Council Watch: Ethics Training And Peaceful Protests

Carolyn Carlson
5 min read
Ethics Training and Peaceful Protests
(Robert Maestas)
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Burque city councilors got a little testy at their Monday, June 1, meeting. They sparred and spewed over the spending habits of a contract attorney hired to represent the city in its negotiations with the Department of Justice.

Councilor Isaac Benton had included a resolution in the meeting’s letter of introduction asking the Bernalillo County Commission to hear the city council’s input about the future planning process of Santolina, a 13,700-acre proposed mega-development on the city’s southwest border. Councilor Trudy Jones motioned to remove the item from the letter of introduction, saying it was not in the city’s jurisdiction, nor was it the city’s business to weigh in on the pending county decision to approve such developments.

During the discussion Democrat Councilor Rey Garduño explained why he supports the city council putting its two cents into the development conversation. Republican Councilor Dan Lewis then quipped that no one had any idea what Garduño was talking about. “You can excuse yourself; I’ll explain it to you later,” Garduño said in response to the interruption.

The letter of introduction is a city council document that lists pieces of legislation being introduced for consideration either at that night’s meeting or at a future one. It is common for items to be added at the last minute, but it is very rare for an item to be removed, and blocking the introduction stops the discussion altogether. Democrats Ken Sanchez and Klarissa Peña sided with Republican councilors Jones, Lewis, Brad Winter and Don Harris to remain silent and mind their own city’s business. Councilors who approve say it is the county’s jurisdiction, and the city has no business interfering.

A little later in the meeting, councilors were again riled up when they were asked to approve an additional $280,000 contract extension with Scott Greenwood, an Ohio-based attorney hired to negotiate on behalf of the city with the U.S. Department of Justice, which found city police had a pattern of violating people’s rights and using excessive force. Councilors balked because Greenwood has already been paid $452,000. City auditors recommended to the council that Greenwood pay back about $1,288 for inappropriate expenses such as booze at restaurants and pet fees at hotels. Councilors postponed approving the contract extension, saying they want to know how much longer Greenwood will be needed, considering the negotiations are basically over. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry argued Greenwood is important to the implementation of the 30-page settlement order that was signed by U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, and not just its negotiation.

More Burque buzz

* City Councilors passed a $505 million budget on May 27 that boosts the bucks available for city employee raises. The new budget has increased slightly by 2.5 percent from last year’s budget and will go into effect July 1. Before dollars reach pockets, municipal employees must first go through union negotiations. There is enough money to give raises of 4 percent to 1 percent of the employee’s salary, with no raises for middle management. Police officers will have about $1.8 million to use within that department for either a 2.3 percent raise for all officers or for incentive pay for senior officers to delay retirement.

* Local police activists held a peaceful protest Tuesday, June 2, at Civic Plaza asking for Mayor Berry to resign. The 35 or so protesters say there are still major problems, and there has not been enough improvement within the department. The protest was held on the one-year anniversary of a protest held inside the mayor’s office where 13 people were arrested.

* On June 1 a federal civil jury found that APD Officer Russell Perea used excessive force against a man he spotted in a parking lot getting into a black Hummer with flames painted on its sides. The vehicle was similar to one police were looking for in connection to a homicide suspect. The jury smacked Perea, only one of four officers named in the suit, to the tune of $200,000 in compensatory damages, apparently finding his version of events not credible. This will allow the case to move forward in a separate trial against the city for supervisory and municipal liability regarding its hiring and training of officers like Perea. Perea was fired in 2011 after he gave conflicting statements regarding the on-duty whereabouts of he and then-APD Officer Levi Chavez on the night Levi Chavez’ wife, Tera, was killed. Chavez was acquitted in a criminal case, but the City and Chavez settled a civil suit. Perea hired attorney Sam Bregman and was able to get his job back. He was awarded more than $200,000 in back pay. Taxpayers once again will pay for the June 1st verdict, the ongoing litigation and all attorneys involved.

* Ethics training for city executives, department heads and elected officials is in the pipeline. The council approved a directive to the city attorney’s office and the council staff to come up with a comprehensive ethics-training plan. Prompting this directive was a couple of shady deals uncovered in several recent audits, especially pertaining to a no-bid $2 million contract between the police department and Taser International, the company that provides body cameras and other equipment to the police department, and former Police Chief Ray Schultz, who negotiated the city’s deal and went to work for the company to the tune of a contract for just under $2 million. The tenure of Chief Schultz coincides with the time periods the DOJ report covers, let alone the explosion of Taser product usage by APD.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the city council is set for Monday, June 15, in the Council Chambers, which is located in the basement of City Hall. You can also view it on GOV TV Channel 16 or at

Council Watch:

Robert Maestas

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