Last Update: Saturday, July 30, 2016
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New Mexico's first totally online community newspaper.
Established in 2007.




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Thursday, July 28, 2016

$50 BILLION (yes, with a B)

Sandoval County creates fund
for future economic development


Companies now have 50 billion reasons to do business in Sandoval County. They're called dollar bills.

The county commission that once set a record by issuing an $8 billion industrial revenue bond for Intel, then doubled down with a $16 billion IRB four years later, has now voted to create a $50 billion fund to entice new businesses to the area and encourage those that already exist to expand.


Thursday, July 28, 2016


Donisthorpe funeral draws big crowd


Anybody who can get Congressman Steve Pearce and State Sen. John Sapien to come to their funeral must have led amazing life.

Such was the case for Bruce Donisthorpe, known primarily as a Republican activist but a man who obviously had friends and influence on both sides of the political aisle.

Donisthorpe, 56, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack. 

It was only fitting that his services were conducted at the Legacy Church east campus in Albuquerque, because it is quite a legacy he created. His funeral service was part a testimonial to his re-dedication to religion later in life and part a late afternoon at the Improv, with speakers mixing in good humor with political banter.

Having known Bruce for more than 30 years, he would have loved it.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pay hike clears council,
but issue isn't done yet

New charter review group
put in place to study issue


The thorny issue of raising the salaries of elected officials isn’t quite done yet.

Even though the Governing Body approved a second reading of an ordinance on the matter Wednesday night as expected, it appears voters will have one more crack at the issue in the next city election in 2018.

Voters defeated a proposed charter amendment to raise the pay of the mayor, city councilors and municipal judge on March 1. That left the dirty work up to the Governing Body, who gave their final approval – for now.

The vote was 4-2, with councilor Dawnn Robinson repeating her “no” vote of July 13. Mayor Gregg Hull, forced to vote with the absence of District 6 councilor David Bency, also voted against the measure as Bency did at the last meeting.

But the council also unanimously approved the formation of a new charter review committee with the specific task of addressing this one issue.

Under the resolution, introduced by District 1 councilor Jim Owen, the newest charter review committee must make its recommendation by Oct. 31 and the Governing Body has 30 days to concur or send it back to the committee for more review. Either way, the new charter committee expires March 31, 2017, almost a year before the 2018 municipal election.

If tradition holds and the city conducts its municipal election on the first Tuesday in March as it has done in the past, the election would be March 6, 2018. The Governing Body will approve election sites and dates in late 2017.

Given the so-called “weak mayor” form of government that has always existed in Rio Rancho – with a “strong” city manager/administrator in charge of day-to-day operations -- just what to pay elected officials has been the subjection of controversy since the day the city was created. There are legendary stories of how a group of councilors wanted to duck the controversy years ago took turns skipping meetings so no could be taken.

The job of mayor was defined as a part-time position in the charter until the voters changed it to full-time in 2012. Just what “full-time” actually means has never been clearly defined by the voters, council or any charter review committee. Voters did place a restriction on the mayor having outside employment unless he or she has council approval, but no pay raise has come with these changes in working conditions.

An additional problem is the city appeared to be in violation of the state constitution by granting automatic three percent rises to councilors and the mayor every year. The 12 percent total cumulative increase over a four-year term doesn’t mean much in actual dollars because the base number is low to start with, but it is the appearance of an automatic raise and perceived arrogance by some that the Governing Body is going to do what it wants no matter what the voters say that have fanned the flames of the issue this time.

Because the mayor is in a large sense the face of the city, people are less likely to separate the position from the individual. That means Gregg Hull has gotten a lot of heat from the public, especially after the March 1 vote.

Hull was put on the spot by under a charter amendment passed in March that gives the mayor the duty of voting in place of an absent councilor.

In an exclusive lengthy interview with after Wednesday’s meeting, Hull said he considered recusing himself from the vote even though he will not benefit from the pay increases outlined in the ordinance unless he wins reelection in 2018. Neither will any sitting councilor or the municipal judge, who receive small increases in the ordinance.

While he supports what he calls “correcting a problem,” Hull said he was “uncomfortable” in voting on raise.

Please click here to see the rest of this story under the heading COUNCIL.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Donisthorpe dies of
apparent heart attack
Corrales resident was GOP pollster,operative


Bruce Donisthorpe, a highly respected pollster and Republican operative who lived in Corrales, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack.

Donisthorpe was the owner and CEO of  BWD Global, a company that specialized in communications, public relations, government relations, polling, public policy and social media for more  than 15 years. He founded the company in January 2001, according to his Linked-In page.

