chief. News 13 also reported Deputy Chief Harold Medina would take over as acting chief on September 30. When News 13 contacted the Mayor Keller’s office to see what sparked the move, the mayor’s office would not confirm or deny the report.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/apd-police-chief-relieved-of- duties/?fbclid=IwAR1EwxihuZ3l1FvMrdfOyf9wxRpfX2nQjE1kHAJVhDSAPbTYA_9dFoEHY7s

APD CHIEF MICHAEL GEIER ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

On Thursday morning, September 10, Mayor Tim Keller along with APD Chief Michael Geier, held a press conference to announce that Chief Geier was retiring after 2 years and 9 months as APD Chief. Mayor Keller announced that Deputy Chief Harold Medina would be taking over as interim Chief starting Monday, September 14.

APD Chief Geier’s formal announcement was that he had decided to retire and the announcement came less than 24 hours after the previous night’s City Council meeting. At the Thursday morning news conference, Mayor Tim Keller said the details of Chief Geier’s departure were finalized the morning of September 10. According to Keller it was Geier’s decision to leave at the end of the pay period which is September 18.

Chief Geier for his part teared up and gave at emotional farewell. Chief Geier cited a few factors in his personal life that said lead him to retire, including the amount of work the job requires while also having custody of two grandchildren. Geier said:

“My grandkids were playing and I was doing something for work and they asked a couple times, ‘papa come out and play.’ And the little one came and said, she’s eight years old, she goes, ‘papa do you still love us?’ And that was that moment that I wondered, if I was ever looking for a time when I knew I had to retire, it was then.

I love this department. I’ve had a wonderful career in law enforcement. It was very enjoyable and I feel very rewarded. It gave me the opportunity to serve others, and now it’s time for me to rest and turn the reins over to people who have more energy, are a little bit younger and have a lot more time.”

Chief Geier left immediately after speaking and did not take any media questions.

Links to news coverage are here:

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/apd-police-chief-relieved-of-duties/

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/apd-police-chief-relieved-of-duties/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1495117/chief-geier-to-leave-albuquerque-police-department.html

EDITORS NOTE: Chief Geier’s statement read to the press on September 10 is in the postscript to this article. The reasons given by Geier for retiring from APD are remarkably similar to those he gave when he retired as Rio Rancho Police Chief close to 3 years ago. When Geier retired as Chief of RRPD, the reasons he gave were he wanted to spend more time with his wife, who suffers from the rare skin disease scleroderma. Many sources have said that in 2017, then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller running for Mayor, met with Geier and Keller asked Geier to be APD Chief if Keller was elected Mayor, and Geier agreed.

A LABOR DAY WEEKEND WALK IN THE PARK

Confidential sources have provided information that APD Chief Michael Geier was summoned to a city park by Mayor Tim Keller and CAO Sarita Nair during the September 5 Labor Day Holiday weekend. The purpose of the meeting was that Keller had decided to let Geier go, that his services were no longer needed and it was time for Geier to leave APD.

According to sources Keller told Geier he wanted to take APD in a different direction. Geier was given the choice between termination or retirement and Geier agreed that it was time for him to retire. Soon after their walk in the park, sources say that Geier met CAO Nair in her office at city hall and the meeting became hostile. On Thursday morning, September 10, the details of Geier’s “retirement” were worked out and the press conference was held by Keller where Geier read his statement.

KELLER ARTICULATES REASONS FOR GEIER’S DEPARTURE

Keller and Geier have known each other for 15 years. They met when Keller was a freshman state senator representing Albuquerque’s International District and Geier was the APD area commander. Chief Geier was one of the first appointments made by Mayor Tim Keller when he took office on December 1, 2017. Geier is given credit for making great gains in implementing the Department of Justice 270 mandated reforms.
In a written statement, Keller said:

“Chief Geier came in at a pivotal moment for the Department, and did a courageous job righting the ship through our first year, getting new leadership in place, focusing on gun violence and getting reform efforts on track. … I deeply appreciate the extremely difficult job he took on nearly three years ago. He helped move APD in the right direction in so many important ways.”

During the September 10 press conference, Keller said there were many factors contributing to the decision for Geier to retire. According to Keller, those factors included the “big issues our city is facing” as well as “small distractions.” Keller put it this way:

“As we saw the need, I saw the need, for also just increased progress for a faster rate of change. … We think it’s the right time for new leadership at APD. So, I think it’s a mutual decision. We want to move faster and we think it’s time for new leadership and he’s also ready to retire. So, I think it’s the way it should be.”

“Any time we have rising crime, we’re not where we want to be, that’s certainly the case. … Any time our Department of Justice reforms are stalled out, that’s not where I want to be, that’s absolutely the case. But I think you also have to be thoughtful and timely about those issues and when you make changes, and I think now is the right time.”

Keller addressed the internal investigation Geier opened into Chief of Staff John Ross over the summer for allegedly improperly purchasing electronics with Geier’s signature stamp and other “conduct that reflects poorly on the department ” and said it was a distraction by saying:

“That’s also something that no one wants to see. … I don’t want to see that either because I want everyone focused on fighting crime.”

Mayor Keller went on to say he felt the city’s 6 yearlong police reform effort under the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) should be moving faster. Geier’s departure from APD occurs soon after the New Mexico State Auditor’s Office and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office announced APD is under investigation for alleged overtime pay fraud.

Mayor Keller, Chief Geier and APD also faced severe criticisms for APD’s releasing crime stats that were seriously flawed and exaggerated the reduction in crime rates. At the time when the statistics were released, Keller held press conferences to announce the statistics and essentially took credit for reducing crime. APD was criticized for its handling of the Juan de Oñate protest and the shooting investigation.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1495117/chief-geier-to-leave-albuquerque-police-department.html

KELLER TAKES CITY COUNCIL TO TASK

During the September 10 Keller press conference announcing Geier’s retirement, Mayor Keller addressed the exchange between City Councilor Bassan and CAO Nair the night before on September 9. In a very uncharacteristic stoic style and without his trade mark smile and grin in his voice, Keller had harsh words for those who he said were “pandering to social media” and said in part:

“I think it’s important that we give the chief and the leadership and the departments at least a couple of days out of respect to understand what they’re doing next and when their last day is. … I think it was totally inappropriate for council to go into those questions in public.”

City Councilor Bassan when contacted was quick to respond saying she disagreed that she was in the wrong. She said she was raising questions brought to her by her constituents. She also said she considered it her responsibility to seek answers for the public. Bassan was direct and said that CAO Nair “evaded” her questions when she could have instead acknowledged the administration was evaluating the chief’s performance. Bassan had this to say:

“I realize … [Mayor Keller and his administration] don’t want me to be vocal; that would make everything a lot simpler [for them.] .. But I seriously believe the city of Albuquerque deserves to know what is happening.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1495117/chief-geier-to-leave-albuquerque-police-department.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

CAO SARITA NAIR

CAO Sarita Nair is a political operative for Tim Keller. Prior to being appointed as the CAO, Nair served then State Auditor Tim Keller as the State Auditor’s Chief Government Accountability Officer and General Counsel. Keller appointed Nair Chief Administrative Officer(CAO) in December 2017. As CAO, Ms. Nair is the City’s top senior executive manager, overseeing all 19 departments of municipal government and a budget of over $1 billion dollars. Historically, Mayor’s usually appoint CAO’s who have worked for the city and who have understanding how the city is operated. Nair is a bureaucrat who runs the city, yet she has absolutely no prior experience running any city nor any city department and has never been an elected official.

As CAO, Sarita Nair is paid $186,747.20 a year according to the city’s 250 top wage earners. Nair’s inflated pay is the most paid to any CAO in the city’s history and her pay appears to be her biggest accomplishment at city hall.

The line of questioning by the City Councilor Bassan was legitimate and necessary, even if it was based on any rumor of Geier being forced out. When CAO Sarita Nair tells an elected city councilor “I’m sure it’s not your intent, but it is deeply disrespectful to Chief Geier to engage in internet rumor mongering at this point”, it is Nair who is being disrespectful with her backhanded remark and downright arrogance with her “political pivot” answer. Nair could just have easily said she was not prepared to answer the question and moved on.

With regard to the unauthorized tweet that Chief Geier later apologized for, Nair said that it was “uncommon” to quote officials without their permission. Truth is, it was not “uncommon” but a violation of personnel rules and regulation and has an element of fraud. Nair once again deflected the truth and said that APD Spokesman Gallegos had “stepped up to take accountability for that very human mistake.” Nair did not volunteer if anyone asked that Gallegos send out the tweet for Geier, if she was the one who directed Gallegos to send out the tweet nor if she found out why it was sent out in the first place.

With her condescending remark referring to “internet rumor mongering”, it is obvious that CAO Nair does not have a basic understanding that the Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of all city departments, including the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and all budgets. The City Council votes to approve the Mayor’s appointment of the CAO and the APD Chief. In short, CAO Nair is a political appointment who reports to the elected City Council. The City Council does not report to Nair and are not required to do her bidding but the bidding of their constituents.

Nair has a history of being less than forthcoming when asked questions by the city councilors. Her responses regarding the Mayor’s office not being involved with the Onate Statue tactical plan has been discredited by confidential sources that have said she was in constant contact with APD and the Mayor during the protest.

Further, the fact that it was confirmed within hours after the September 9 city council meeting that Geier was leaving APD is evidence that Nair was less than candid about Geier’s departure and downright misleading. It is now apparent Nair was fully aware that Geier was on his way out and she knew what was going on or she at worse was lying to the city council by withholding information.

