Thursday, March 31, 2016

Another Massive APD Lawsuit Settlement Moves The Outrage Meter, Plus: BernCo's Francophile Flirtation Backfires As Budget Implodes 

Berry and Eden
ABQ Chief of Police Gordon Eden cried at the news conference Wednesday announcing that the city will pay an astounding $6.5 million to APD officer Jacob Grant and cover the officer's medical expenses for the rest of his life. But it is ABQ taxpayers who have reason to cry and  to revolt against the monumental incompetence that led to this humongous settlement.

One media report (KOAT-TV) now puts the cost of settlements involving APD shootings and wrongful death settlements since 2010 at $40 million, a stunning amount that does not include the $4.5 million we are paying for a Federal Monitor forced on the mismanaged APD by the US Justice Department. That takes us to nearly $45 million. (Grant is 38. How much is his lifetime of medical costs going to be?).

Where in the name of Jehovah are the fiscal conservatives of the Republican Party to question this? Sucking up to City Hall for contracts for rapid bus lanes to nowhere and building a building for Innovate ABQ that is actually a glorified college dorm? The stench of hypocrisy would make a skunk spray welcome.

It is not that the amount of money being paid to the permanently disabled Officer Grant is outrageous, it is the conduct and culture of APD that led to him being shot multiple times by a superior officer during a minor drug bust that is outrageous. It is APD's continued stonewalling of federally ordered reforms that is outrageous. It is the neglect of a fearful and cowed ABQ city council that is outrageous. It is the agenda-driven journalism of the ABQ Journal that continues to protect this administration instead of doing its job and calling out Mayor Berry for running APD like a personal paramilitary force, answerable to no one. That is outrageous.

As former Mayor Jim Baca put it in reacting to the Grant settlement:

Do the math. A sixty dollar drug buy cost the taxpayers of Albuquerque how much? Millions? Many millions? Because of sheer incompetence in dealing with problem staff? And Chief Eden still has his job along with high ranking city administration officials. And the Mayor is invisible.


Mark Shepherd
No one gets fired in this mayoral administration--no matter how egregious the action. Here's retired APD Sergeant Dan Klein, a frequent critic of the department, with yet another example. Writing for the ABQ Free Press, he says:

What was City of Albuquerque Security Division Manager Mark Shepherd doing to his female employees that cost Albuquerque taxpayers $185,000? He was accused of sexually harassing a female subordinate. He made sexual comments about her clothing, kissed her against her will, told her his desk looked like a penis, and, while on city time, drove her to his home, making her fear that he was taking her there in an attempt to have sex. The city settled in February for $185,000. Shepherd retained his job—not even a suspension or demotion! Instead, Berry’s administration recommended that Shepherd, a three-decade city employee and a retired cop, receive “sensitivity training.” Ridiculous!

The city admits more women were harassed by Shepherd. Women's groups should be marching on City Hall. Everyone—parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters—should be outraged that Berry’s administration allowed this sexual harassment to occur without holding Shepherd accountable. Next time it could be your sister, daughter, friend, mother, who is harassed. There should not be a next time. Call Berry (768-3000) and your city councilors (768-3100) and demand that the penis shaped desk, and the manager sitting at it, be removed. Our city is better than this. Demand it!

And then there is the repeated abuses of the federal NCIC database by APD. (You know what we're talking about, right Shep?). A cop has an axe to grind with someone? Just access the database illegally to see what dirt can be dug up about them. Get fired for it? Not in this administration. We're overworking the word outrageous, but it surely fits.

And to think Mayor Berry styles himself a future New Mexico Governor. His track record makes Gov. Martinez look like Wonder Woman.


Art de la Cruz
Maybe it's the annoying spring winds, but there is more to vent about this Thursday. Like the ridiculous optics of outgoing Bernalillo County Commissioner Art de la Cruz taking a $20,000 taxpayer financed junket to France amid commission talks of raising gross receipts and/or property taxes to make up a projected $19 million budget hole.

Like the city of Santa Fe--facing its own $15 million budget hole--Bernalillo County has been acting like it's 1999. But the party is over--long over. Both government entities padded their payrolls as everyone looked the other way as a robust economy covered their wayward ways. But now the long stagnation is getting longer and the only way to keep the party going is by having the taxpayers shoulder the bill.

In a clever move, Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales and the city council diverted proceeds of a previously approved gross receipts tax into the general fund. That will go a long way toward filling the budget gap and avoiding a tax increase but tough questions about personnel levels still loom.

To save money Bernalillo County needs to pursue consolidation of services with the city of ABQ. It needs to implement a hiring freeze and have top administrators take a pay cut. They can also take excess funds being collected from the mental health tax (around $8 million) and use it to fill the budget hole.

Taxpayers mired in a no-growth economy don't need ever higher property taxes to finance a government too large for a no-growth economy. And they don't need to pay more in the regressive gross receipts tax which is also a detriment to business development. Let's get real, Commissioners. Or let's all go to France. It's your call.

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