In addition to his own business, he also worked as the senior vice president for public and government relations for Manzano Strategies LLC for six years from 2007 to 2013.

He also served as legislative director for former Congressman Joe Skeen from 1989-2001 and was the communications director for former Garrey Carruthers for a year. He served at various times as a Congressional staffer or a lobbyist.

Donisthorpe, 56, was an active member in the Kiwanis Club of Corrales, having served vice-president, and was a member of the board of advisors for the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque at the time of his death. He was active in the organization for more than 14 years.

A past president of the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, he served that organization in a volunteer capacity for more than nine years. He was also active in different Toastmaster clubs in Albuquerque.

Reaction to Donisthorpe’s death was wide-spread.

"We are deeply saddened to learn of Bruce's passing," said Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Debbie Maestas. "He has worked extensively with RPNM, as well as several candidates statewide, for many years, and he and his valuable insight on the political environment in New Mexico will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones in this difficult time."

Charlie Christmann, chairman of the Sandoval County Republican Party, said, “The sudden passing of Bruce Donisthorpe leaves a hole in the heart of the New Mexico Republican Party. Respected by both sides of the aisle, Bruce’s knowledge and insight helped shape this state’s political landscape. 

"We will all miss his good heart and positive attitude. Our condolences go out to his family and wide circle of friends. Rest in peace, Bruce.”

State Sen. Craig Brandt met Donisthorpe about six years ago while working as an analyst in the Legislature. 

“He was just a great guy who had a great political mind,” Brandt said. “I was just an analyst and he spent hours talking to me about political campaigns and how things worked.

“But more than anything he was a nice guy. He will be missed.”

An associate of Donisthorpe’s said funeral arrangements are pending and are being handled by Daniels Family Funeral Services of Rio Rancho. Services are set at the east campus of Legac Church, 4701 Wyoming N.E. in Albuquerque, at 3 p.m. Thursday

Satirdy, July 25, 1016

City and county discuss refuse issues


The governing bodies of both Sandoval County and the city of Rio Rancho spent time last week trash talking. More accurately, they were talking trash.

This is not to say they were demeaning to each other or anybody else, for that matter. This wasn’t Michael Jordan trying to get in an opponent’s head kind of trash talk that is popular in sports culture today.

Purely by coincidence, both groups had preliminary discussions about the process of garbage collection from its residents.

The county discussion came in the form of a presentation from Public Works director Tommy Mora. His plan calls for mandatory trash collection outside in the outlying areas beyond the populous areas of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Corrales and Placitas.

Rio Rancho’s discussion was must simpler. Its contract with Waste Management Inc. expires Dec. 31, 2017, and the city is trying to get ready for negotiations of a new agreement, most likely 10-year deal like what is in place currently.

The county and the city both face the same big obstacle: Collecting money from residents who can’t or won’t pay, or move before an account is declared to be officially late or in arrears. In the county’s case, it’s a matter of finding a company willing to bring trash to the county landfill, which could be expanded within a few years once some licensing and regulatory issues with the state are concluded. 

With that comes the key question: Who would be responsible for collecting from customers, the county or the contractor? Would the county have to add staff in accounting, finance, the treasurer’s office, code enforcement and other areas if it took on the job?

To give you an idea just how much of a problem the county could face, all you have to do is take a look at Rio Rancho. The city does have mandatory trash pick-up, Waste Management does the billing and takes what it collects to its own landfill. But last year alone about one in six city customers did not pay their bill, leaving Waste Management short about $784,000 in projected revenue, some of which the city would get back in the form of a franchise fee.

Waste Management generally rated higher in self-generated and city surveys taken of the public recently. With its corporate headquarters inside the Rio Rancho city limits, it also pays gross receipts taxes on business it does outside the city to the tune of nearly $1 million last year.

By contrast, the county would have to contract with an outside company and likely lose out on that GRT. 

With the rest of the county being largely rural and having no tradition of scheduled mandatory trash pickup, the buy-in from customers is uncertain. Many just burn their trash or, even worse, dump it illegally, leaving the county to clean up the mess anyway.

Illegal dumping, especially west of the city, is a problem for Rio Rancho too. Councilor David Bency has proposed using drones to help the understaffed police department monitor more areas, both for crime prevention and detection of activities such as illegal dumping.

As with most things surrounding Rio Rancho or Sandoval County governance, the big question is always money. How much would a drone program cost, and where do you find the start-up money to pay for it? Once it is in place, how much will it cost to staff and maintain? Would long-term savings of illegal dump cleanup costs, plus the positive impact on the environment, make it worthwhile?

