We normally don't do stories about traffic accidents. Let's just say that they're all too common and none too interesting. However, when the accident involves a city vehicle and an elected official then the incident grabs our attention.
Sunday, March 9th APD's 911 dispatch received a call from an irate citizen who claimed that they had just witnessed an accident involving a parked car and a city vehicle at 2nd and Marquette. The driver of the vehicle got out, took a look at the damage and drove away. What had this caller upset was that they recognized the driver of the city vehicle as none other than the Almighty Alcalde himself - Mayor Martin Chavez.
According to our Eyes, Marty's bodyguard Sergeant Louie Sanchez was contacted about the crash who brought in another officer - Sergeant Apodoca - to supervise the investigation. When contacted about the crash the mayor allegedly admitted that he had hit another vehicle but claimed that there was no damage so he left the scene. Field Investigators were dispatched to the scene and apparently to the mayor's home in order to collect photographs and information. After the reports were written, Commander Paul Romero showed up to collect the reports and we assume the photos.
There are a few questions that need to be asked. First of all, why was the mayor's bodyguard involved? Our understanding is that he wasn't with the mayor when the accident occurred otherwise he would have been driving. Second, why did Commander Romero show up to collect the reports? Sunday is normally the Commander's day off and we have a hard time believing that the Commander normally shows up to collect reports pertaining to minor traffic crashes - even in the case of a hit and run. More importantly, our Eyes tell us that this isn't the first time that a high ranking officer showed up to collect police reports involving the Almighty One.
It seems that the mayor's crash warranted special attention from APD brass - and perhaps that's as it should be. After all the mayor is the city's top law enforcement official. If the intent here is to gather evidence in order to prosecute a sitting mayor for leaving the scene of an accident (a misdemeanor) then we've got no problem with the special attention. However, if the intent is to find a way to shield The Almighty One from the press and from prosecution then we've all got a real problem.
It really doesn't matter that the mayor hit a parked car (unless of course he was impaired in some way). What does matter is that he chose to leave the scene. If as the mayor maintains, there wasn't any damage done it's still incumbent upon an elected official driving a city vehicle to notify the police and the owner of the parked vehicle and to wait for the police to arrive. We should expect a higher standard from our elected officials especially since your average city employee would be terminated for leaving the scene of an accident involving a city vehicle.
Our Eyes believe that this thing will simply disappear. Perhaps we've grown a bit cynical ourselves because we wouldn't be at all surprised if they were right. However, in this case there's a witness who's none too happy about the mayor's abrupt departure and doesn't have a stake in covering it up.
The law applies to everyone including and perhaps especially sitting mayors. It may have been a minor crash but it speaks volumes about the character of a man who is currently trying to change the rules in order to run for a third consecutive term.