KELLER IS THE ONE PANDERING TO SOCIAL MEDIA

When Keller said City Councilors were “pandering to social media” he also said:

“I think it’s important that we give the chief … at least a couple of days out of respect to understand what they’re doing next and when their last day is. … I think it was totally inappropriate for council to go into those questions in public.”

Keller ostensibly has forgotten that the City Council not only controls the APD budget but also is responsible to vote on and approve whoever the Mayor appoints as APD Chief. The City Council has every right to ask the employment status of those they are required to vote and approve for a job.

The APD Chief as a Department Director is required to appear before council on a regular basis to testify as to budget matters and policy matters. When Keller tries to admonish the city council for asking questions at a meeting Keller did not even attend, it is as if CAO Sarita Nair went crying to her boss to complain and to demand that she be treated with respect.

No doubt Republican City Councilor Brook Baasan feels that she is not indebted to Mayor Keller in the least, and she is not. Least anyone has forgotten, Mayor Tim Keller endorsed Baasan’s Democratic opponent for City Council Anne Romero. Bassan has also made it known that she is a strong advocate of Chef Michael Geier and for that reason alone she had every right to ask her questions no matter what Keller or his political operative Nair felt.

The only one guilty of “pandering to social media” is Mayor Tim Keller himself. Ever since Mayor Tim Keller assumed office on December 1, 2017, he has taken political showmanship to all new levels. Keller is known for his photo ops and press conferences, attending protest rallies to speak at, attending marches, attending heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, running in track meets and participating in exhibition football games as the quarterback and enjoying reliving his high school glory days, and posting pictures, press conferences and “fluff” videos on his FACEBOOK page all to the delight of his hard core supporters who heap praises on him.

KELLER’s 60% APPROVAL RATING LIKELY THE RESULT OF CORNA VIRUS PUBLIC RELATION TACTICS

Keller increased his public relations activities once the corona virus hit hard in February. Keller held daily news conferences as if competing with the Governor’s daily press conferences. He also took it to another level and held telephone “town halls meetings”. The “town hall” meetings were especially effective and consisted of calling upwards of 13,000 people at one time on city compiled call lists likely prepared by the city’s 911 call center.

During the “tele conference” town halls meetings, Keller answered questions about the pandemic, what the city was doing, including small business grants the city was offering. All the questions asked of Keller were screened by Keller’s longtime political consultant Alan Packman who now works for the city at the 311-call center, paid over $80,000 a year and who only answers to Keller.

Keller’s public relations actions have paid off for him but that may be short lived. On Sunday, September 13, the Albuquerque Journal reported that a poll revealed that Keller has a 60% approval rating close to 3 years into his term. Such an approval makes Keller the automatic front runner as he seeks a second term. However, cautionary statements were made by the pollster.

In the Journal report on the poll taken, Pollster Brian Sanderoff, the President of Research and Polling, said it “is unknown whether Keller’s approval dropped at any point in the past two years and then climbed back up.” According to Sanderoff, it appears that the public perception of Keller improved during the COVID-19 pandemic and said that may be partly because the virus has temporarily supplanted crime as voters’ top concern.

The public’s focus may have shifted to COVID-19 for now, but Sanderoff said Keller’s legacy is still tied to the city’s response to crime and put it this way:

“Crime is still lurking as the biggest issue facing the city, and whether people ultimately will continue to approve of the mayor’s performance will ultimately be determined by how he’s perceived as handling crime.”

The link to the Albuquerque Journal report on the poll is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1495901/mayor-keller-maintains-his-high-approval-rating.html

REMOVING GEIER MAJOR STEP FOR KELLER’S REELECTION

Candidate for Mayor Tim Keller ran on the platform of reducing the city’s spiking high violent crime rates, increasing the size of the APD, returning to community-based policing and implementing the Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). Keller made it known in November that he will be running for a second term in 2021.

Sources report that Keller intends to run once again as a public finance candidate and he is already approaching people to help with his re-election bid by asking them to commit to collecting $5.00 qualifying donations and nominating petition signatures for him. Simply put, Keller’s high approval rating can drop in a heartbeat during a highly contested race once his record is examined and how he has failed to keep all of his promises. Keller is trying to turn things around at APD, but it may be too late and things are likely to get worse.

Keller’s removal of Geier as APD Chief is viewed by city hall insiders and political observers as a major step to his reelection bid. Despite all of his public relations and implementing 4 data-based programs to reduce violent crime, Keller’s efforts have been less than stellar especially at reducing crime rates. According to FBI statistics, Albuquerque’s crime rates are at 194% higher than the national crime rates. Albuquerque is also on tract in breaking the all-time high record of homicides in one year. APD continues to struggle with implementing the DOJ consent decree mandates, increasing the size of APD and returning to community-based policing.

ASK ME NO QUESTIONS, AND I WILL TELL YOU NO LIES

With the remarks made by Mayor Keller and CAO Nair about the City Council asking questions, they have adopted the philosophy of “ask me no questions, and I will tell you no lies”. They are seriously mistaken if they think any City Councilor is going to stop doing that, especially the Republicans on the City Council and those who are eyeing to replace Tim Keller as Mayor such as Democrat President City Councilor Pat Davis.

Voters will be deciding if Keller deserves another 4 years with Mayor Keller likely using the Covid 19 Virus epidemic as an excuse for his need for another 4 years to finish what he started. As has been the case in the last 3 elections for Mayor, in 2021 crime rates will likely be the biggest determining issue in the race as well as how APD is performing.

Crime was a major issue in the 2017 Mayor’s race and Keller pledge to bring down high crime rates by returning to community-based policing and increasing the size of APD to 1,200 police officers. At this point, APD has 984 sworn police with 532 of those officers assigned to the field service patrolling the streets of Albuquerque. Although Albuquerque’s property crime dipped very slightly in 2019, the city’s recorded violent crime has increased and the highest number of homicides recorded in one year reached the highest in 2019 and is on pace to break the record again this year.

FINDING NEW APD CHIEF WILL BE DIFFICULT AT BEST

APD leadership and management is crumbling around Mayor Tim Keller who is failing to keep his campaign promises of reducing high crime rates, returning to community-based policing, increasing the size of APD and implementing the DOJ reforms. The abrupt departure of Chief Geier no doubt will have an impact on implementing the DOJ mandated reforms.

Mayor Keller is now faced with the very difficult task of finding and hiring a new APD Chief 14 months before the election for Mayor. That may not happen because of the possibility that person may also be out of a job if Keller is not reelected. For that reason, it is likely Interim Chief Harold Medina will remain Interim Chief until after the 2021 Mayor’s race. If Keller is reelected, Keller will only then make Medina permanent Chief.

Mayor Tim Keller says he wants to conduct a national search to find a new Chief. If in fact Keller finds a new Chief from a national search, he needs to allow that person to run APD and be free of his interference or the interference of CAO Nair. If that person does not produce results, then Keller needs to find to someone who can. Mayor Keller should take this as an opportunity to also remove all the current Deputy Chief’s and allow whoever he selects to be the new Chief to select and bring in their own command staff.

Keller and Nair must understand that while they oversee APD, it is the chief and command staff who have the police training and experience to lead APD. As Keller begins his search for Geier’s replacement, it is likely career law enforcement candidates will be asking how much authority they will really have and who they can surround themselves with to run the department.

CONCLUSION

At this point in time the best thing Mayor Tim Keller could do for his reelection is to buckle down and do his own job. That includes reorganize APD, find a new chief and deputy chiefs and let the city council ask all the questions they want.

Keller also needs to tell his CAO Sarita Nair that she is not being paid almost $200,000 a year to be condescending to any elected official, to knock it off, be honest and forthcoming and show respect to elected officials and never mislead or lie to the council.

Ditto for Mayor Tim Keller. In politics, public relations and a smile on your face and a grin in your voice can get you elected. Sooner or later people expect and demand results.
______________

POSTSCRIPT

Below is the statement read by Chief Geier at the September 10 press conference announcing his retirement:

“I just wanted to take some time today to send my last personal messages to all members of the Albuquerque Police Department. As you know, I am a 2nd generation police officer, who has served in law enforcement for close to 47 years. It is been a very full and satisfying career and I know that I have touched many lives throughout the years I have served. My father planned for his retirement for many years. He and my mom were going to move to Florida and retire near the Orlando area. He wanted to get a job as security at Disneyworld all his grandkids could come down and visit. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer and retired after 30 years on the police force. He passed away 9 months later at 56 years of age. He never got to live that retirement dream and he got to meet some of his grandkids and great grandkids.

I have always known that the day would come when I would retire. The last several months have taken its toll on all of us. We have faced unprecedented challenges with COVID, protests in the wake of the George Floyd incident, increased violence in our city and let’s not forget, the never-ending scrutiny of our consent decree. Over my career I have been unable to spend quality time with my own family that they deserved. I will never be able to recoup what I missed but I now believe I can make up for lost time. My wife, children and grandchildren always placed my career at the forefront. They endured the varied work schedules, long hours on graveyard shifts, 24 hour on-call status . missed little leagues games, birthday parties, weekends and holidays worked, etc, etc. My goal is to now put all of them on the forefront and spend many hours of quality time I missed out on during my career. It has not been an easy decision but I will be retiring from APD in the next few weeks.

I have been extremely honored and proud to have served as the Chief in the best Police Department in the nation. Every member of APD is a dedicated and compassionate public servant who have devoted their life to helping others and making a difference. To our sworn officers,, remember that as peaceful warriors, you have willing embraced the challenges, risks and uncertainties of our profession knowing that you serve a cause bigger than self- each of you served a great good! Thanks for all you do to make APD great. I will miss you and I will keep you in my prayers. Be safe and take care of each other. Thanks for the memories.”

