Jul 28 - Aug 3, 2011 
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Council Bite

Inspector Could Investigate White

By Carolyn Carlson

As one of his first tasks, the city’s inspector general may dig into allegations aimed at former Public Safety Director Darren White.

In June, Neftali Carrasquillo Jr. became inspector general, a position independent of the mayor and City Council. The job is designed to sniff out waste, fraud and misconduct among the city’s employees, vendors, contractors and officials. In late 2010, the Council approved new policies for the position, yanking it out from under the administration’s control and forming the Accountability in Government Oversight Committee. This committee is the only body that can recommend hiring or firing the inspector general.

Kathleen White crashed her car into a curb on the morning of Wednesday, July 6. She told officers she was taking prescription drugs. Her husband Darren White arrived on the scene and drove her to the hospital. Allegations of pressure on a responding officer to change his report started circulating soon after.

“These two investigations could cost upwards of $35,000 and have no real power to compel answers and production of documents.”

Jon Zaman, city council services finance officer

On Monday, July 25, the five-member City Council Internal Operations Committee unanimously approved recommending the inspector general investigate White. The committee previously kicked around the idea of an outside investigation and asked city staff for referrals. Two out-of-state agencies were offered as optionswith a caveat. “These two investigations could cost upwards of $35,000 and have no real power to compel answers and production of documents,” said Jon Zaman, city council services finance officer.

The inspector general has the power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and demand records. Because the position doesn’t answer to the Council or mayor, Carrasquillo can’t be ordered to conduct the investigation.

More than a week after the car accident, Mayor Richard Berry instructed William Deaton, the city’s independent review officer, to conduct an investigation. Councilors Debbie O’Malley, Rey Garduño, Isaac Benton and Ken Sanchez have said this is outside the scope and authority of Deaton’s job. The review officer hears allegations about rank-and-file police misconduct, not about higher-ups such as White. Recommendations from the commission and Deaton can be squelched by the Mayor’s Office.

At Monday’s meeting, Sanchez said Inspector General Carrasquillo is highly qualified, has just moved to Albuquerque and does not know those involved. Benton pointed out that Carrasquillo is also a good choice because there would be no additional cost to the city.

White announced his retirement on Friday, July 15, from his top city post. Former Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli, who worked under Mayor Martin Chavez, has said the position’s been watered down and is a waste of money.

Berry said he is taking a look at the position before deciding whether to fill it.

The next full Council meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 1, in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall.

Send your comments about the City Council to carolyn@alibi.com
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