Take the last paragraph, change the words “drone program” to “mandatory trash pickup,” and you can ask the exact same questions of the county proposal.

One more thing: At some point those citizens who do pay that trash bill are, in essence, subsidizing those who don’t. City officials are working with Waste Management on ideas to increase the collection rate, but the bottom line is that garbage will be picked up because it is a public health hazard. The county, obviously, would face the same dilemma if it went to a mandatory collection program.

As the old saying goes, in this case figuring out solutions to this issues is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Tuesday’s city council work session also had two other agenda items. The city is considering its next steps on impact fee credits, and the process starts tonight with at a meeting with the Capital Improvement Committee Citizens Advisory Council (CIPCAC), which will take up the matter at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall. It will also likely have a special meeting next month.

City manager Keith Riesberg also reviewed the five-hour work session the Governing Body had in June by offering a list of topics that came up and offering a brief status report and/or acknowledgement that the city had indeed captured the councilor’s suggestions and ideas. A draft of notes taken by the meeting facilitator is under review.

The county also had other business to conduct. Manager Phil Rios earned kudos for reading into the record a consent agenda of almost two pages, so long because many programs were being renewed with the start of a new fiscal year. One item that did stand out in the 19-item list was the appointment of former city councilor Lonnie Clayton to the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Board. He replaces Wes Basset, who died earlier this month, as the District 4 representative.

A move by commissioner Nora Scherzinger to go on the record with the county’s support for the Federal Endangered Species Act died for the lack of a second from another commissioner.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Movie reviews added to

Editor’s Note: In a continuing effort to expand into a full service online community newspaper, today we introduce a new feature. We are thrilled to add Eric Lucero’s movie reviews to our site.

Lucero is a long-time Albuquerque resident, movie fan and retired U.S. Army veteran. He has self-published via his own email list and as a guest reviewer for NM Politics with Joe Monahan since 2013. Contact Lucero at

Special to

Here's a look at four movies now playing in the area:

The Infiltrator (R)
Rating: **1/2 on a five-star scale  

The Infiltrator
is a historic-crime biopic that seems to be out of place with its summer release.

Brave is the studio that tries to buck the dictum that summer belongs to light comic fare. Films with shades of post-domestic and foreign terror themes (Jason Bourne 2016) need not apply. 

The Infiltrator is not immune from this trend. It should have been presented later in the year where more serious films used to reign.

That said, The Infiltrator is still worth a peek, if for no other reason than to see actor, Bryan Cranston, aka Walter White of Breaking Bad fame, playing real life good guy, deep undercover U.S. customs agent Robert Mazur. 

In 1986 Mazur helped bust Colombian dope fiend Pablo Escobar’s money-laundering Medellin cartel and take down of Bank of Credit and Commerce International, or BCCI.

Director Brad Furman has done better (The Lincoln Lawyer, 2011, for instance), and the screenplay by his mother, Ellen Brown Furman (a lawyer turned writer) should have been better structured. After all, she did have plenty of factual material available from Mazur’s memoir.

Neither Furman was able to provide a flowing juxtaposition between Cranston/Mazur’s normal family life and his maniac alter-ego as the flamboyant Bob Musella.

Cranston is a little too old for this role. He got me in the door, but the story didn’t quite hook me.  

This film is now showing at Premiere Cinema 14, 1000 Premier Parkway S.E., Rio Rancho. It is also showing at three locations in Albuquerque: Cinemark 14 Downtown, Regal Winrock Stadium 16 IMAX & RPX and the Century 24 Rio.


Our Kind of Traitor (R)
Rating: ***1/

Our Kind Of Traitor is a breezy globe-trotting espionage thriller brought competently to the screen by British director Susanna White (Parade’s End, 2012) and is faithfully adapted from John le Carre’s taunt novel of the same name. The author is credited as an executive producer as well. 

His previous novel, A Most Wanted Man (2015) made a better film. But lead Brit Ewan McGregor’s performance as the innocent, naïve and marital-troubled husband Makepeace can’t quite compete with Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard’s (from the Thor and Avengers’ series) Russian money launderer Dima, or British actor Damian Lewis’ (Homeland) role as the MI6 Agent Meredith. 

Le Carre is an acquired taste. The directors, White and Hossein Amni, attempt to channel le Carre and manage to come close here, but his plodding plotted stories may be too complex for today’s audiences.