GEIER’S DEPARTURE FROM RIO RANCHO POLICE DEPARTMENT

January 28th, 2017, it was reported that Chief Michael Geier Rio Rancho Police was stepping down as Police Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department (RRPD). Geier joined RRPD in 2014, following a 20-year career with the Albuquerque Police Department. Reasons given by Geier for retiring from the RRPD were he wanted to spend more time with his wife, who suffers from the rare skin disease scleroderma. Geier said in 2017:

“I’ve been doing this for 43 years and, at some point, you’ve got to put something first. We’ve been together 42 years …right now, I need an extended sabbatical to help her and give that attention.”

According to news reports, Geier said he would consider a job teaching criminal justice in the future. Confidential sources have said that in 2017, then State Auditor running for Mayor Tim Keller, met with Geier and asked Geier to be APD Chief if Keller was elected Mayor.

A link to related news coverage is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/937902/police-chief-to-step-down.html

Mayor Keller Abruptly Terminates APD Chief Geier; Appoints First Deputy Chief Harold Medina Interim Chief; Keller Should Replace All Deputies; Freshman City Councilor Brook Bassan Shows Entire City Council How To Do Their Jobs

“I take responsibility for what happens in my office with my chief of staff and my assistant. Any suggestion that I am not in control of the department (is) ridiculous. This is nothing more than petty water-cooler talk.”

APD Chief Michael Geier responding to Albuquerque Journal inquires relating to Internal Affairs Investigation of APD Chief of Staff John Ross, August 11, 2020.

On Wednesday, September 9, during it 10:00 pm news cast, KRQE News 13 reported that effective September 30, APD Chief Michael Geier has been relieved of his duties and is now out as APD Chief. News 13 also reported Deputy Chief Harold Medina will take over as acting chief on September 30. When News 13 contacted the Mayor Keller’s office to see what sparked the move, the mayor’s office Wednesday would not confirm or deny the report. Geier has more than 43 years of police experience including 20 with the Albuquerque Police Department.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/apd-police-chief-relieved-of-duties/?fbclid=IwAR1EwxihuZ3l1FvMrdfOyf9wxRpfX2nQjE1kHAJVhDSAPbTYA_9dFoEHY7s

STATEMENTS ISSUED

On Thursday September 10, Chief Geier and Mayor Keller issued the following statements:

APD CHIEF MICHAEL GEIER STATEMENT

“It has been an honor to lead the Albuquerque Police Department over the last three years. After 47 years in law enforcement, it’s time to pass the baton. Our transition plan aims to set the stage for the next phase of the Department’s effort to make Albuquerque safer for us all. I want to thank every police officer who shows such an incredible commitment to our city, and will be praying for you to stay safe and successful in your service.”

MAYOR TIM KELLER STATEMENT

“Chief Geier came in at a pivotal moment for the department, and did a courageous job righting the ship through our first year, getting new leadership in place, focusing on gun violence and getting reform efforts on track. I deeply appreciate the extremely difficult job he took on nearly three years ago. He helped move APD in the right direction in so many important ways.

With all of the challenges this year has brought, it’s clear that the context for running a department, fighting crime and engaging in reform has changed dramatically. We know we have had persistently high crime for a decade, we know reform efforts have hit some snags, and we know there have been back office challenges and distractions. Chief Geier’s retirement comes at the right time for a new phase of leadership to address the old embedded challenges that continue to hamper the department. Like the residents of Albuquerque, I won’t be satisfied until this is a safer city. This is the time to hit the accelerator.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/chief-geier-forced-out-of-his-position-with-apd/5858023/?cat=500

A FRESHMAN CITY COUNCILOR’S LINE OF QUESTIONING

The report by Channel 13 that Chief Geier is out as APD Chief came within hours after the September 9 City Council meeting during which freshman Republican Albuquerque City Councilor Brook Bassan, who was elected on November 3, 2019, raised questions about whether Chief Geier still had the backing of Mayor Tim Keller. Mayor Keller appointed Geier APD Chief within months after being elected Mayor and after a so called “national search.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1494988/councilor-grills-keller-official-on-handling-of-apd.html

CONFIDENCE IN GEIER QUESTIONED

Brook Bassan asked questions of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair how much direction the Mayor’s Office is giving APD. Bassan also asked about a social media posts that alleged that Mayor Keller and his Administration were pushing Chief Geier out. CAO Nair responded that neither she, Mayor Keller nor anyone on City Hall’s “11th floor” were making tactical decisions for APD. Nair did not give a definitive answer when Bassan asked directly if Geier had the administration’s support.

CAO Nair said:

“I think it’s really important that we can dispel myths, but that we don’t fall into the rumor mill. … Chief Geier was one of the first appointments that the mayor made; he was so clearly the right person for the job at that time that even when we went through a national search, he emerged as the top candidate. … I’m sure it’s not your intent, but it is deeply disrespectful to Chief Geier to engage in internet rumormongering at this point.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1494988/councilor-grills-keller-official-on-handling-of-apd.html

During an August City Council meeting, Bassan questioned Nair after media reports that Geier had requested an internal affairs investigation into his chief of staff John Ross for engaging nefarious conduct. The alleged conduct includes: circumventing purchasing rules, making improper purchases, by passing Chief Geier to secure a $10,000 raise taking his pay from $129,304 a year to $140,000 a year, absconding with the chief’s signature stamp that was being kept locked in a secretary’s desk drawer, yelling at and intimidating the chief’s secretary, and bringing his dog to work without approval and allowing the animal to defecate and urinate in Deputy Chief offices and instructing personnel to walk the animal.

When asked about the internal affairs investigation Geier said:

“I take responsibility for what happens in my office with my chief of staff and my assistant. Any suggestion that I am not in control of the department (is) ridiculous. This is nothing more than petty water-cooler talk.”

The link to a related Dinelli blog article is here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2020/08/14/a-police-chief-of-staff-engaging-in-nefarious-conduct-for-financial-and-personal-gain-is-not-petty-water-cooler-talk-geier-needs-to-go-and-take-his-chief-of-staff-with-him/

A DELETED TWEET QUESTIONED

During Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Bassan asked questions regarding the recent controversy in which APD deleted a tweet from its official account that quoted Chief Geier calling the police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where and African American was shot in the back 7 times by a police officer as “senseless.” Chief Geier at the time said he was not aware of the shooting, said he would not have issued a statement without knowing the facts surrounding the shooting. Geier issued an apology for the tweet saying he did not authorize the tweet. Department Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos later admitted he was the one who wrote and sent out the tweet without Geier’s approval.

The fact that a tweet from APD Chief Geier was sent out in the first place without his knowledge is disturbing and a violation of APD standard operating procedures. Ostensibly, the tweet was sent out after conferring with Mayor Tim Keller’s office seeing as Keller issued his own statement on FACEBOOK at the same time and that is his right. However, directing that a tweet be sent out by the APD Chief without his consent or knowledge would be an abuse of authority.

The link to a related Dinelli blog article is here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2020/08/26/an-unauthorized-tweet-reported-across-the-city-reflects-apd-chief-michael-geier-not-in-charge-of-apd/

ONATE PROTEST HANDLING QUESTIONED

During the Wednesday’s meeting, Bassan raised questions regarding APD’s handling of the Juan de Oñate protest. On June 15, a man was shot in Old Town over the “La Jornada” (The Journey) sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum. The June 15 event was originally scheduled to be “prayer vigil” for the removal of the Juan de Oñate statue from the Albuquerque Museum. The prayer vigil erupted into a protest riot and a shooting occurred during the protest for the removal of the figure of Juan de Onate de Salazar in the sculpture. APD’s response and its subsequent shooting investigation came under severe criticism from city councilors and the Bernalillo County District Attorney office.

Bassan said she was concerned that the Mayor’s Office had helped make decisions about how APD handled that and other protests, an allegation Nair rejected.

CAO Nair responded:

“Let me be clear: To the extent you’re suggesting that the 11th floor, as we call it, is making operational or tactical decisions about the Police Department, we are not.”

NAIR’S RESPONSE ON ONATE PROTEST HIGHLY DISPUTED

More than one confidential source has reported that Mayor Tim Keller was in constant contact with CAO Sarita Nair during the June 15 Onate Statue protest at the Albuquerque Museum and were particularly concerned to what extend the Onate statute should be protected and if it even should be protected at all. Mayor Keller had already been informed that the Albuquerque Museum Board of Directors had decided a week earlier that the Onate statue was to be removed and stored until a decision could be made what to do with the statue. As a work of art, the Onate statue is worth upwards of $100,000 and when combined with the other statues, the exhibit originally cost the city $800,000 paid for by voter approved bonds.

According to APD confidential sources, it was Deputy Chief Harold Medina who made sure that the tactical plan for the June 15 Onate Statue Protest signed off by Chief Geier 10 days after the protest gave instructions as to what and how city property, particularly the Onate statue was to be protected, or in this case, not protected. What is extremely disturbing is that the tactical plan did not consider the Oñate statue by renowned artist Sonny Rivera, city property worth thousands and paid by the taxpayer, to be property worth protecting. In essence APD, and in particular APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina was fine with protesters armed with pickaxes and chains taking down the statue, so long as they didn’t try to set the museum on fire.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2020/08/17/who-is-in-charge-at-apd-answer-cao-sarita-nair-politics-is-no-way-to-run-apd/

EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM TACTICAL PLAN

After more than a two month delay, APD finally released the plan detailing when the APD Emergency Response Team (ERT) were allowed to intervene during the June 15 protest. Such plans are referred to as TACT Plans. The ERT team are police officers outfitted with riot gear given the responsibility to take control of gatherings of people that escalate into confrontations, violence or a riot. The link to the ERT TACT plan is here:

https://www.scribd.com/document/472053424/APD-Emergency-Response-Team-Event-Action-Plan#from_embed

The directives spelled out in an APD Event Action Plan provides in part as follows:

“ERT will only engage if there is a threat to life or if major property damage occurs. Damage to the statue will be considered minor property damage and will not elicit an ERT response. Any threat to the Albuquerque Museum will be considered major property damage due to there being high value historical items inside that cannot be replaced.”

