Tuesday, November 10, 2009

White Vs. Wiener: A Bizarre Battle Breaks Out; More Republican Fratricide, Plus: Di And the Journal, Also: The New Mayor Watch 

Around noon Tuesday, Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener and Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White made their peace. The Nov. 30 county commission meeting to name White's replacment will now be held at 5 p.m, not 2 pm

Wiener said: "I apologize for leaving a heated message on your voicemail and for sending a letter to a blogger before giving you the opportunity to address my concerns about the timing of your resignation. I was unaware that you agreed to change the time prior to me leaving the message.

This report was written prior to those developments.

White & Wiener
All hell broke loose Monday night between Republican Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and Republican Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener. The battle lines were drawn when White refused to change the hour of his November 30 resignation so Wiener, who will be traveling that day, could take part in the county commission meeting that will be called at the hour of the sheriff's resignation. The scrap has White consulting his private attorney over a phone message Wiener left him and Wiener unloading both barrels on White. It's all a reminder to Mayor-elect Berry that White, who will become the new public safety director December 1, is a media lightning rod that can strike at anytime. Let's start it off with Darren's email to Wiener that was released by the commissioner:

Commissioner Wiener: I received your phone message on Friday night where you threaten that if I do not change the time of my resignation from 2PM to 5PM (on November 30th), that the “consequences are not going to be good.” I have shared your phone message with my private attorney. Despite your demand that I “change the hour or my resignation” by today’s date in order to ensure that “everything goes away,” my attorney has advised me not to respond with an answer to your e-mail dated November 5th, pending a further review of the content of your phone message.

You think that's over the top? Let's take it over to Wiener who takes it doubly over the top in his email response to White:

Dear Sheriff White,

Not only did I not threaten you in anyway, but I offered you a face-saving way to get out of this hole you have dug...Unfortunately, you have chosen to keep digging! You are the one who bullied and threatened me...when YOU told me..."You don't want to pick a fight with me Michael!"

I was willing to "move on" with this once you realized that the 2 pm time you had chosen to vacate your office was preventing the residents of District 4
from having a voice in the selection of the next Sheriff. I thought you would be reasonable..Either 4:30 or 5:00 pm--the time we ALWAYS have our meetings--would be perfectly acceptable.

As you now know, I will be on a flight at 2 pm Nov 30th and unable to vote by telephone until I reach my hotel in Manila at 5pm (Mountain time). I scheduled this trip on May 14th to visit my daughter on her 10th birthday. Changing my flight would cost me over $1,000; changing your letter of resignation cost you nothing ...and is the right thing to do. I had hoped we could get past this matter as it can only serve to diminish your legacy and possibly "hurt" the incoming Mayor's administration as his selection of you to oversee the Public Safety of Albuquerque may be called into question once all these facts are made known.

There has been previous bad blood between White and Wiener over sheriff's department policy. This latest episode doesn't seem to make either look good. However, it would seem Darren (and Berry) have much more to lose by playing at this level.

It's more Republican fratricide and comes on the heels of three Republican ABQ city councilors saying they will defy Berry and vote against his choice as chief administrative officer.

Alligators and insiders immediately commented on White's high-octane personality when Berry selected him for the top city job. But we've already passed high-octane and are at the Molotov Cocktail stage. What's next?


Meanwhile, the five member county commission will form a committee to comb over the several dozen resumes submitted for the sheriff's job and narrow the list down to a handful. They didn't say how many.

The meeting to pick the new sheriff is slated for 2 pm November 30th, unless Sheriff White has a change of heart. Commissioners do not want to leave the office vacant for any period of time, which is why they are scheduling the meeting to replace White at the moment he resigns.

Mayor-elect Berry
You can read about the appearance of Mayor-elect Berry and new city councilors Lewis and Cook before the ABQ Press Women here and here, and you can read the take of a Senior Alligator who was there:

Berry is very smooth. Lewis is pretty smooth, and Cook is rough. Lewis said he supports a West Side school district. No one asked about the chief administrative officer. (The ABQ Journal's) Dan Mayfield asked about (incoming public safety director) Darren White and immigration. RJ was able to defer responding until his transition team reports are turned in.

The questions from the audience, in this order: arts, tourism, meeting with the legislature, police dept, balloon park, climate action task force, TIDDs, downtown arena, Darren White and immigration, education, water & growth.

There is cautious good news on the city budget. We have a $12 million projected shortfall for the rest of this budget year, but a top city finance official is saying layoffs or furloughs can be avoided. That prediction is based on tax collections not getting worse.


It was a mild rebuke, but a rebuke nonetheless to Light Guv Diane Denish from the editorial pages of the ABQ Journal, and it may signal the tone of the coverage going forward in the 2010 Guv battle. The Journal scored Denish for how she used federal stimulus money in 2004 given her by Governor Big Bill some six years ago. The amount of money involved was relatively small--less than $250,000--but she did use a contractor for several hours to design a Christmas card--a fact the R's have relished pointing out.

The editorial did not single Denish out for cronyism or corruption, as her R foes are trying to imply, but said the stimulus money she was handed was to be used for job creation, not the PR and other purposes she used it for.

The newspaper has of late had a bitter relationship with Big Bill, after years of mutually satisfying back scratching. It was the various pay to play scandals that seemed to move the paper away from their previous support.

More often than not, the paper endorses the GOP candidate for Governor, but they did endorse Bill four years ago. The landscape, riddled as it is with corruption cases, has changed since then. We anticipate a continued cool and skeptical reception--if not overly critical--to Denish's Guv candidacy from the state's largest newspaper.


We failed Policy Wonk 101 Monday when we blogged Monday that federal subsidies for low income New Mexicans to buy health insurance would be tied to the controversial public option provision in the proposed health care reform bill. They are not. NM Senator Jeff Bingaman's office clarifies:

Subsidies are not tied to the public option. In fact, regardless of what becomes of the public option, we expect that the vast majority of New Mexicans who currently don’t have health care insurance will benefit from subsidies...Keep in mind we won’t be able to describe the precise impact of reform until the proposals are finalized over the next month or so; and, even then, the exact degree to which our state takes advantage of reform is somewhat uncertain and will be dependent on many factors that are extrinsic to the bill.

Bingaman is long gone from the 101 level on health care and is now in advanced studies He may be there a while. It remains uncertain if a final Senate vote on a reform bill will take place this year.

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