Movie story telling has become too simplistic and is driven by special effects. Even so, Traitor is a worthwhile island for genre fans amid a sea of formulated summer popcorn fare. 

This film is now showing at the Albuquerque UA High Ridge Theater, 12921 Indian School Rd. N.E., Albuquerque, (844) 462-7342.


The Legend of Tarzan (PG-13)
Rating: ***

The Legend of Tarzan is possibly this summer’s biggest domestic flop. Yet it is also by far the best cinematic portrayal of the jungle hero.

Why a flop? Because too many big budget pictures are chasing shrinking audience dollars amid changing tastes. Also, this year’s domestic and foreign unrest has weary audiences seeking politically correct passive digital animated fare, which Legend is not.  

Director David Yates (the final four Harry Potter films from 2007-11) and his script writers were obviously inspired by Polish-British author Joseph Conrad’s monumental Heart of Darkness (1899) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s searing pamphlet The Curse of the Congo (1909). Both works assisted Yates et al in picking a time and place for this Tarzan romantic adventure reboot.  

The film’s story line is quite plausible and given today’s popularity of alternative history offers audiences something different to ponder. This Tarzan story offers a “what if” scenario which when blended with actual people and events add up to an entertaining story. Just think of The Jungle Book **** (2016, Disney), with Kipling’s boy cub Mowgli having grown up and turning into Tarzan.

As for Legend’s stars, Swede Skargard looks and acts the part (even without the loin cloth), just as his creator Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan of the Apes, 1912) envisioned. German actor Christopher Waltz plays a composite corrupt Belgian captain named Leon Rom with aplomb. Rom’s villainous persona is right out of Waltz’s suave sociopathic rendering of a Nazi via Inglorious Bastards (2009).  

Rounding up the notable cast, acters Samuel L. Jackson
carries the honor of portraying the historic American Civil War soldier, ordained minister, lawyer and noted historian
George Washington Williams (1849-1891) who assists Tarzan in his battles with Captain Rom et al.  

In spite of its bloated expense, back loaded action, rookie production mistakes, etc., Legend commands your attention. But I recommend you see it in 2D.

This film is now showing at Premiere Cinema 14 Rio Rancho, 1000 Premier Parkway S.E., Rio Rancho, (505) 994-3300. It is also showing at the Albuquerque UA High Ridge Theater, 12921 Indian School Rd. N.E., Albuquerque, (844) 462-7342.


Dark Horse (PG)
Rating: ***1/

Dark Horse is an historic docudrama that is a memorably stirring and sentimental tale portraying the trials and tribulations of a humble race horse named Dream Alliance and his unlikely British working class owners. Dark Horse is wholly entertaining and gives National Velvet (1944) a serious run. 

Director/writer Louise Osmond (Deep Water, 2006) weaves a breezy and compiling true story of a struggling Welsh barmaid who cajoles some local patrons to invest their meager earnings in a creative racing syndicate and compete in the Sport of Kings. Against all odds they breed and raise a champion racehorse. 

The core of Dark Horse is Dream Alliance’s inexplicable journey to greatness and his owners’ eventual class warfare triumph. This movie is beautifully fused together with the ample cinematography of Benjamin Kracum (Hyena, 2014) and stirring music by Anne Nikitin (The Imposter, 2012). 

A convincing ensemble cast made this low budget gem the winner of “Best British Documentary o 2015. Dark Horse is a real treat.

Now showing at the Albuquerque UA High Ridge Theater, 12921 Indian School Rd. N.E., Albuquerque,  (844) 462-7342.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Political hot potato

Council votes 4-2 to raise mayor's salary


Ignoring the results of the March election, the Rio Rancho City Council voted Wednesday night to give the mayor a significant pay raise and minor increases to counselors and the municipal judge.

Counselor Jim Owen, himself a former mayor, joined three sponsors with affirmative votes. Counselors David Bency and Dawnn Robinson voted against the measure.

Mayor Gregg Hull took the unprecedented step of challenging a member of the public who spoke against the ordinance. Protocol is that public speakers, except for things like an applicant in a zoning case, are given three minutes to speak and are not interrupted, questioned or addressed by members of the Governing Body, even though sometimes they want feedback. 

Members of the Governing Body have two chances to respond that are on the agenda: immediately after public comment at the beginning of the meeting and as the last item of the meeting where they can cover other things that might come up.

According to the Governing Body’s own Rules of Procedure, revised July 9, 2014, one of the duties of the presiding officer is to “preserve order and decorum.” Under Section3.3 Decorum, item B states, “Members of the Governing Body shall confine their remarks to the question under discussion or debate, avoiding personal references or attacks on fellow members, staff members or members of the public.”