“If gunfire or other life-threatening situations arise, ERT is authorized to deploy gas immediately to clear crowds and enable officers to withdraw to positions of cover. All ERT members will be dressed with rifle plate armor and carriers.”

Deputy Chief Harold Medina said during a news press conference that protecting the Juan de Oñate statue was “not worth damaging relations with the community for years to come.” During news conferences held by APD command staff about both the Oñate protest and an earlier incident Downtown in which people smashed business windows hours after a peaceful march, APD officials said a major concern was that if officers’ step in and made arrests for “minor” property damage, the situation could escalate unnecessarily.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1485044/apd-plan-limited-intervention-in-onate-protest.html

APD CHIEF MICHAEL GEIER

APD Chief Michael Geier has over 40 years of law enforcement experience. He retired from the Chicago Police Department after 20 years, came to work for APD, became a commander and then retired after 20 years. Once he left APD, he became Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department and retired there in 2016 only to be appointed APD Chief by Mayor Keller in 2017.

Chief Michael Geier was well schooled in community-based policing when it was first instituted in Albuquerque back in the 1990’s. He was also well schooled in the management practices of former Chief Ray Schultz having been appointed a commander by Schultz. Confidential sources have said then Rio Rancho Chief of Police Michael Geier met with candidate for Mayor Tim Keller back in late 2016 before Keller announced for Mayor in January, 2017 and before Geier retired as Chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department on February 18, 2017.

Confidential sources have also said that it was during the election Keller made the commitment in private to appoint Geier Interim chief and to keep him for a while and to see how he performed before he was made permanent. Keller appointed Geier after a “national search”.

On May 1, 2018, the Keller Administration announced that a national search was underway to select a permanent APD Chief.

From day one, it was apparent that Mayor Tim Keller knew he was going to appoint Geier permanent when he said:

“We’ve got to have a chief that understands APD and Albuquerque. … That’s a general statement because I think that can come in numerous forms. I think that’s critical – they have to have some sort of experience with respect to our city, our state and the department. They also have to have some sort of outside perspective. We know that, coming in, we didn’t want someone that’s been solely in APD. They need to know a lot about community policing. It’s our administration’s priority and they’ve got to have expertise in that area.”

For a related blog article see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/14/national-search-for-new-apd-chief-a-sham/

During his time as Chief of APD, Geier is given credit for the significant progress made with implementing the 270 mandated reforms of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).

FIRST DEPUTY CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA

First Deputy Chief Harold Medina was hired onto APD in 1995 and retired from APD after 20 years of service. He served with APD until 2014, when he retired and became Chief of the Pueblo of Laguna for three years. Medina returned to APD as a Deputy Chief when Keller took over as Mayor in December, 2017. Medina during his original stint with APD rose through the ranks holding various positions. In 2014 when the Department of Justice investigated APD for excessive use of force and deadly force, Medina was in charge of the SWAT Unit. Upwards of 18 officer involved shootings were reviewed by the Department of Justice, with many of those shootings involving the very SWAT Unit that Medina was the commander. The DOJ ultimately found a “culture of aggression” within APD and the City entered into a Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). For the last 6 years, APD has been attempting to implement 276 mandated reforms, and for close to 3 of those years Medina has been a Deputy Chief.

First Deputy Chief Harold Medina has the tragic distinction of shooting and killing a 14-year-old Cibola High School student in 2004 when he was an APD field officer. At the time of the shooting, Harold Medina was 30 years old and was a seven and a half year veteran of APD. According to news accounts, 14-year-old boy Dominic Montoya went to Taylor Ranch Baptist Church looking for prayer. Montoya was reported as saying he was possessed by demons and went to church for help. Some one noticed the teenager was concealing a weapon and APD was called. It turned out it was a BB gun and when APD showed up, the 14 year old was fatally shot by police after pointing the BB gun at the officers. It was the APD Officer Harold Medina who fired 3 shots at the 14 year old, Cibola High School Student with two hitting the juvenile in the abdomen. It was reported that the BB gun was indistinguishable from a real gun and Medina said he was in fear for his life.

https://apnews.com/41e13a7f6393b3ea5b92ccfadae5ccd6

APD First Deputy Chief Harold Medina has gone from being paid $136,040.20 in 2019 to now being paid $145,017.60 within a few months after repeatedly complaining to Chief Geier and CAO Nair he was paid less than the other Deputy Chiefs. City Hall insiders are also noting that Deputy Chief Harold Medina has increased his “media presence” and conducting press conferences and news briefings on occasion with those normally reserved for Chief of Police Michael Geier and even Mayor Tim Keller.

Confidential sources have reported that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina has been applying for Chief positions in other communities, including one in Colorado that turned him down, and has a desire to move on if he is not made the new Chief.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The abrupt departure of APD Chief Michael Geier no doubt is sending shock waves through out city hall and especially APD. It was common knowledge that Tim Keller gave Chief Geier a full 4 year commitment to stay with him until the end of his first term. Further, Chief Geier is credited as the one that has made significant progress with implementing the 270 Department of Justice Court Approved Settlement agreement.

MEDINA PART OF THE PROBLEM

It is no secret at city hall that Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair is very much involved with the day to day management of APD and that Deputy Chief Harold Medina have developed a strong working relationship with CAO Nair. According to sources 1st Deputy Chief Harold Medina will do whatever he is told to do by CAO Nair and Mayor Tim Keller. Confidential APD command staff have been reporting that Deputy Chief Harold Medina has been making it known to them that he intended to be the next Chief of APD sooner rather than latter or once Mayor Tim Keller is elected to a second term in 2021 or after APD Chief Michael Geier leaves.

Keller appointed Geier after a “national search” and after Geier retired for a 3rd time from law enforcement. The national search was a sham. Appointing First Deputy Chief Harold Medina as Interim Chief confirms insider information that APD is in total disarray and its management in shambles as s result of infighting. If Keller announces that another national search will be conducted to find a new Chief, it is likely it will be another another sham seeing as Medina has been going around making it known to command staff he would be the next Chief.

First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is part of the very problem that brought the Department of Justice here in the first place. It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice that lead to the federal consent decree after 18 police officer involved shootings and the findings of excessive use of force and deadly force by APD. Any one in APD command staff who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process has no business being Chief. Medina was a Lieutenant when Ken Ellis was killed and the one who called SWAT and when APD was involved with so many of the police shootings investigated by the DOJ. It is not at all likely, despite whatever public comments he makes, that Medina will ever get behind the Federal mandated reforms which should disqualify him from being the new Chief.

In the event that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is nominated to become permanent Chief, his appointment will have to be approved by the City Council. Given the questions raised by City Councilor Brook Bassan at the September 9 meeting, it is not likely it will be a unanimous vote.

FROM THE MOUTH OF A FRESHMAN

What is so damn pathetic is that it has taken a freshman city councilor such as Brook Basaan to show virtually all of her other 8 colleagues on the council the true meaning of what role the city council should play when it comes to APD and the Mayor. She is commended for her conduct. The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling its budget. The other city councilors have said nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and have never challenged the previous Administration and the former APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms. Each time the Federal Court appointed Monitor presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, all the other city councilors remained silent. The city council has a reputation of refusing to demand accountability from the Mayor and hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms.

When CAO Sarita Nair tells an elected official “I’m sure it’s not your intent, but it is deeply disrespectful to Chief Geier to engage in internet rumor mongering at this point”, it is Nair who is being disrespectful and down right arrogant with her “political pivot” answer. Nair could just have easily said she was not prepared to answer the question and moved on. The line of questioning by the City Councilor Bassan was legitimate, even if it was based on any rumor of Geier being force out. Nair has a history of being less than forthcoming when asked questions by the city councilors. The fact that it was confirmed within hours that Geier had been terminated is evidence that Nair was fully aware she knew what was going or she at worse was lying to the city council.

CLEAN SWEEP IS NEEDED

When candidate Keller was running for Mayor, he promised sweeping changes with APD, a national search for a new APD Chief and a return to Community based policing. During Mayor Tim Keller’s first 8 months in office, Keller did not make the dramatic management changes he promised, but a relied on past management of the department and past practices. The current Deputy Chiefs are not outsiders at all but have been with APD for years.

The Deputy Chiefs of Police appointed by Mayor Keller included now First Deputy Cheif Harold Medina who retired from APD as commander after serving 20 years, Rogelio Banez who was the area commander in southwest Albuquerque but who has now retired, and Eric Garcia who was a Deputy Chief under APD Chief Gordon Eden. The command staff under Chief Geier do not reflect a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing.

All the previous commanders under the previous administration were shuffled around with a few retiring. It was the past APD management practices that resulted in the “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice that lead to the federal consent decree after 18 police officer involved shootings and the findings of excessive use of force and deadly force by APD.

APD needs a clean sweep in management and philosophy to remove anyone who may have assisted, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the Department of Justice and who have resisted the reform process during the last 3 years of the consent decree.

By all accounts, Chief Geier has did a good job of settling the department down and he publicly committed to the DOJ reforms. However, making Interim Chief Geier permanent was evidence that nothing was going to change with APD management. Keller’s “new” and present Deputies are a reflection of APD’s past and all have been with APD for some time. APD’s current command staff are not a new generation of police officer fully committed and trained in constitutional policing practices.

