A report released today by State Auditor Tim Keller finds that Albuquerque Police Department’s relationship with an Arizona police equipment company led to “probable” violations of city and state law. Update: Keller spoke to the press and New Mexico Political Report spoke to the city of Albuquerque. See that piece here. Post continues as written below. The possible violations date back to former Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz’ close ties with Arizona-based TASER International.
A state advocacy group for government transparency disagrees with the City of Albuquerque’s contention that its public personnel hearings aren’t subject to the New Mexico Open Meetings Act. Greg Williams, board president of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said the public should be able to videotape the meetings. “We think they are subject to OMA,” Williams told New Mexico Political Report. “But even if they are not, [the hearings] are public. And if they’re public, that means anyone can attend, and that includes being able to video- and audio-record the meetings.”
Albuquerque contends that its public personnel hearings aren’t subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act. The city said so last week in a formal response to a complaint filed with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Charles Arasim filed the complaint with the office on March 9, alleging the city violated the Open Meetings Act after being blocked from videotaping multiple city personnel hearings. In the response, interim Albuquerque City Attorney Jenica Jacobi and assistant attorney Nicholas Bullock wrote last week that the city’s personnel hearing officers do not have to make accommodations for members of the public who want to record the hearings. The city’s Personnel Board, which weighs grievances from city employees who contest their disciplines or firing from city government, consists of five people.
A former general counsel and deputy chief of staff to Gov. Susana Martinez will be Albuquerque’s new city attorney. Jessica Hernandez, a 34-year-old attorney who’s been practicing law since 2002, comes to the city after just over four years at the governor’s office. Prior to then, she practiced law at Rodey Law in Albuquerque and clerked for US District Judge James O. Browning. Before unanimously confirming her for the position, Albuquerque city councilors questioned Hernandez about the independence of the city attorney from both the mayor and the city council. “As the governor’s attorney you obviously were advocating for the governor’s position in all matters,” City Councilor Isaac Benton said.