This long-time political hot potato brought came to a head after voters turned down a proposed City Charter amendment on March 1. A summary on the city web site published before the election described it this way: “If approved, beginning in 2018, the salaries for the Governing Body would be tied to the City’s mean household income as reported by the United States Census Bureau. The current annual salary for the Mayor is $30,402. The current annual salary for City Councilors is as follows: District 1, 4, 6: $14,328 / District 2, 3, 5: $15,201. The 2013 estimate of mean household income for Rio Rancho reported by the United States Census Bureau was $73,998. Thirty-five (35) percent of this amount is $25,899.30.”

The proposal before the council sets salaries on the median income of residents, not the mean. 

The mean, sometimes called the arithmetic mean, is the sum of all the numbers in a set divided by the amount of numbers in the set. The average of a set of numbers is the same as its mean; they're synonyms.

The median is something completely different. It is the middle point of a number set, in which half the numbers are above the median and half are below.

The difference? In the case of the mayoral salary, the Rio Rancho mean/average salary is $73,998; the median salary in the proposed ordinance is $59,243, or $14,755 less than the ballot proposal.

That’s still a 94.9 percent increase over the current salary of $30,402. Proponents of the increase, including Hull, say voters have placed additional restrictions on the mayor’s salary over the years, attempting to define a “full-time mayor” and requiring a mayor to receive City Council approval if he or she wants an outside job, but have not raised the pay despite additional job requirements and limits.

In fact, that was the point Hull was trying to make when he confronted the speaker – duties have been increased, but pay hasn’t. But the issue among public speakers both at the time of the ordinance debate and in public comment was that voters denied a raise at the ballot box and that is unfair for public officials to raise the salary for their position -- even though they won’t benefit in their current terms – while many residents on fixed incomes are struggling to get by.

Hull and sitting counselors will not benefit from a pay increase unless they are reelected. The mayor and increase will happen after the 2018 election; council pay raises will go into effect depending on what year they are up for election. Districts two, three, and five are up for election in 2018; district one, four and six in 2020.

There were 14 charter amendments on the ballot; Proposition 38 was the only one that failed. The margin was 53 percent to 47 percent; in raw numbers the total was 2954-2615, a difference of 339 votes.

Bency and Robinson expressed concern that voters turned down a proposed pay raise less than five months ago. 

Former city councilor and local businessman Mark Scott has been vocal it his opposition to the raises.

Speaking exclusively to the score got info, Scott said "anybody sitting in office who votes for a pay raise after the voters said no should have recuse themselves or pledged not to run for reelection. The incumbent obviously has an advantage and seeking reelection, so in essence they have a chance to get a pay raise that they voted on anyway, just not immediately."

The proposal still has a second reading and vote at the next Governing Body meeting on July 27. If it does pass (and become law 10 days later), the ordinance: 

*Establishes the mayor's annual salary as Rio Rancho's median household income, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, starting in 2018.

*Establishes a city council member's annual salary as 28 percent of Rio Rancho's median household income, starting in 2018.

*Establishes the municipal judge annual salary at $70,000 starting in 2018. Prior to the 2022 election of a Municipal Judge, and thereafter, the governing body would be required to review the Judge's annual salary and approve any adjustment at least 11 months prior to Election Day for the judge position. 

The increase is a token raise; under current ordinance (dating back to 1997), the Municipal Judge has reached a current annual salary of $69,347.

Proponents argue the fix is necessary because the current ordinance provides for automatic three percent raises for each councilor and mayor who start a four-year term in violation of the state constitution. Under the current ordinance (dating back to 2004), the mayor's annual salary is already scheduled to increase from $30,402 and is scheduled to $34,217.71 for the individual elected in 2018.  

The increase stems from current ordinance language requiring a mayor starting a new four-year term to receive a salary increase equivalent to four years of three percent salary increases in comparison to their predecessor's salary.

The same formula is in place for the city council. Automatic raises are scheduled for individuals who are elected in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

District one, four and six councilors who were just elected in March now have a salary of $16,127 that is scheduled to go up to $18,151.07 for those elected in 2020. The figures for districts two, three and five who were elected in 2014: $15,201 currently, 
$17,108.86 starting in 2018.

If the ordinance passes, it means Rio Rancho will be paying nearly $210,000 in salary alone. City manager Keith Riesberg was hired in 2013 at a base salary of $150,000 per year; it is not clear if he has received a pay raise since.