CONCLUSION

APD leadership and management is crumbling around Mayor Tim Keller who is failing to keep his campaign promises of reducing high crime rates, returning to community-based policing, increasing the size of APD am implementing the DOJ reforms. The abrupt departure of Chief Geier no doubt will have a major impact on implementing the DOJ mandated reforms.

Mayor Tim Keller needs to conduct a national search to find a new Chief who is not already with APD and allow who ever is chosen to run APD department free of his interference or the interference of CAO Nair. If that person can’t do the job, Keller needs to find to someone who can. Mayor Keller should take this as an opportunity to also remove all the current Deputy Chief’s and allow whoever he selects to be the new Chief allow them to select and bring in their own command staff.

One thing for sure is that First Deputy Chief Harold Medina is not the person who should be appointed permanent Chief. Medina should also be thanked for service and move on giving him a good letter of recommendation as he seeks employment else where.

Mayor Keller Releases “Slipshod” $1.15 Billion Budget; “Bullet Points” Do Not Make a Budget; Keller Laments No “Awesome New Ideas And Initiatives And Fun Things” In Budget

On March 16, 2020, because of the corona virus pandemic, the New Mexico Department of Finance, Local Government Division, authorized all New Mexico municipalities to submit their 2019-2020 budget as their fiscal budget for year 2020-2021 until reliable tax revenue projections could be determined. Albuquerque and all municipalities were required to submit interim budgets to the state of New Mexico by June 1. But with “the current economic uncertainties” related to coronavirus, the state allowed local governments to re-submit their current budgets instead of 2021 versions.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1434393/city-of-abq-may-have-to-face-new-normal-in-budget-process.html

On April 13, 2020, on a unanimous vote of 9-0, the Albuquerque City Council enacted R-20-31 which is the city’s operating budget for fiscal year and went into effect on July 1, 2020 and ends June 31, 2021. The enacted City Council’s operating budget, R-20-31 is a mere 7 pages of line item appropriations for each of the city departments. There is no explanation of the millions appropriated in the budget. No public hearings were conducted that would have allowed comment and input from the public. The link to the enacted budget, resolution R-30-21 is here. Click on the link then click on R-31 spelled out in blue and marked FINAL:

https://cabq.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4411998&GUID=3FD662EF-A96A-4BD6-8113-380B7451BADC

EDITORS NOTE: The postscript to this blog article contains the general fund operating budget line item appropriations for the major departments contained in City Council Resolution R-30-21.

MAYOR KELLER’S 2020-2021 PROPOSED $1.5 BILLION BUDGET

City ordinance requires the Mayor to submit a proposed budget April 1 every year to the City Council but that was not done this year. It was delayed because of the pandemic. On Thursday, September 3, after a 5-month delay, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to release the long anticipated proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year which began on July 1, 2020 and ends June 30, 2021.

The link to the Keller Administration Proposed budget is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/mayor/documents/final_fy21-budget-presentation-_09032020.pdf

Normally, a massive detailed budget and analysis document referred to as the Mayor’s Fiscal Year Budget is prepared. For example, the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year (FY) budget submitted by the Keller Administration is 429 pages, the 2018-2019 FY year submitted by the Keller Administration is 401 pages , the 2017-2018 FY year budget submitted by the Berry Administration is 389 pages , the 2016-2017 FY year budget submitted by the Berry Administration is 389 pages. Narratives on each Department, accomplishments, statistics and personnel with line item appropriations are listed.

The 2020-2021 released proposed budget is a mere 16 pages. Performance based budgets prepared by the city finance department usually include statistics, graphs, pie charts reflecting sources of income and expenditures and supporting narratives justifying each of the city’s 19 department budgets. Yearly budgets are very voluminous. Keller’s 2020-2021 $1.15 Billion dollar budget amounts to nothing more than “bullet points” with no explanation nor details. The Keller administration has yet to provide department-by-department budgets with the financial breakdown with its proposal as required by ordinance mandating the submission of a “performance-based budget”.

You can review at all Fiscal Year budgets from FY 2007 to FY 2021 at this link:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/budget/annual-budget

Mayor Keller’s total proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year is $1.15 Billion which is slightly more than the 2019-2020 budget by about $5 Million. It reflects a zero-growth budget from last year despite the fact there has been a major decline in the city’s gross receipts tax revenues. Keller’s proposed general fund budget is $592 million compared with last year’s $641 million. The general fund covers most basic city services, including police and fire protection, park maintenance and the city’s animal shelters. The current proposal has the city ending the year with $49 million in state-mandated reserves, plus $40 million in contingency money.

City officials have reported that for the fiscal year 2020 gross receipts tax revenue finished 5% behind expectations. Another 5% drop in gross receipts tax revenue is projected for 2021 The drop in revenues resulted in a hiring freeze. The total tax revenue deficit that will have to be dealt with is $46 million.

The city in April received $150 million in federal CARES Act money and has spent about one-third to date. That includes about $1.8 million in financial assistance to businesses, nonprofits and arts organizations distributed before June 30, the end of the 2020 fiscal year.

The money – which has restricted uses – has also gone toward some personnel costs, including first responders and other employees working to address COVID-19. Keller has credited the federal funding for helping prevent employee furloughs and layoffs.

CARES ACT FUNDING FOR SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS

In April, the city received $150 million in federal corona virus relief funding under the corona virus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). The Keller Administration was able to submit a balanced proposed zero-growth budget because of the CARES money. Upwards of one third of the relief funding has already been spent. The remaining two thirds will be applied to personnel costs and expenses brought on by the virus. The CARES Act funding is the main reason the city has been able to prevent city layoffs and furloughs. Notwithstanding, the city was forced to implement a hiring freeze.

Keller’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget allocates $3.375 million of the $150 million CARES money toward COVID-19-related business support grants and related assistance. Republican City Councilors Brook Bassan and Trudy Jones are sponsoring legislation to increase the sum to $10 million for small-business saying it is vital to the city’s overall economic recovery to help keep them afloat. According to Bassan the $10 million proposal has been met with resistance from the Keller Administration which wants save money going into next year.

Under Keller’s proposal, the city would end fiscal year 2021 with about $40 million in contingency money. According to Mayor Keller, the $40 million is in addition to $49 million in state-mandated reserves “to protect against predicted drops in revenue that may stretch” into 2022. Councilor Bassan sees it differently and said:

“Right now, we’re seeing it as the city suffering and businesses are hurting, and if we don’t have businesses stay open, we’ll have a higher unemployment rate, higher bankruptcy and closure rates. … the fallout could spiral into long-term problems for the city. … What else is [the CARES funding] for if we’re not going to use it to help residents in Albuquerque.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1494124/councilors-want-10m-for-smallbusiness-grants.html

BULLET POINT BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

Following is a listing of the “budget bullet” points presented as the 2020-2021 proposed budget.

PUBLIC SAFETY INVESTMENTS FIGHTING CRIME

• $2.5 million to support the hiring of 100 new officers
• $5.2 million for compliance the Court Approved Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice
• $627,000 to acquire electronic control weapons that have an audit trail to monitor usage and compliance with use of force policies
• $594,000 to purchase on-body cameras, as required by the CASA and state law
• $500,000 for the Violence Intervention Program
• Full funding for ADAPT and Code Enforcement Division
• $300,000 in emergency board-up contracts for nuisance buildings
• $300,000 in park safety investments, including increased security presence
• Full funding for the Animal Welfare Department, including additional money for spay and neuter vouchers and enhanced veterinary operations
• Full funding for the Clean Cities and Block-by-Block programs ($11.3 million), which work to keep our streets clean and our neighborhoods free of graffiti P
• $10.7 million in funding for social service contracts
• $2 million for youth partnerships with APS and nonprofits that keep our kids off the streets and out of harm’s way
• $1.1 million for youth violence prevention
• 32% increase in funding for the Civilian Police Oversight Agency, which includes the CPOA taking over management of the Community Policing Councils and adding personnel to address complaints from the public about police conduct P
• $7.5 million in personnel, equipment and contractual services. In addition, ACS will leverage existing contracts with behavioral health and substance abuse service providers FIRE RESCUE & EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
• $63.6 million in funding for AFR and OEM, including: •
Emergency Operations Center

HEART team of community health workers

4 th busiest Haz-Mat team in the US
• Wildland Fire Division helping out across western US

ECONOMIC RECOVERY TOTAL INVESTMENT: $20 MILLION +

• $1,000,000 Direct small business support
• $1,125,000 PPE for businesses
• $1,000,000 Outdoor business improvements
• $250,000 E-commerce grants
• Working with the State, administered $225,000 in LEDA grants, $344,000 in zero-interest loans to local companies, with over $1 million in still in the pipeline. In addition to $1.8 million in direct grants to microbusinesses, nonprofits and artists earlier in 2020

HEALTHY AND SAFE SAFETY NET INVESTMENT:

•$20 MILLION+ in expenditures
•$2.8 million to provide community-wide COVID testing, case management and non-congregate shelter for vulnerable populations,
•$2.3 million to address the digital divide so all kids have a chance to succeed in school $978,000 to expand of senior food, transportation and engagement programs $2.5 million to prevent homelessness through supportive housing vouchers, rental assistance and eviction prevention

WORKFORCE SUPPORT THROUGH YOUTH PROGRAMS

•Fully funding Head Start, including additional funding to maintain COVID-safe student-teacher ratios.
•$4 million for year-round continuation of youth programs operated or coordinated by the Family and Community Services, Parks and Recreation, and Cultural Services Departments.

