October 12, 2015

Call for censure of ABQ council president

Albuquerque city councilors in May, 2015.

With just weeks left until the President of the Albuquerque City Council will step down, another member is calling for him to be officially censured.

City Council President Rey Garduño. Photo by Joey Peters

City Council President Rey Garduño. Photo by Joey Peters

Councilor Dan Lewis drafted a memo to Council President Rey Garduño, accusing the latter of inciting public outcry by making inappropriate comments about other councilors. Lewis wrote that when Garduño successfully passed a proclamation to create an Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day, he publicly admonished his colleagues who disagreed with the measure.

“Subsequently, you made a number of public statements to the media in which you condemned those Councilors for not signing the Proclamation, even going so far as to say that they were ‘cowards,’ Lewis wrote in his memo. “In so doing, you intentionally exposed your fellow Councilors to scorn and derision, when even the most basic communication with those Councilors would have revealed a common interest in truly honoring our indigenous neighbors and friends.”

In his memo, Lewis admitted this is not the first time he aimed to censure Garduño. Lewis said there were a number of instances when Garduño disparaged the rest of the councilors including remarks about an appointment of another counselor to the Water Authority Board, remarks Garduño made to the public and his subsequent response to Lewis.

Lewis wrote, “When I asked for a clarification about your comments and whether they were germane to the issue being discussed you said, ‘you can excuse yourself if you’d like and I’ll explain it to you later!’ and later, ‘you’re out of order!’”

Lewis added that he sees a pattern of attacks from Garduño directed towards councilors who disagree with him.

“From the inception of your Presidency, you have not acted as a representative of the full Council, but have instead fractured the Council and distracted from the issues at hand by heavy handedly attempting to quell Council discussion that you disagree with,” Lewis wrote.

Lewis spoke with New Mexico Political Report over the phone and reiterated his thoughts from his memo. He said he spent the time to craft his disciplinary letter to Garduño because he wants to hold the Council President accountable for his words and actions. Lewis noted it is not an attack on Garduño himself and actually views him as a friend.

“This is not personal,” Lewis said. “I like Rey Garduño.”

KOB-TV published a statement from Lewis on Twitter that stated Lewis’ intention is to submit the letter during the next City Council meeting.

While the rules of the council don’t specify what an official censure would entail, generally a censure of an elected official amounts to nothing more than an official disapproval.

New Mexico Political Report also left messages for Garduño, when he responds his comments will be added to this story. Council Vice-President Brad Winter told New Mexico Political Report he hadn’t read Lewis’ memo, but planned on reading it and getting back to New Mexico Political Report. He had not responded before publication.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on the proclamation.

It was an unusual dispute. Proclamations don’t formally establish city policy or enact law. They aren’t even the traditional method the council uses to express a non-binding opinion on an issue — a memorial, which involves a formal debate and vote.

Proclamations aren’t listed on meeting agendas, voted on by the council or otherwise part of the legislative process.

Numerous cities across the United States have adopted resolutions to replace Columbus day with Indigenous People’s Day, Albuquerque being one of the more recent additions.

The Taos News reported that Gov. Susana Martinez was caught off guard when asked if the state might replace the holiday someday.

Update: Added comment from Lewis from a short interview.