Proponents of the ordinance say the mayor position deserves a raise since voters adopted charter amendments in 2012 and 2016 increasing the mayor’s duties and limiting his access to outside work without increasing compensation. Some argue that the relatively low salary, as compared to similar sized cities in the state like Santa Fe and Las Cruces, prevents some interested candidates from seeking the job.

Others say the automatic three percent raises at the start of the next four-year term for mayor and city council violated the state constitution.

Article 4, Section 27 of the New Mexico Constitution, which states that "No law shall be enacted giving any extra compensation to any public officer, servant, agent, or contractor after services are rendered or contract made; nor shall the compensation of any officer be increased or diminished during his term of office."

Opponents argue the automatic raises took politics out of the equation and since the raises came in the next term the current ordinance does not violate the state constitution.

Rio Rancho is the third largest City in the state by population (94,171) according to the most current U.S. Census Bureau information. According to 2015 Charter Review Committee research, Las Cruces, the second largest City by population (101,643), has an annual Mayor salary of $73,892. Santa Fe, the fourth largest City by population (84,099), has an annual mayoral salary of $29,452 that will increase to $74,000 in 2018).

Research from the same Charter Review Committee has the annual salary of a Las Cruces city councilor at $29,556; in Santa Fe the figure is $29,452.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hello, Aloha!
RV outlet opens new Bernalillo location

The word “aloha” has lots of different meanings in Hawaiian culture. This weekend in Bernalillo, it means hello and welcome.

Aloha RV, which has operated in Albuquerque for more than 25 years, opened a second location in the Sandoval County seat on May 4. It continues a month-long grand opening celebration that continues to July 23.

Today’s activities include of free food and music from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres is expected to formally greet the new business at noon.

The new facility is located at 350 East Frontage Road, about a half-mile north on the east frontage road, from U.S> 550/N.M. 165.

The outlet has already demonstrated its popularity, already attracting more likes on its Facebook page than the Albuquerque store. It has seven full-time employees: two technicians to do repairs, three salesmen, a parts/service manager and a general manager.

Aloha RV North currently has about 140 trailers, motor homes and fifth wheel trailers on its five-acre lot and hopes to up its inventory to 200 later this year.

For more information, go to the Aloha RV North web site or call (505) 797-8444 and ask press Option 6.

For more photos, click here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Labor hearing date set

Report: Police issues the reason
Riesberg was fired from previous job


A state labor board hearing on a complaint filed by Rio Rancho police officer Justin Garcia has been scheduled for Sept. 20-21.

The New Mexico Coalition of Public Safety Officers has filed a complaint on behalf of Corporal Justin Garcia, the immediate past president of the local union, alleging he was unfairly disciplined by the department for union activities.

State union president Steve Harvey said documents and witness lists, among other items, will be exchanged in advance of the hearing. Harvey, who attended Wednesday’s scheduling conference, said the city was represented by a firm it had subcontracted.

The city attorney position is vacant with the departure of Jennifer Vega-Brown last month.

Meanwhile, the Rio Rancho Tea Party reported on its website last weekend that city manager Keith Riesberg met with all police officers to report of one of two meetings after rumors of a vote of no confidence in Chief Michael Geyer surfaced.

According to the website, “Mayor Gregg Hull asked the RRTP President Steve VanHorn to  ‘correct’ information in a RRTP website article about the City Manager attending a recent meeting of the police union.  The article stated the City Manager attended the meetings to discuss possible repercussions if a vote of no confidence in the police chief occurred.  

‘The Mayor alleged this could not have occurred since City Manager Keith Riesberg was out of town at the time.”

The Tea Party did not publish “the date of the meetings or who called the meetings (and we wonder how the Mayor even knew which meeting(s) we referred to), his comment spurred us to dig deeper.  We submitted an IPRA request for the following information related to the date in question:

*“City Manager’s, Police Chief’s, Deputy Police Chief’s and Mayor’s emails/documents concerning mandatory police meetings or briefings on 4/14/16.

*“Agenda for the police meetings/briefings.

*“Was any overtime paid to attend meetings?

*“Copy of City Manager’s and Mayor’s schedules for 04/10/16 to 04/17/16.”

The Tea Party wrote that “Mr. Riesberg’s attendance of police meetings on this date was confirmed by multiple sources. His own schedule provided to us by the City showed he planned to attend these two police meetings/briefings on 4/14/16.  Sources also confirmed that Riesberg spoke at the meetings.”

