A bill was introduced at the Monday, March 1 Council meeting that would rein in the Albuquerque Police Department's policy of letting officers take home squad cars on the public's dime. Joey Segala, the police union president,told the Council during public comment that the perk of take-home cars is part of the union contract. He also said police cars in home driveways is a safety bonus for some taxpayers who like having a visible police presence in their neighborhoods. There was no action or discussion by councilors on the squad car costs, but they will talk about this at the next meeting on Monday, March 15.
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The Friend RateA bill sponsored by Councilors Brad Winter and Dan Lewis would order city administration to take all necessary action—including legal action—to find out whether former Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams' 2006 employment agreement was valid. The agreement allowed Adams to keep his $147,000 annual salary when he took a lower-level city job that would normally pay about $120,000. He is still making that higher salary as the special projects coordinator at the Municipal Development Department.City ordinance says salaries should be adjusted appropriately, but the chief operating officer (Bruce Perlman at the time)has the authority to make individual salary deals. The city's legal department said this is an employment issue and advised against taking it to the courts. City staff told the Council that Mayor R.J. Berry has already put a policy in place so these sweet salary deals cannot happen again.
Winter and his new sidekick Lewis say taking the matter to court is the best course of action. They argue that the courts are the proper venue, as taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent. Councilor Don Harris reminded everyone that it may violate the city charter for the Council to order the mayor to sue an employee.Councilor Trudy Jones noted they will spend far more moneytaking this to court than just honoring the contract, shooting down the argument about wasting taxpayer money. Things got a little tense between the councilors. Chief Administrative Officer David Campbell reminded the Council that voters in the last election approved a change to the city charter saying the Council and administration must handle disputes with arbitration before going to court. The measure passed 5-4.
It makes no sense to take this employment issue to the courts when there is a mandate from voters to settle disputes through less expensive arbitration. The city brought forth several outside legal opinions stating this was not a legal issue. It sure looks like conservative councilors are maintaining some of the old bad blood between the former Mayor Martin Chavez administration and the Council.Litigation should always be the last resort, and in this case, it is an unreasonable way to better define city policy. If Mayor Berry's people say he already took steps to prevent this problem in the future, then what's the point of wasting cash to take it to court?