EXTERNAL COST FUNDING ESCALATIONS

• Health insurance premium increases: $3.4 million
• Lodgers’ Tax and Hospitality Fee debt service subsidy: $3.5 million – attributed to COVID
• Isotopes Stadium subsidy: $1.3 million – attributed to COVID
• Gas Tax Operating fund subsidy: $625,000 (to support salaries paid from fund)

COST-SAVING MEASURES

• No overall salary increases for City employees in any department.
• Hiring freezes and slowdowns during the fiscal year to capture for $15 million in savings
• $639,000 in savings from a travel freeze and decreased spending on training
• Postponed $29 million pending initiatives via department requests for additional funding
• Deferred $2.2 million in new operating costs related to capital projects coming online

580 VACANT POSITIONS REPORTED

It was reported on August 2, there are 583 vacant positions throughout city government that have not been filled which represents approximately 9% of the city’s job base of upwards of 6, 000 full time positions. The vacancies account for about $15 million in savings in Keller’s proposed budget.

What the vacancies mean is that residents will see some service slowdowns. Keller had this to say about the vacancies:

“We have adjusted all sorts of service schedules because now we are understaffed citywide. We’re committed to continuing basic things like trash pickup, parks and [recreational services], but things … might take a couple of days longer. … We’re going to get the job done, but it’s not going to be quite as fast or on-time as it used to be.”

The city hall vacancies are because of a $46 million shortfall in gross receipts tax revenues the result of a slow economy and the city was forced to leave more than 580 positions vacant. The vacant potions include:

62 turf management workers to take care of city parks, saving about $2 million a year.

56 Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) inspection and maintenance workers saving $2.3 million.

16 security guards to watch over city buildings saving about $400,000

The list of vacancies includes those assigned to perform graffiti removal, janitors and 4 positions in the city’s police oversight agency.

Positions not on the list are police officers and firefighters. However, the city’s payroll records from a year ago shows APD has grown only by six.

https://www.koat.com/article/580-city-positions-go-vacant/33866391

The city’s workforce has also been hit in other ways. City employees will not get an annual cost-of-living raise, though the city will provide a one-time, $375 payment to cover the increases they will see in health insurance coverage.

NEW PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT

Mayor Keller when releasing the proposed budget said public safety continues to be his administration’s top priority. Keller is proposing upwards of $7.5 million investment in the new Albuquerque Community Safety Department, which would work alongside the Albuquerque Police Department. The new Department will have up to 100 employees funded by the proposed budget.

It was June 15 that Keller announced plans to create a new Public Safety Department that will be on equal footing with all the other 19 city departments, including APD and AFRD. Departments usually have hundreds of employees with separate functions, tasks, and services. As was originally proposed, the new department was to have 32 people for each its 6 area commands, or a total of 192 employees at a minimum, ostensibly working 3 separate 8 hour shifts to be able to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as proposed, with none to have law enforcement powers of arrest and no training as paramedics like firefighters. Under the proposed budget, the new department has dropped from 192 personnel to 100.

Resources to create the Public Safety Department will come from other departments including the Family and Community Services Department that has personnel it who address homeless encampments, and the Department of Municipal Development which includes the city’s security guards. The city’s security guards in the past year have already begun responding to some 911 calls related to people who look unconscious in public spaces.

The new Public Safety Department will also absorb some civilian personnel from the Albuquerque Police Department, though the mayor’s proposal boosts general fund spending on police to $212 million from $205 million last year. The intent is to hire an additional 100 officers by the fiscal year’s end. The city is in the process of accepting a $9.7 million grant from the federal “Operation Legend” operation with the financing dedicated to the hiring 40 entry level police officers for a period of 3 years.

The Albuquerque Community Safety Department as envisioned will have social workers, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts. They will be dispatched to homelessness and “down-and-out” calls as well as behavioral health crisis calls for service to APD. The new department will connect people in need with services to help address any underlying issues. The department personnel would be dispatched through the city’s 911 emergency call system. The intent is to free up the first responders, either police or firefighters, who typically have to deal with down-and-out and behavioral health calls.

OTHER PRIORITIES NOTED

Mayor Keller said he will continue to make funds available to fulfill his commitment to hiring 100 APD officers every year during his first term. Further Keller also wants to invest $10 million in programs that help get to the root of the crime problem such substance abuse, mental health, homelessness, and domestic violence centers.

Various planned expenditures were noted during the release of the proposed budget. Those expenditures include $1 million in direct relief to small businesses, $1.125 million to help businesses cover personal protective equipment, and $1 million to help cover tents, heaters and other costs associated with businesses moving activity outdoors.

SOBERING SUMMATION

During an August 31 press conference on city finances and as a precursor to the release of the proposed budget, Mayor Keller offered the following sobering summation of city finances:

“We have our economic challenges, there’s no doubt about that, but our city on a relative basis is actually not doing as bad as we thought. … [W]e tried to first cut costs then we tried to identify savings by banning travel, by examining department budgets for costs savings, restrictions on new hires; we have a broad hiring freeze that’s had a lot of exceptions we’ve had in place now for I think six months. …

“The reality is we have less code inspectors than we are supposed to have, we have less folks taking care of our parks than we use to have, we have less folks picking up our trash than we use to have, we have less folks driving our buses than we use to have. … We are begging to operate in the area of resource shortage.”

We have a broad hiring freeze that’s had a lot of exceptions we’ve had in place now for I think six months. Instead of the park getting mowed every week, it’s going to be getting mowed every 10 days. Those kinds of things are inevitably going to happen when we’ve had a long-standing hiring freeze. …

But by and large, any major initiative, we expect government to continue on as it normally would with just minor delays in some services. … The job recovery region, Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, is in much better shape. … We should be back to the normal level sometime in 2024.

“We are always considering what we need to do and that could include layoffs. That could include wage cuts. That could include furloughs.”

Links to related news coverage are here:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/city-of-albuquerque-faces-budget-shortfall-but-mayor-says-it-could-be-worse/5846715/?cat=500

https://www.koat.com/article/expect-taller-grass-trash-and-longer-bus-waits/33854871

https://www.abqjournal.com/1492125/keller-citys-economic-position-better-than-most.html

The proposed budget will now be reviewed by the City Council which will hold public hearings and make changes as they see fit. It is anticipated that the final version of the budget will reach Mayor Keller sometime in mid- to late October for his final approval.

GOOD FINANCIAL TIMES FOR CITY HALL COMING TO AN END

The City of Albuquerque had a fantastic fiscal year that began on July 1, 2019 and that ended on June 30, 2020. It is no exaggeration that the city was in a real sense flush with money during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2020.

For the fiscal year of July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, the Albuquerque City Council enacted an operating budget of $1.1 billion for the fiscal year. It was the first time in city history that the city operating budget exceed the $1 Billion figure. The 2019-2020 budget represented an overall 11% increase in spending over the previous year.

In April, 2019 a onetime $34.4 million dollar windfall to the city was reported from what was called an “orphan month”. The $34.3 million “one-time, lifetime” boost in revenues could not be applied by the city toward recurring costs. $29 million of the $34.3 million was applied to numerous one-time investments the Keller Administration felt important, including $6 million for public safety vehicles such as police cars for new police cadets, $2.3 million for park security, $2 million for the business recruitment and growth and $2 million for housing vouchers and related programs.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/04/04/orphan-month-windfall-of-34-million-used-for-1-1-billion-city-budget-no-new-taxes-city-to-charge-for-car-crash-clean-ups-and-vehicle-fires/

On October 7, 2019 the City Council approved a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package on a unanimous vote submitted Mayor Keller to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city. Revenue generated by the lodger’s is used to pay off the $30.5 million bond debt. Lodger tax revenues are supposed to be used to promote tourism and tourism functions and facilities and not general sports venues used by the general public.

http://documents.cabq.gov/budget/fy-20-proposed-budget.pdf

BREAKING A CAMPAIGN PROMISE

On March 5, 2018 the Albuquerque City Council voted to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by three-eighths of a percent on an 8-1 vote without putting it to a public vote. Breaking a campaign promise made a mere 4 months before not to raise taxes without a vote, Mayor Keller signed the tax increase into law. It represents 38 cents more paid in gross receipts tax for every $100 in purchases. 70% of the tax was dedicated to public safety. The increase went into effect July 1. The tax of three-eighths of a cent raised taxes upward of $55 million each year. The rational for the tax increase was that the city was faced with a $40 million dollar deficit. The deficit never materialized and the tax increase was not repealed, and the Keller Administration has never disclosed where those revenues went or why the tax was not repealed when the deficit never materialized.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

During the September 3, press conference releasing the long anticipated proposed budget for the 2020-2021, Mayor Keller had this to say comparing this year’s budget with past budgets:

“This is more about nuts and bolts, and how we’re weathering the storm. … [There is no funding for] awesome new ideas and initiatives and fun things.”

Slipshod and embarrassing are the two words that come to mind when you review the proposed 2020-2021budget submitted by Mayor Tim Keller.

It is slipshod because it lacks the care, thought, or organization mandated by a performance-based budget. It does not make an attempt at a traditional performance-based budget. Absent are any hard data on income and allocations. It is slipshod in that it does not include one single department budget with any line itemization as to what the funding is being spent on.

It is embarrassing because it was submitted by Mayor Tim Keller who knows better. When candidate Keller was running for Mayor, he reviewed prior city budgets to glean an understanding of city finances which Keller had a zero understanding of at the time. Keller is the former New Mexico State Auditor who became Mayor riding on a wave of popularity as the white knight crusader to stop waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money and promising transparency. The 2020-2021 proposed budget provides little transparency.

Now that Keller is Mayor running for re-election he obviously does want people to know how bad the city’s finances really are and how his administration has spent beyond our means. There is no transparency in the proposed budget. The budget contains nothing about how the April, 2019 onetime $34.4 million dollar windfall to the city was spent. The budget contains nothing about the $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package submitted Mayor Keller to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city enacted on October 7, 2019 by the City Council on a unanimous vote.

