Other People's Money... government at all levels gets tons of it. They use it for any number of things some of which are shall we say... questionable. But there are other organizations that receive your money some of them voluntary contributions, others come in the form of dues. These non-governmental organizations can be well run institutions or self-absorbed financial disasters just like government.
The Albuquerque Police Officers Association is one such organization. If you are a police officer in the Albuquerque and you're below the rank of Commander, the APOA is your collective bargaining representative. They will also provide representation in other non-criminal situations. For this service, the union collects dues from its members.
The APOA has a set of bylaws that control its operation and dictate its structure which includes a group of officers elected from the group's membership. The structure is designed to insure that money collected from members and used for the benefit of the entire membership.
About a year ago, we told you about some questionable credit card expenses incurred by then APOA President, Ron Olivas (read it here). To us the expenses looked to be more of an everyday benefits package for an APOA officer who had access to the union credit card.
Our Eyes down at the APOA are telling us that Olivas' spending wasn't restricted to his own union credit card. Apparently, Olivas got a hold of former APOA President Pete Dwyer's credit card or credit card number and used it to purchase transportation to Arkansas for Officers Ken Ronzone and Russ Carter.
The two K-9 officers were involved in a bar altercation in Fort Smith, Arkansas back in November of 2007. Arkansas authorities issued warrants for the arrest of the pair on felony charges. According to our Eyes, Olivas used Dwyer's credit card to pay for $7,000 worth of travel for Ronzone and Carter, and their witnesses.
There are a couple of problems here. First the pair were charged with felonies and the APOA does not use union money to defend felonious activity. Second, the charges made by Olivas were made on Dwyer's union credit card. It appears that Ronzone and Carter received preferential treatment in the case and that Olivas attempted to obscure his use of union money to defend the pair by using Dwyer's card.
Olivas apparently wasn't done spending union money. He also wrote a union check to Calibers for $5,800 to pay for memberships at the indoor shooting establishment. The memberships went to everyone in the Special Investigations Unit - including non-sworn, non-union personnel.
None of the expenditures were approved by the APOA board and some of the money went non-union members who don't pay APOA dues.
The whole thing is creating a political problem for incoming union President Joey Segalla. It seems that Segalla is unwilling to expose the almost $13,000 in unauthorized and potentially fraudulent expenditures made by Olivas saying he'd "rather resign than do another cop."
We understand an officer's reluctance to go after a fellow cop. Everyone likes to think that everyone wearing a badge serves honorably and honestly - the vast majority do. But the truth is just like in any institution, there are a few that tarnish that badge and make it harder and more dangerous for other officers to do their job. Officers need to be above reproach not above the law or the public loses faith in the very people that are essential for their safety.
As President of the union, investigating potential abuse of union dues by a prior president isn't "doing" a fellow cop - it's doing your job both as president of the union and as a sworn law enforcement officer. If former President Olivas truly abused union funds while president of the APOA, then he's already "done" his fellow officers by using their compulsory dues in ways not authorized by the union's bylaws. Except for the number of zeros, how is that any different than siphoning off a few million here and there on a construction project?
It's the lure of other people's money and the temptation to use it for your own gain especially when you know that you will never be held to account. The APOA needs to be better than those they investigate on the job. The good men and women of the Albuquerque Police Department deserve better.