The Tea Party also reported a Google search
search (Keith Riesberg + Police Union) “revealed a startling similarity of past history during Keith Riesberg’s final days as City Manager in O’Fallon, MO. Police union issues and a vote of no confidence in their police chief seem to be at the heart of Riesberg being fired from his position there.

“To add insult to injury, after the O’Fallon City Council investigated the situation, they decided to keep the police chief and get rid of Riesberg instead.”

The Tea Party story also stated that its IPRA request regarding e-mails is being reviewed. The city is reviewing the emails requested and has 15 days to respond.

Two members of the Rio Rancho Governing Body at the time Riesberg was hired told that they were not made aware of Riesberg’s departure from Missouri by the search firm employed by the city to assist in the candidate search for city manager.

Here are two links regarding Riesberg in Missouri:

Thursday, July 14, 2016
Board declines action on charter
for Native American students


The Rio Rancho school board declined to take any action on a possible charter school for Native American students on Monday night, meaning the final disposition of the issue won’t come until next month.

Board members and Superintendent Sue Cleveland seemed supportive of the idea, but expressed concerns that the financially-strapped district might be responsible for transportation and cafeteria services, among other items.

Outside of the meeting later, Ray Begay, a former state legislator and primary architect of the plan for the charter school, said he would not be seeking any money from the district.

Charter schools can be supported either by the state or local school districts. Begay is hoping to become a charter in the Rio Rancho district, noting that state-sponsored chargers often find themselves in competition with the local district.

By failing to take a vote, the board in essence tabled the matter for another month.

Begay’s plans call for grades 9-12 for the first two years of the school, expanding to 7-12 in the future.  Budget figures he shared with call for 125 students in the first year with a budget of $876,572, expanding to $1.9 million for 600 students in five years.

Begay said he has been in negotiations with a local restaurant to provide food service for the school initially and that he estimated 70 percent of the students would be transported from area pueblos by family.

He also said he is in negotiations for a building in the northern part of the city, giving closer access to neighboring pueblos.

Sandoval County Commission chairman Darryl Madalena and former county commissioner Orlando Lucero spoke on behalf of the proposal.

In other business the board:

*Designated the superintendent and board president Don Schlichte (who was out of town) to act on its behalf regarding the district’s attempt to obtain Category 2 E-rate funding from the federal government. The district faces a tight window in of about 48 hours to open and accept bids and complete its application before the federal deadline at midnight on July 21. The district is entering an agreement with the city’s libraries to utilize the service. As a result, the district will be able $600,000 in equipment for less than $100,000.

*Discussed and approved projects for the Aug. 30 bond issue election.

*Approved four change orders to existing projects.

*Awarded the bid for construction of Phase 3 of the district office to Platinum Builders, which submitted the lowest bid among nine companies at $354,528.09.

The board’s next meeting is Aug. 15.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

SCORE publisher returns after kidney transplant

The publisher of returned to work this week, less than two weeks after her received a kidney transplant.

Eric Maddy, 54, was diagnosed with end stage renal failure 5½ years ago and began dialysis two years later. He qualified for the transplant list at the University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque two months after that.

“It’s been a long, hard process, and I’d like to thank all of those who stuck with me in the tough times,” Maddy said. “I have been overwhelmed by the support from so many people in the community the past two weeks.

“It’s great to be back.”

Maddy received his transplant on June 28. He spent a week in the hospital and most of the second week home recovering before attending Monday’s school board meeting. (See above).

“I must also express my gratitude to the entire staff at UNM Hospital for their outstanding care,” he said. “If you ever get  sick, try to get yourself in at 6-South.

“Even the food was good.”

Maddy said he hopes to be able to expand his coverage of events in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County once he is fully healed

Sunday, June 19, 2016
Ex-police union president files labor charge against Rio Rancho

Sources say Vega-Brown out as city attorney


The New Mexico Coalition of Public Safety Officers has filed a complaint with the state labor board on behalf of a Rio Rancho police officer, alleging he was unfairly disciplined by the department for union activities.

Meanwhile, multiple sources not connected to city government have told that city attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown is no longer in that position, though it is not clear resigned or was fired.

City spokesperson Annemarie Garcia is on maternity leave and an automated e-mail referred inquiries to assistant city manager Peter Wells, who did not return a phone call or e-mail Friday afternoon. Both Wells and city manager Keith Riesberg refused to comment at Saturday’s five-hour Governing Body retreat/work session, indicating it was a personnel matter.

Vega-Brown was not in her office Friday afternoon, nor was police chief Michael Geier to comment on the labor issue.  

