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Friday, May 01, 2015

Keller Opens Fire On City's Former Top Cop And In The Process Puts A Dent In The Guv's Machine 

Tim Keller
It may have looked like shooting fish in a barrel when State Auditor Tim Keller called out APD Chief Ray Schultz for possible criminal violations when he "greased" a contract for Taser Inc. to supply lapel cameras for the city's cops. The evidence in the 12 page audit is that overwhelming and obvious, just as it was when much of it first came to light in a report last year by KRQE-TV. But back then no one wanted to even look at the barrel, despite the strong stench surrounding it. Now that's changed and with it a possibly pivotal change to the landscape of state politics.

At a 35 minute news conference (video here) to unveil the audit, Keller tossed a potato hotter than a jalapeno directly onto the lap of Attorney General Hector Balderas. Keller said the city's former top cop is himself a criminal, in violation of a number of city and state laws. In other words, it's a case that cries out for prosecution. (Keller also sent the report to Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg but because of the APD bribery investigation of her there seems little chance of her taking on the case).

Only minutes after Keller stepped away from the podium the guessing game over Balderas was underway in earnest. Keller had just become the first major state political player to take on the Governor's political machine--responsible for electing Mayor Berry as well as Susana Martinez. The spell of intimidation cast by the machine's operatives was broken by a politically ambitious 37 year old with looks the cameras have a weakness for and who sports the kind of laid back personality that through the decades has proven a magnet for New Mexico voters.

So it's pretty straight forward for Balderas, who, like Keller, doesn't keep it a secret that the Governor's office would look pretty spiffy with a redecorating job overseen by his spouse. He now turns his guns blazing on Schultz and company, too. Right? Well, perhaps.

The Alligators and analysts point out that the Taser audit was begun over a year ago when Hector was state auditor but he left it to Keller to make it the headline maker that it is today. And then there was that unexpected question to Keller at the news conference pointing out that Luis Robles, the attorney for Ray Schultz, is of the same law firm as lawyer, former NM Dem Party Chairman and Balderas BFF Brian Colon. (Robles reacts to Keller's charges here.) The questioner wondered if that had entered Keller's mind when he referred the audit to the AG. Keller looked appropriately baffled but anyone with a political heart knew that his skipped a beat when that one dropped.

Dropping the other shoe is the issue for Hector. If he doesn't play street tough with Schultz his street cred among Dems could take a dive. More to the point, analyst (and now Democrat) Greg Payne, opined:

Hector can't afford to look like (former Attorney General) Gary King who was milquetoast when it came to corruption cases and earned a reputation as a do-nothing AG. This is the first of what could be a number of tests tossed Hector's way by Keller.

As for Keller staying close to the path carved by the Guv's machine, Payne said time will tell but this first outing packed plenty of punch.

It sure seems that way when you listen to how Gov. Martinez reacted. She seemed more concerned about Keller's investigation than the former police chief of the state's largest city being accused of  rigging a $2 million contract:

I was a prosecutor for 25 years. You can allege a whole lot of things, it all depends on what you can prove and making allegations doesn't get you all the way to proving something beyond a reasonable doubt. I have no comment on what he is alleging; I want to see what the end result ends up being.

Okay, Guv we'll get back to you on that, but be careful how much your operatives start beating up on Keller. He just might decide that it's time to revisit that state audit of the controverisal racino lease for the Downs at ABQ. And while that may be a humorous take, what's not funny for The Fourth and Fifth Floors is that they now know there is someone out there who appears more than willing--at least for now--to stand up to her and maybe more.

KLEIN'S CORNER

Ray Schultz
Retired APD Seargent Dan Klein has been monitoring the APD crisis for years. He comes with thoughts on the Taser audit:

Does this mean a special grand jury to investigate corruption at APD? Keller said that ultimately the person at the top is responsible. Hello? Richard Berry, he's talking about you. Everyone knows you don’t like the “blame game” (New Yorker interview). Now it looks like Keller is blaming you,

Keller also said it was very concerning that the Taser cameras are complained about by many officers for not performing well. Taser, your response please, or once this gets out your sales will drop.

Keller says that there was no proof other cameras were even tested before Taser was awarded the sole-source contract. When asked about APD Lt. Roseman's (now a Deputy Chief) testimony in front of a city council committee that other cameras were tested, Keller again says no evidence of any other cameras tested. Is Keller alleging that Roseman purposely misled the council so Taser could get the contract?

Keller says “from the top down (of APD and City Hall) they were being fast and loose with "procurements and ethics” Will Berry finally show leadership and place any command staff officer and civilian manager on admin leave pending the NM AG investigation? That could be almost all of the APD command staff and legal counsel. But this is the change that Pete Dinelli promised if he was elected mayor, remember him?

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