City budgets do not have budgets entitled “awesome new ideas and initiatives and fun things.” City budget’s main priority must and always be delivery of basic essential services such as police protection, fire protection, street repairs, mass transportation, garbage pickup and even social services.

Perhaps Mayor Tim Keller is now realizing that fun time or play time is now over for him. Mayor Keller, Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhahta need to buckle down and get to work on actual department budgets because it is evident that they have done absolutely nothing for the past 8 months to prepare a performance-based city budget. Bullet points do not make a budget.

_________________

POSTSCRIPT

On April 13, 2020, on a unanimous vote of 9-0, the Albuquerque City Council enacted R-20-31 which is the city’s operating budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. It is not a performance base budget but the enabling legislation that is required before any expenditure can be made. Such a resolution is suppose to be enacted only after a performance based budget is reviewed and amended by the city council after public hearings. R-20-31, contains the following general fund Operating Budget line item appropriations as they appear for the major city departments:

ANIMAL WELFARE DEPARTMENT, ANIMAL CARE CENTER: $12,675,000

AVIATION DEPARTMENT

Management & Professional Support: $5,841,000
Operations, Maintenance and Security: $33,427,000
Transfers to Other Funds:
General Fund: $2,495,000
Airport Capital and Deferred Maintenance Fund $23,000,000

CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE: $3,439,000

CITY SUPPORT FUNCTIONS LINE ITEM BUDGET

Dues and Memberships: $504,000
Early Retirement: $6,000,000 (This fund is used to pay accumulated annual and sick leave to employees who retire.)
GRT Administration Fee: $5,400,000
Joint Committee on Intergovernmental Legislative Relations: $219,000
Open and Ethical Elections: $641,000

TRANSFER TO OTHER FUNDS:

Operating Grants Fund: $6,000,000
Sales Tax Refunding D/S Fund: $13,298,000
Vehicle/Equipment Replacement Fund: 1,200,000

CIVILIAN POLICE OVERSIGHT AGENCY: $1,065,000

CITY COUNCIL SERVICES: $5,337,000

CULTURAL SERVICES DEPARTMENT

Biological Park: $15,277,000
CIP Bio Park: $247,000
Community Events: $3,523,000
Explora Science Museum: $1,448,000
Albuquerque Museum: $3,713,000
Museum-Balloon: $1,528,000
Public Arts and Urban Enhancement: $511,000
Public Library: $12,952,000
Strategic Support: $2,795,000

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

Convention Center / ASC: $2,234,000
Economic Development: $110,000
Economic Development Investment: $321,000
International Trade: $198,000
Office of MRA: $530,000

ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Consumer Health: $1,574,000
Environmental Services: $679,000
Strategic Support: $839,000
Urban Biology: $500,000

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

Affordable Housing: $2,665,000
Child and Family Development: $6,447,000
Community Recreation: $11,661,000
Educational Initiatives: $2,948,000
Emergency Shelter: $5,620,000
Health and Human Services: $4,084,000
Homeless Support Services: $3,481,000
Mental Health: $3,754,000
Strategic Support: $2,021,000
Substance Abuse: $3,075,000
Youth Gang Initiative: $1,155,000

FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

Accounting: $4,125,000
Financial Support Services: $1,196,000
Office of Management and Budget: $1,109,000
Purchasing: $1,626,000
Strategic Support: $1,121,000
Treasury: $1,118,000

FIRE DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

Dispatch: $5,385,000
Emergency Response: $69,149,000
Emergency Services: $3,361,000
Fire Prevention: $5,861,000
Headquarters: $3,289,000
Logistics: $3,292,000
Office of Emergency Management: $307,000
Training: $2,178,000

HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

B/C/J/Q Union Time: $131,000
Personnel Services: $2,994,000
LEGAL DEPARTMENT BUDGET

Legal Services: $6,237,000
Office of Equity and Inclusion: $409,000
MAYOR’S OFFICE $1,068,000

MUNICIPAL DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

City Buildings : $14,766,000
Construction: $1,889,000
Design Recovered CIP: $2,077,000
Design Recovered Storm: $2,940,000
Real Property: $879,000
Special Events Parking: $19,000
Storm Drainage: $2,946,000
Strategic Support: $2,743,000
Streets: $ 5,227,000 32
Street Services: $15,210,000

OFFICE OF THE CITY CLERK LINE ITEM BUDGET

Administrative Hearing Office: $412,000
Office of the City Clerk: $2,211,000
Office of Inspector General: $504,000
OFFICE OF INTERNAL AUDIT AND INVESTIGATIONS: $934,000
PARKING SERVICES $4,368,000 (This is money used to operate the city’s parking structures.)

PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

Aquatic Services: $5,458,000
CIP Funded Employees: $2,589,000
Open Space Management: $4,408,000
Parks Management: $18,542,000
Recreation: $3,658,000
Strategic Support: $1,404,000

TRANSFER TO OTHER FUNDS:

Capital Acquisition Fund: $100,000
Golf Operating Fund: $1,368,000

PLANNING DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

Code Enforcement $3,570,000
One Stop Shop $7,543,000
Strategic Support $2,418,000
Urban Design and Development $1,637,000

POLICE DEPARTMENT LINE ITEM BUDGET

Administrative Support: $18,835,000 (This funding is for case management and reports, clerical staff and the forensic lab.)
Investigative Services: $45,622,000 (This funding is for the various detective units)
Neighborhood Policing: $104,730,000
Off-Duty Police Overtime: $2,225,000 (The funding is to pay for police overtime and for years the actual funding has approached $10 to $14 Million a year.)
Prisoner Transport: $2,423,000 (The funding is used to transport all arrestees to the Westside Jail.)
Professional Accountability: $34,042,000 (This is funding associated with the Department of Justice Consent Decree)

SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT

Administrative Services $7,687,000
Clean City $10,845,000
Collections $23,684,000 (This is the annual cost associated with residential and commercial garbage pick up)
Disposal $9,326,000 (This is funding to operate the land fill)
Maintenance – Support Services $5,641,000 (This fund is essentially fleet maintenance costs)
General Fund $5,933,000
Refuse Disposal Capital Fund $11,619,000

SENIOR AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT

Basic Services $256,000
Strategic Support $2,404,000
Well Being $5,657,000

TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION DEPARTMENT

Citizen Services $3,771,000
Data Management for APD $ 825,000
Information Services $11,546,000

TRANSIT DEPARTMENT: $26,578,000

TRANSIT OPERATING FUND

ABQ Rapid Transit: $1,824,000
ABQ Ride: $31,918,000
Facility Maintenance: $2,560,000
Paratransit Services: $6,232,000
Special Events: $237,000
Strategic Support: $3,464,000
Transfer to Other Funds (Transit):
General Fund: $5,590,000
Transit Grants Fund: $986,000
AIRPORT REVENUE BOND DEBT SERVICE FUND: $2,306,000

BASEBALL STADIUM OPERATING FUND

Stadium Operations $1,232,000
Transfer to Other Funds:
General Fund: $25,000
Sports Stadium D/S Fund: $1,023,000

BASEBALL STADIUM DEBT SERVICE FUND: $998,000

RISK MANAGEMENT FUND (This fund deals with litigation costs and settlements paid out when the city is sued)

Risk – Fund Administration: $1,173,000
Risk – Safety Office: $1,926,000
Risk – Tort and Other: $2,410,000
Risk – Workers’ Comp: $2,518,000
Workers Compensation, Tort Claims and Other Claims: $27,829,000

HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT

Unemployment Compensation: $1,028,000
Employee Equity: $445,000
Group Self Insurance: $84,917,000 (The city is a self insured entity and as such must maintain a percentage of projected liability exposure.)
Below is the link to located final draft of R-30-21. Click on the link then click on R-31 spelled out in blue and marked FINAL:

https://cabq.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4411998&GUID=3FD662EF-A96A-4BD6-8113-380B7451BADC

During his September 3 press conference revealing the 2020-2021 budget, Mayor Keller reiterated that Albuquerque’s municipal government is in better shape than most other major American cities also dealing with the pandemic. Keller cited research covered by The New York Times that estimated Albuquerque’s revenue shortfall to be the second lowest among 40 large cities, second only to Boston.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1493168/mayor-proposes-1-15-billion-budget-to-council.html

Monahan Take On Alb. Journal Polls On Presidential And Congressional Races; Poll Mythology Explained

On Sunday, September 6, the Albuquerque Journal began to publish the results of its long anticipated 2020 general election poll in the state. As has been the case for decades, the Journal poll was conducted by Research and Polling.

On September 7 and 8, New Mexico political blogger Joe Monahan published his take on the Albuquerque Journal poll on his blog New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan. As usual, Mr. Monahan provided and excellent and insightful summary of the polls. Below are his articles:

Monday, September 07, 2020

Trump Hits The Blue Wall; Biden Trounces Him In Key State Poll: Impact On Legislative Races Eyed

Barring an event of unimaginable consequence, New Mexico is poised to go blue for the fourth consecutive time in a presidential contest.

The Albuquerque Journal poll released Sunday essentially puts the race out of reach of Republican President Donald Trump who won the backing of only 39 percent of likely voters compared to Dem challenger Joe Biden’s 54 percent.

Making a Trump comeback even less likely, just 7 percent of those polled said they were undecided or that they would not be voting for either candidate.

Given the exceptionally low undecided less than two months from Election Day only an event of seismic proportion that shakes the entire nation would appear to be able to alter the inevitability of a Biden win here.

In the know R’s are circling the wagons, acknowledging that with a Biden blue wave the state’s five member congressional delegation will likely stay blue and that the party’s best hope is to vigorously campaign to protect and add to their legislative numbers.

