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Alibi Flashback: Captain Opinion, the Alibi’s most hated columnist

V.4 No.44 • July 4-10, 1996
V.4 No.44 • July 4-10, 1996
Back in the ’90s the Alibi ran an infamously popular column written by a mysterious figure known only as Captain Opinion. Letters from our flabbergasted readers rained in expressing outrage at the Captain’s stance on everything from eating the homeless to hatred of bass fisherman. Much of it seemed tongue-in-cheek to the newspaper staff, yet our letters section sputtered with indignant rage and death threats. Hence, the captain’s identity remained a closely held secret for safety reasons. Next week, in our 20th Anniversary Issue, a clever reader may be able to glean the identity of the Alibi’s most hated columnist. Then again, maybe not.

Pennies for Politicos

by Captain Opinion

Got a traffic ticket that you just beat in court? Or how about a DWI or parking tickets that were tossed out?

If you worked up any legal bills defending yourself against the charges, send them to Gene Gilbert, Al Valdez, Ken Sanchez and Les Houston.

Those men are the four Bernalillo County Commissioners who recently approved a law that would let the county—meaning you—pay the legal bills of public officials who are accused of crimes while acting in their official capacity as public officials but who were acquitted at trial.

The legislation was aimed specifically at paying off the legal bills of former County Treasurer Patrick Padilla, who was indicted for misusing public money and other charges in a public money investment fiasco his office was involved in.

A jury acquitted Padilla, and now Gilbert and the others (Commissioner Barbara Seward voted against the legislation) want you to pay Padilla’s legal fees.

The public reasoning behind the move is that we must protect elected and public officials whom we ask to serve from bogus or trumped up charges or something like that.

It’s a crock. There are all kinds of problems with this move.

First, not too long ago, Gilbert worked as Padilla’s lawyer in a bankruptcy case where Padilla lost a South Valley car wash he owned. The legal fee bill was sponsored by Gilbert. I guess it’s no longer a conflict of interest to shape legislation that could financially benefit people who you’ve worked for. Has anybody asked Gilbert if Padilla owes him any money for the bankruptcy work?

Second, it wasn’t the state or an evil prosecutor or even Bernalillo County that went after Padilla on criminal charges. A grand jury was plunked down in the courthouse as the result of a citizens petition for an investigation into Padilla’s office.

Third, Gilbert now apparently has second thoughts about the legislation since it can also lead to the payment of legal fees for former Bounty Sheriff Ray Gallagher, who was also charged with crimes and not convicted.

And finally, the line about we the people asking, perhaps begging, politicians to serve us is one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in a while. It’s not as if we drag these people out of their beds in the middle of the night and demand they run for office. It’s the other way around. They’re the ones who plunk down 50 bucks or whatever it is and collect a few thousand petition signatures to get on the ballot and run.

Hang around on filing day, and you’ll see the candidates—a huge group of arrogant airheads, pompous buffoons, hangers on, incompetents, misfits and mental wretches in need of a quick fix of publicity or public money, primping and preening and strutting and telling dumb jokes.

So when you hear that we must protect these people because we demand their services, don’t believe it. It’s a self-serving line.

I have a suggestion, though, for Gilbert, Valdez, Sanchez and Houston. If you guys feel so strongly that Padilla’s legal fees should be paid, pay them yourselves. You each make about $19,000 a year as county commissioners. Between the four of you, that’s $76,000, more than enough to pay Padilla’s legal fees. And you’ll have enough money left over to throw a party and congratulate yourselves on being such good, responsible citizens.

I would think that as bold, innovative, concerned leaders, you would lead by example and do it yourselves. But since that’s not going to happen, I encourage everyone who has gotten a ticket while driving to work and beaten it to send your legal bills to Gilbert and the gang. After all, by going to work, you’re acting in your official capacity as taxpayers. You’re making money so the government can take it.

I occasionally dig in my pocket and give loose change to bums. A quarter is about all it’ll cost the average taxpayer to pay Padilla’s legal fees. Not much, I suppose.

But I’d rather give the quarter to a wino. They’ve got a better use for it.