The Piercing Truth

This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes

Dec 21, 2009

Ethical Dilemma

Last Wednesday, the Journal reported that State Senator Linda Lopez (D) was essentially handed a job with Bernalillo County to work on "regional jail initiatives and other assignments." It was a job that the county was paying MRCOG to do on their behalf and Lopez was apparently the doer at the COG.
[Lopez] makes about $26 an hour, the same amount she made at the COG, for 15 to 20 hours a week, officials said.

Lopez, a South Valley Democrat who is seeking her party's nomination for lieutenant governor, said her role as a state lawmaker didn't affect her hiring.

"I felt that since they were paying my salary ... it made sense to work for the county," Lopez said. "The money was already being funneled straight over to the COG."
The Journal felt that the problem was the fact that Lopez got the job with the county without a proper posting - and that's certainly a part of the problem. The bigger problem is that as a state senator, Lopez is one of the officials that control state funding for the county not to mention that by hiring Lopez, she could be in violation of the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act applies to executive branch state and local employees who are principally employed in connection with programs financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States or a federal agency.
The Hatch act governs behavior of employees of governments whose agencies receive federal funding. Bernalillo County - like most governmental agencies - receives a healthy amount of federal funding. As such, Lopez is a covered employee according to the Office of Special Counsel.
Covered state and local employees may not-

* be candidates for public office in a partisan election
* use official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination
* directly or indirectly coerce contributions from subordinates in support of a political party or candidate
Not only is Ms. Lopez a state senator, she is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor both of which are partisan elections. To be fair Senator Lopez' previous employer - MRCOG - was also a governmental agency that receives huge amounts of federal dollars, so she was probably already in violation.

But there's another potential county violator - Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins. You see, Commissioner Hart-Stebbins works for the Mid-Region Council of Governments or MRCOG.
Hart Stebbins currently serves as the Special Projects Manager for the Mid-Region Council of Governments, where she has been an integral part of many projects including the New Mexico Rail Runner Express.
Ms. Hart-Stebbins was originally appointed by Big Bill, so there's a pretty good argument that she hasn't technically violated the Hatch Act... yet. However, when she becomes a candidate for the Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners she will be working for an agency that receives large amounts of federal funding and will be a "candidate for a partisan election."

More ironically, the district 3 commissioner may be in violation of her own proposed ethics legislation (read it here). The commissioner's legislation has a pretty broad definition of prohibited source. One of which is "any person or entity who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or non-performance of the officials duties of the elected official, volunteer or employee."

The county has three seats on the MRCOG Board of Directors. The board members are county commissioners. And even though Commissioner Hart-Stebbins is not one of MRCOG's board members, she certainly has influence with the commissioners who are. More importantly, Commissioner Hart-Stebbins has an interest or interests that may be substantially affected by the commissioners serving on MRCOG's Board of Directors.

There's really no end to potential conflicts of interest when government employees also serve as elected officials whose interactions affect one another. There's also no end to the number of temptations.

Voters need to feel that the officials they elect have the best interests of the electorate at heart. When personal interests can be affected by the vote of an elected official, that official's integrity and ethics should rightfully be called into question. Both Lopez and Hart-Stebbins present an ethical dilemma created by their employment for government agencies and power entrusted to them as elected officials.

----- Correction -----
An Eye reader rightfully took us to task for our creative spelling of the word "dilemma." It has been corrected above.


Anonymous said...

Interesting ... school systems receive state and federal funding - how about the dozen or so 'working' educators who serve in the state house and senate? And if you're an educator, how do you take time off in the middle of the school year and still get paid for that?

Anonymous said...

What about those wonderful pro business republicans who suck from the public teat?

Brad Winter is payed over $150,000 by Albuquerque Public Schools. APS recieves millions of dollars from the feds and that has increased with the stimulus dollars being pumped in. He is also City Councilor that will never vote against APS. If APS is on the agenda everyone know his vote. He is the chair for Allen Weh's campaign in Bernalillo County.

What about Micheal Brasher. He is also an APS employee, and as we ha ve discussed, APS receives tons of money from the Federal Government. Brasher also receives a county check because he is a County Commissioner.

Two "pro business" republicans that live on multiple checks provided by government. I wont even mention their wives employers. Neither republican will speak out about the stimulus dollars APS received. Neither will ever vote against APS.

Winter and Brasher have huge conflicts of interests and both might violate the Hatch act by holding office. The Eye should be fair when identifying public employees who hold public office.

Uncle Crusty said...

Too bad that you're not writing for the Journal and that this story isn't on the front page.

Anonymous said...

Berry is a millionaire who gets paid 100k for being mayor. Campbell is a millionaire who gets paid 150k for being CAO.

So why are we supposed to be impressed that these two fat cats are only driving used city vehicles? Why aren't they driving their own cars?

Sell the city cars and use the money to buy police vehicles that would replace the POS the rank and file have to drive. That would be impressive.

Anonymous said...

Democrat Alan Armijo who revolves from City Council to County Commission is also an APS Lobbyist in Santa Fe.

Anonymous said...

Politics as usual in New Mexico. Lopez in her capacity as a state senator backed/sponsored the Sun Cal initiative for TIDS. Thadeus Lucero the person who hired her at the county is on the board for the Atrisco company that profited from the sale of 55,000 acres to Sun Cal.
The Hatch act is only part of the problem in our pay to play state monkey house that some people call New Mexico government.

Anonymous said...

There should be a state law which makes a crime to pull this kind of Sh**. Start locking up these criminals.

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