A Trump win is not in the cards but they see a shot at reducing his losing margin in which Trump breaks free from the Republican base vote of 42 percent. That could benefit their legislative candidates as well as southern congressional hopeful Yvette Herrell.

At NMGOP headquarters they tried to put a brave face on the dismal numbers. They questioned the survey’s demographics, wondering about the number of Dems polled vs. R’s, noting that the information was not released. They added:

Polls conducted in the summer often fail to be reflective of November elections. Campaigns don’t start until after Labor Day. There will be nationally televised presidential debates, and candidates will spend millions in media advertising. To conduct a poll during late summer may be useful, but in New Mexico there are more than 283,000 unaffiliated voters who were not involved in the Primary Election.

Still, this makes for some very wishful thinking. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton here in 2016 by 48 to 40 with Libertarian Gary Johnson garnering 9 percent. Pollster Brian Sanderoff sounded a four alarm fire for the White House, pointing out that Hispanic voters were supporting Biden 64 percent to Trump’s 28 percent and that just about all the Hispanics who supported Johnson were now supporting Biden. That undercut a key argument of the Trump campaign on why the state could be brought into play. The President would need 40 percent Hispanic support to be anywhere near competitive.

There were tidbits of good news for Trump in the survey conducted August 26 to September 2 among 1,123 likely voters and that sports a margin error of 2.9 percent. In the Northwest region he manages a 55 to 43 margin over Biden and on the conservative eastside Trump won landslide numbers, 65 percent to 30 percent over Biden. And while Trump is behind here it is not a surprise and not a commentary on what the ultimate result of the national election will be.

But it was the ABQ Metro that delivered what could be the death knell, giving him just 33 percent support to Biden’s landslide number of 61 percent. The Metro is the most populous region of the state and turnout could be off the charts this year.

In 2018–an off year election with lower turnout than a presidential year—a Dem Blue Wave washed over the usually moderate/conservative ABQ NE Heights. When it was done only one GOP state House member was left standing in Bernalillo County. R’s challenging the Dem freshman winners from that year have to face the dilemma of watching many of their voters going for Biden and then trying to persuade them to vote Republican for the House seats.

Then there’s the four metro area GOP state senate seats that could be crucial in determining how liberal state policy could be in the election’s aftermath. The R’s seeking those slots are in need of chicken soup and valium to help them recover from the body blow this poll represents.

One poll does not an election make but it often defines what is and what isn’t possible. Could we see some Republicans separate themselves from Trump in hope of surviving? Well, a hungry man will do most anything to see the sun rise another day.”

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Poll Reveals Warning Signs For R’s In Southern CD, Plus: In Senate Race Lujan One Point Shy Of Magic Number And R’s Strategize State Senate

There are warning signs for the R’s in the latest polling as they fight to oust Dem US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in the state’s southern congressional district.

The ABQ Journal survey conducted Aug 26-Sept. 2 has XTS carrying a two point lead–47-45–over Republican Yvette Herrell into the final critical weeks of Campaign 2020. That places the race well within the survey’s 4.8 percent margin of error. But there could be an enthusaism gap developing between the two contenders that left unchecked could give the Dems the edge.

First is the anemic performance of President Trump in the mostly conservative district. He aced Hillary Clinton by a ten point margin in 2016 but this survey shows he is beating Biden by only 4 points. That confirms insider polling we reported on weeks ago that showed Trump carrying the district by only one point.

A sagging Trump could have a profound impact on Herrell. Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff points out his studies show that what happens at the top of the ticket has significant impact on what happens below. Herrell needs a Trump rebound.

The other part of the enthusiasm gap is Herrell’s support from 81 percent of Republican respondents. That sounds high, but political pros will tell you that number should be pushing 90 percent. The R’s are much smaller than the Dems and must show unity to score the upset. The fear is that the ongoing infighting among GOP factions in the district will again dampen turnout for Herrell as it did when she lost to XTS by 3,700 votes in 2016.

LUJAN VS. RONCHETTI

In the Journal polling of the US Senate race, veteran political analyst Greg Payne pronounced himself “a little surprised” that US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan came up one point short of the magic 50 percent mark that signals victory is near. Lujan scored 49 percent to Republican Mark Ronchetti’s 40 percent. (Libertarian Bob Walsh had 4 percent).

Payne does not believe that Lujan is in serious jeopardy at this juncture. He says the northern congressman’s name ID statewide is only now being developed via TV ads.

There is also the matter of the intense dislike of Washington DC these days. The Journal poll gives Congress a ludicrously low approval rating of 12 percent. That could also be holding back BRL from getting an early “all clear” signal from voters. Ronchetti and the R’s have been hanging liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi around his neck. She’s unpopular with conservatives but also many in the Dems progressive wing.

Lujan has only just begun to put Ronchetti’s neck in the Trump noose. Trump is running about where Ronchetti is–39 percent against Biden’s 54. How can Ronchetti break through the wall of negativity surrounding Trump in the ABQ metro area where the poll says he is already behind 20 points? Without that breakthrough, he can’t win. His 40 percent polling represents a consolidation of the Republican base vote, not a breakthrough with needed Dems and indys.

Lujan’s first wave of general election ads left him about where he was in the June PPP poll which had him leading Ronchetti 48 to 34. There are still no signs that national R’s are interested in targeting the race but Lujan will want to close that door as quickly as he can. That means going negative.

Only the southern congressional race is competitive. The other two are snoozers. ABQ Dem freshman Rep. Deb Haaland has an enormous 58-31 lead over R Michelle Garcia Holmes.

Haaland’s politics may be a bit far left for the district but voters take pride in her overcoming her personal struggles to become one of the first Native American women to serve in the Congress and serving with dedication.

The lesser known Teresa Leger Fernandez, the Dem nominee for the northern seat, is also way ahead of her GOP foe, Alexis Johnson, 50 to 35. Leger will need time to win the hearts of voters but she possesses a calm competence that has been well received in the north.

STATE SENATE ACTION

R’s focused on the state Senate seats say that they have two possible pick-ups to offset a potential Dem rampage in the ABQ metro. They point to Crystal Dimond who is running against Neomi Martinez for the seat of Sen. John Arthur Smith in the SW. He was defeated by Martinez in the Dem primary but the district does have conservative inclinations. They also think that the seat being left vacant by conservative Dem John Sapien of Corrales could tip Republican with able GOP contender John Clark. Onetime Deb Haaland aide Brenda McKenna is the Dem hopeful and women are getting elected in droves on the D side.

The four R seats on the line include those of Senators Rue and Gould and the open seat of GOP Senator Bill Payne, all in big Bernalillo County. Another R problem is the challenge Republican freshman Sen. Greg Baca is getting in Valencia County.

The R’s would like the seat of Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants who was ousted in the Dem primary by Pam Cordova but that is a tall order with Trump leading the ticket and her deep roots in the district.

If the GOP could pick up the Smith or Sapien seats or both it would balance out potential losses or even lead to a pick up, if all their incumbents could hold on. One thing is certain–the R’s are again playing defense just as in ’18.

ABQ JOURNAL EXPLAINS MYTHOLOGY OF BOTH PRESIDENTIAL AND UNITED STATES SENATE POLL

Research & Polling Inc. is New Mexico’s largest full-service market research and public opinion research company. Founded in 1986, the company today serves a wide variety of prominent national and New Mexico clients. https://www.rpinc.com/ When it comes to polling in New Mexico political races, Research and Polling has an extensive history of accurate predictions and is considered the “gold standard” of polling.

“The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 1,123 likely general election voters who also voted in either the 2016 and 2018 general elections – or both. Respondents were given the choice of Biden or Trump, as well as the option of volunteering support for a different candidate. Fewer than 1% chose “other candidate,” and 2% said they would not vote for either Biden or Trump.

The poll was conducted from August 26 through September 2. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples. All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone. Both cellphone numbers (73%) and landlines (27%) of likely general election voters were used.”

The link to the full Albuquerque Journal Presidential Poll report is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1493758/biden-holds-sizable-lead-over-trump-in-nm-journal-poll-finds.html

The link to the full Albuquerque Journal United State Senate report is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1493963/journal-poll-lujan-leads-ronchetti-in-us-senate-race.html

ABQ JOURNAL EXPLAINS MYTHOLOGY OF CONGRESSIONAL POLL

According to the Albuquerque Journal article, “The Journal Poll is based on a scientific sample of likely general election voters who also voted in either the 2016 and 2018 general elections – or both. The poll was conducted from Aug. 26 through Sept. 2.

In the 1st Congressional District, the poll sampled 404 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. [ Congresswoman Debra] Haaland … was favored by 58% of likely voters in the 1st Congressional District. … Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes, a retired police detective, had support from 31% of those surveyed.”

In the 2nd Congressional District, the poll sampled 418 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. … Democrat Xochitl Torres Small and Republican Yvette Herrell are … separated by just 2%. … . Torres Small had support from 47% of likely voters surveyed. … Herrell, a former state representative from Alamogordo, was favored by 45% of those surveyed.”

In the 3rd Congressional District, the poll sampled 301 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points. Journal Poll showed 50% of likely voters in the district say they would vote for Teresa Leger Fernandez. … . Alexis Johnson … had support from 35% of those surveyed. Of those surveyed, 14% said they were undecided or didn’t know whom they would vote for.
The margin of error grows for subsamples.

All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone. Both cellphone numbers and landlines of likely general election voters were used.

The link to the full Albuquerque Journal Congressional poll report is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1493962/journal-poll-nms-2nd-congressional-district-too-close-to-call.html

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR JOE MONAHAN

The link to New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan is here:

http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/

You can email comments to Mr. Monahan here:

newsguy@yahoo.com)