April 30, 2015

Keller outlines ‘probable’ violations of law to reporters

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Andy Lyman

State Auditor Tim Keller at a press conference.

State Auditor Tim Keller forwarded his office’s findings of Albuquerque Police Department’s potentially illegal relationship with an Arizona stun gun company to two legal offices for investigation.

State Auditor Tim Keller at a press conference announcing a report on contracts between Albuquerque Police Department and TASER. Photo by Andy Lyman

Andy Lyman

State Auditor Tim Keller at a press conference announcing a report on contracts between Albuquerque Police Department and TASER.
Photo by Andy Lyman

Keller’s office released a report, which New Mexico Political Report outlined early Thursday, finding probable violations of city and state law from the department’s nearly $2 million contract with TASER International for lapel cameras. His office also asked state Attorney General Hector Balderas and District Attorney Kari Brandenberg to conduct investigations into the matter.

Specifically, Keller’s risk review found former Albuquerque Police Chief Raymond Schultz’ actions in “probable” violation of the state Governmental Conduct Act, city procurement rules and city conflict of interest rules.

“We believe these are very substantial violations,” Keller told a crowd of reporters Thursday morning. “And certainly in our opinion we believe they deserve prompt enforcement by law enforcement agencies.”

In response, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s chief of staff Gilbert Montaño called the scathing report “an unfortunate situation.”

“If criminal activity is found, we trust that the system will run its course,” Montaño told New Mexico Political Report in an interview Thursday afternoon.

Part of the potential violations include Schultz’ overlapping of jobs with the police department and TASER. Schultz began consulting for TASER in October 2013, a time when he was still on the city’s payroll.

The police department entered the $2 million contract with TASER weeks before then. The contract was sole-source, meaning that the city didn’t put it out for competitive bid. According to the audit report’s findings, the city didn’t test cameras from other companies, despite claims to the contrary in the past.

This is important, Keller said, because of numerous documented malfunctions of lapel cameras.

“You can’t tell if one product is better than another if you only test one of them,” Keller said.

Not only were Schultz and TASER in discussions for career opportunities while the city made purchases with the company, but also while the company offered what Keller described as “junkets” to him.

These included tickets to a party at the Stingaree Night Club in San Diego and an “all expense paid” training program in Scottsdale, Arizona, where TASER is based.

Schultz officially retired from the police department in January 2014, two months after he began consulting for TASER.

The police chief of the state’s largest city police department should be a “shining star in public office,” Keller said.

Taser-International“In this case, it points in the opposite direction,” he said.

When speaking about the $2 million TASER contract, Montaño acknowledged that the city’s “system in operation as it related to procurement failed.”

But he said that city has since beefed up its procurement policy, which now has “several more layers of checks and balances and internal controls.”

All procurements are run through the city’s department of finance and administration as well as the chief procurement officer, he said. Each city purchase of a commodity now has it’s own process as well.

“No longer can a contract be an umbrella contract for 15 different commodities,” Montaño said.

As for eliminating conflicts of interest, Montaño said the city “continues to teach employees” to be aware of perceived and real conflicts and “err on the side of ethical obligations.”

Before the release of the state auditor’s report, the city denied that the TASER purchases were a problem.

“This purchase was approved through City Legal, Procurement, and the Technical Review Committee to comply with purchasing rules and regulations,” Albuquerque Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry told KRQE-TV last year after the station uncovered many of the documents that were later cited in the state auditor’s report.

For violating state law, Schultz could face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The possible city law violations could net him another 90 days and $500 fine.

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