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Monday, July 25, 2011

Still Dealing With Darren; Cover-Up Probe Continues; Chief Schultz Job On The Line, Plus: More On Murdoch; Oddsmakers Say He Beats Rape Charge 

Mayor & the chief
Friday came and went without release of that investigative report on the notorious Darren White incident that City Hall had previously said was coming. That's no shocker as observers wonder how a report could be churned out so quickly by Independent Review Officer William Deaton as information continues to drip out.

The latest developments have City Hall watchers wondering again just how long eight year ABQ Police Chief Ray Schultz can survive. The officer who handled duties at the scene of the accident of White's wife is now saying he was told to alter his initial report. The order, he says, came from Deputy Chief Beth Paiz. And if such an order was indeed given, did someone above Paiz give the order? If so, that could only be former Public Safety Director White or Chief Schultz. The news:

...Officer Al Walck was ordered to alter injury information and remove references to prescription drugs from his report on a single-vehicle accident involving the wife of then-Public Safety boss Darren White, his lawyer claims.

Police Chief Ray Schultz said he was not aware of any such orders given to Walck.

According to attorney Brian Thomas, Walck...received a visit from his sergeant and two police service aides. Sgt. Mike Woolley and the PSAs told Walck they had verbal orders from Deputy Police Chief Beth Paiz that Walck needed to make several changes to his report on the July 6 crash, including removing references to a prescription drug Kathleen White said she was taking, Thomas said.

Paiz will give her version of events to the IRO.
But a number of city councilors continue to push for an outside investigation, saying Deaton's probe can't be truly unbiased because he works under the mayor. But the mayor's office says the IRO works for the Public Oversight Committee and can't be fired by the mayor. Two GOP councilors voted for an outside investigation at a recent council committee meeting. It is pending.

It's clear that this "minor" traffic accident isn't done doing its damage to the credibility of law enforcement and the city's political leadership. White's forced resignation helped Mayor Berry begin to get out from under it, but this new development reinforces those who say Berry must continue to clean out the nest.

Schultz is an old law enforcement pro, but he may have sealed his fate when he acquiesced and did not fight limitations placed on him by White when White assumed extraordinary powers over the police and fire departments when Berry hired him in 2009.

What's that old political axiom? It's not the crime, it's the cover-up that gets you in trouble.

JUDGE MURDOCH

That other notorious law enforcement case that has tongues wagging in ABQ--the arrest of ABQ District Court Judge Albert "Pat" Murdoch on charge of raping a prostitute--raises this question from a political insider:

Joe...I see one of Judge Murdoch's "dream team" of lawyers, Ahmad Assed, is also Armando Gutierrez' attorney in the Vigil-Giron cases. Surprised that no one in the media seems to have publicly noticed that yet. It seems that it would have been very difficult for Judge Murdoch to remain unaffected in the Vigil-Giron cases while maintaining enough of a close relationship with one of the defense attorneys to call upon him in his own case....

Interesting observation, but maybe Murdoch simply saw in Assed the kind of lawyer he needs. Gutierrez and former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron face corruption charges. Murdoch had been a judge in the case as it winds its way through the system.

Meantime, Murdoch has also hired high-powered attorney Nancy Hollander and the betting line downtown on this one is against the prosecution. The alleged rape story is seen as riddled with holes and already shredded by news reports. The handling of the case is also causing more headaches for APD Chief Schultz.

But even as Murdoch can probably look forward to being acquitted on the bizarre rape allegations, his frequent visits with the prostitute seal his fate--he is through on the bench and will never serve again.

HOUSEKEEPING

Former Sandia Pueblo Governor Stuart Paisano is off to Washington this week as he makes final preparations to enter the Dem race for the ABQ congressional seat. "I'm 99.% in," he told us. But will Dem Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham beat Paisano into the race? She's holding a breakfast burrito breakfast for supporters on Tuesday morning as she continues to weigh a candidacy. Eric Griego and Marty Chavez are both announced for the Dem nod. Republicans Dan Lewis and Janice Arnold-Jones are also off and running.

IN SANTA FE
Valdez-Darnell
Our report that Alexis Valdez-Darnell, wife of Guv communications director Scott Darnell and daughter of former NM Sec. of Health Alex Valdez, has been hired as the Guv's director of operations, brought this from reader Glenn Wiering:

Your reference regarding former Department of Health Secretary Alex Valdez was accurate but a bit outdated.
As you probably know, he is currently CEO of St. Vincent Hospital and in the eye of the storm regarding union negotiations/busting, not to mention his salary/bonuses, etc. Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen this mentioned yet in your column recently.

Valdez's salary at the troubled St. Vincent has grown from $271,000 in 2004 to $615,000 today. He was health chief under former GOP Guv Gary Johnson.

The hospital is faced with a possible nursing strike.

Speaking of the Department of Health, an Alligator reports:

There's a new public information officer for the Department of Health. Aimee Barabee worked for 8 years as a librarian at the Rodey Law firm. She also worked eight months at a local Public Relations firm and assisted with writing news releases. She'll be making $72,000 a year. She is a friend of Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner.

What, no starving journalist is getting that gig? Where's Big Bill when you need him?

As for Keith perhaps wiring this deal for Aimee, you mean he can do that without the approval of Susana life coach Jay McCleskey? Bully for you, Keith.

A READER WRITES

About our Friday blog when we commented that jobs in the state are filled by undocumented immigrants because New Mexicans don't want to them:

Joe, we keep on hearing this same old excuse for protecting undocumented workers. New Mexicans would seek those jobs if they paid a 'living in America' wage. Look at it the other way around-- "Jobs many New Mexican employers don't want to pay a fair wage for." Sure, IF the employer paid a fair wage, the goods would be priced higher. That's the real sticking point. We want to have our cake and eat it too.

Now a counterpoint to reader Javier Martinez from reader Steve Preteska. On Friday Javier took on the Martinez administration's decision to check at random the residency of 10,000 undocumented immigrants who have state driver's licenses. Steve says:

Martinez astutely highlights that we are a very mobile society. However, retention of the driving privilege in NM includes advising the MVD of a change of address within a ten day period following the move. This requirement is not an invention of Governor Martinez's administration, but reader Martinez seems to find that enforcement of current law is heavy-handed and should be ignored, especially by those who he freely admits truly have something to hide.


There are many reasons a driver's license needs to display accurate, current information. As a NM law enforcement officer, I can attest that it is very much in the best interests of New Mexican citizens for this to be so. Governor Martinez should be lauded for her commitment to insist that all driver's--citizens and non-citizens alike--comply with New Mexico law.


MY BOTTOM LINES

Popular politico Donnie Leonard is battling serious health problems. The Sandoval County Commissioner, a Democrat serving his third term from Rio Rancho and owner of Leonard Tire, is in need of a new liver:

Leonard has been in an Arizona hospital awaiting a liver transplant....Leonard, who is in his mid-60s, has been in and out the hospital for several weeks, missing the last county commission meeting, because of the ongoing problems...Doctors had been struggling to determine the exact nature of the problem. He first went into the hospital earlier this month when his skin turned a jaundiced shade of yellow, she said. A liver is available, but he recently contracted pneumonia and surgeons are waiting until it passes before performing the transplant surgery....

A reader came with a well-known saying about New Mexico politics Friday, but didn't quite have it right. Gerges Scott has the exact quote:

"If you want a masters go to Massachusetts, you want a PhD go to New Mexico."

The quote is from the beginning of a book by Chris Matthews, a former top congressional aide and host of the MSNBC program "Hardball."

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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