The complaint was filed on behalf of Corporal Justin Garcia, the immediate past president of the union that represents police officers. Garcia was placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation after he represented another officer in a union matter and expressed concerns at a local union meeting in March.

Garcia was recently reinstated by the department after being on administrative leave for 10 weeks, NMCPSO president Steve Harvey said.

Even so, the complaint, which names both the Governing Body and police department as respondents (defendants), will be heard. An official with Public Employee Labor Relations Board said the complaint has been received but a hearing date has not been set.

Harvey emphasized he believes the complaint is not a personnel matter because the allegations are of policy violations, and policy is the purview of the Governing Body.
In that vein attempted to contact all six city councilors. The five who responded said the city administration had not notified them of the labor complaint.

Garcia completed his two-year term president of the Rio Rancho Police and Communications Association, an affiliate of the state organization, in July.

According to the complaint, while still president, Garcia served “as the union representative during some portions of the investigative and disciplinary process” for former officer Vernon Ford, who agreed to resign after a random drug test and internal affairs investigation.

Ford is now suing the city, contending that a provision of his termination agreement was violated. The agreement was signed by Geier.

The Ford lawsuit was filed in October. “On or about March 15, 2016, Corporal Garcia was deposed by the Rio Rancho City Attorney’s office in furtherance of its defense against the Ford lawsuit,” the complaint reads. “Corporal Garcia did not receive any advanced notification from the City Attorney’s Office, whether pursuant to a notice of deposition or a properly served subpoena. Instead, the City Attorney’s office called Corporal Garcia at home, on his day off, and callously demanded that he report to City Hall to be deposed.”

The complaint states that  Garcia “was not provided notice of his right to counsel and he was not afforded his right to review, read and sign his deposition transcript despite requesting the opportunity to do so on the record of the proceedings.”

Garcia’s deposition supported Ford’s contentions, and he talked about the way his deposition was handled at a local meeting of the union, “making comments, sharing ideas and offering suggestions.”

Garcia is still a union steward.

One week later, on April 6, Garcia was placed on administrative leave under a memorandum from deputy chief Paul Rodgers. Garcia was required to surrender his badge, weapon and service vehicle.

“Additionally, the Department unilaterally changed Corporal Garcia’s work schedule, changing his hours and hours and days off,” the complaint states. Doing so without any notice “forced Garcia to use accrued personal leave to accommodate prior commitments that were scheduled on his regular days off.”

Garcia was also “disqualified from working on more previously approved overtime assignments in the days and weeks following.”

The complaint states the next day, April 7, Garcia received a second memo that an internal affairs investigation was under way to look at “possible violations of the Department Standard Operating Procedures and City of Rio Rancho Personnel Policies … as a result of a complaint from the City Attorney’s Office.”

After an exchange of letters and notifications, the internal affairs investigators questioned Garcia. The complaint said “one or more members of the Bargaining Unit have been questioned during the Department’s IA investigation” about the union meeting and Garcia’s comments.”

The complaint states that the Public Employee Bargaining Act “provides that the right of public employees shall be free from any ‘interference, restraint or coercion’ by the public employer. And it is a prohibited practice for any public employer to:
“*discriminate against any public employee in regard to terms and conditions of employment because of the employees’ membership in a union’

“*interfere, restrain or coerce a public employee in the exercise of a right guaranteed pursuant to the Public Employees Bargaining Act;

“*discriminate in regards to hiring, tenure, or a term or condition of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in a labor organization;

“*refuse to comply with a provision of the Public Employee Board act or rule.”

The complaint states the city violated Garcia’s right as a public employee and his “First Amendment rights concerning freedom of speech and association by punishing him  for engaging in protected union activities” and that the city’s actions “have a chilling effect on the exercise of protected union activity by Corporal Garcia and other members of the Bargaining Unit.”

The union is seeking several remedies, legally called “prayer for relief,” some of which have already been met by Garcia’s return to duty. But the union also wants the city to “reimburse or otherwise compensate Corpora Garcia” for lost wages, personal leave time used to accommodate his schedule change, lost wages for approved overtime, all records of the matter be expunged from his Human Resources file, and “such other and further relief as the (Labor) Board sees justified and equitable.

Some of the circumstances, including the city’s seeking a statement without legal counsel and on short notice, parallel complaints made by new city councilor David Bency about  the city’s continued prosecution of a misdemeanor charge against him.

That case had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing on June 21 but it is not clear if the case will begin that day given the recent developments.  

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