Last Update: Friday, April 15, 2016
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Friday, April 15, 2016

CANVASS COMPLETE: Rio Rancho city clerk Steve Ruger makes a point while explaining Tuesday's runoff election results to Magistrate Judge Richard Zanotti on Friday. Deputy Clerk Yolando Lucero is to Ruger's left; precinct judge Barbara Striegel is next to Zanotti.

Election canvass completed;
Chismar memorial on agenda

City manager submits fiscal year 2016-17 budget


It may take you longer to read this sentence than it did to complete the formal canvass of the Rio Rancho city election.

City Clerk Steve Ruger, Deputy Clerk Yolanda Lucero and Barbara Striegel, the presiding judge at the Soul Rio convenience center polling place, met with Sandoval County Magistrate Judge Richard Zanotti late Friday morning to make the results official. Ruger simply presented the totals to Zanotti and told him that Jim Owen and David Bency had won the elections, and Zanotti said, “You guys are always right on. I trust you.”

With that he signed the document certifying the election, making the results official.

The final step in the transition of power takes place at the formal searing in ceremony at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

That means the regularly scheduled Parks and Recreation Commission meeting will likely be moved to the auxiliary work room across the hall from the clerk’s office and financial windows. On that agenda is approval of the department’s recommendation to create an Ed Chismar Memorial Picnic Pavilion at A Park Above.

That meeting is also scheduled for 6 p.m., though Ruger said the commission could choose to delay the start by a few minutes and have it in the council chambers after the swearing in ceremony is done.

Chismar, a long-time parks department director and one-time acting city administrator, died Nov. 5 of cancer.

The city also announced it is seeking candidates to fill seats from District 2, District 4 and District 5 on the commission.
Applications are available at the clerk’s office or online.
For more information call the clerk’s office at (505) 891-5004.

Meanwhile, city manager Keith Riesberg submitted his budget for fiscal year 2017 to the Governing Body on Friday.

The budget also includes a five-year capital outlay program.

Under the city charter, Mayor Gregg Hull has until April 25 to review the recommended budget and capital program and submit written comments to the city manager.

After that, the Governing Body will review the budget at three meetings on Tuesday, May 3, Wednesday, May 4, and Monday, May 9.

The Governing Body will take public comment on the budget as part of their May 11 and May 25 meetings, with a final vote scheduled on May 25.

The timetable is such so that it can be submitted to the state for final approval before taking effect July 1.

All budget hearings and council meetings will be in council chambers in City Hall. Each hearing and meeting can be viewed on the city website and on Channel 15 for Cable One subscribers.

The 289-page budget
is available online or can be viewed at the city clerk’s office or either public library.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Council bids goodbye
to Wilkins, Clayton


The Rio Rancho Governing Body began its transition into a new era Wednesday, closing business on a few non-controversial matters and saying goodbye to two councilors.

It was the final meeting for District 1 councilor Chuck Wilkins, who chose not to seek reelection, and Lonnie Clayton of District 6, who was defeated in Tuesday’s runoff elect
ion by Dave Bency.

Bency and new District 1 councilor Jim Owen, who served as mayor from 2002-2006, will be sworn in Monday at 6 p.m. Election results will be canvassed on Friday at 11:30 a.m.

With Marlene Feuer being elected outright on March 1 to replace retiring Mark Scott in District 4, and District 5 councilor Shelby Smith announcing his intentions to resign in August as he relocates to Arizona, the entire coalition that has dominated the council the past two years has changed. As such, the final meeting of the old guard was more about paying tributes to the past.

Clayton made his parting comments in the first councilor’s comments section of the agenda, which normally is limited to direct responses to what is said in public comment. Wilkins, who has become a political opponent of Clayton’s on most issues in recent years after the two worked together to get elected in 2012, actually defended his colleague for what he considered a personal attack from the public regarding the so-called “chicken and goat” ordinance.

Clayton used his time to thank his wife and city staff (past and present) for working with him. A few members of the audience who opposed his reelection walked out of the meeting when Clayton spoken in apparent protest.

Clayton then turned to his fellow councilors.

“The councilor positon is but a fleeting position,” he said. “Make the most of by working with staff to make this city a better place to live and leave your egos in the parking lot.”

Clayton concluded his remarks and then left the meeting himself, saying he had to leave “for something personal that’s far more important than the items on the agenda this evening” and departed the building without further comment.

That meant under the charter amendment passed last month that Mayor Gregg Hull voted in Clayton’s absence. He sided with the majority on all issues.

Of which there were few. Most were second reading of ordinances previously debated, including approving finance agreements (including the issuance of the general obligation road bonds also passed March 1) and approval of City Manager Keith Riesberg’s proposal to make the city’s water utility a separate department instead of being under Public Works. That proposal passed 5-1, with Wilkins voting against.

Wilkins also opposed a resolution by Councilor Dawnn Robinson asking the Governing Body to commit to looking at earmarking certain road funds for repairing residential streets. Wilkins argued that the resolution was unnecessary, that the council simply needs to direct the city manager to spend funds that way.

Wilkins also said the city has existing road funds but the problem is that $400,000 was diverted to a “pet project,” which he identified later as the DWI vehicle seizure program.

The Governing Body also gave final approval extending impact fee credits for Curb North by two years as part of a negotiated legal settlement.

Judge Robert Cook introduced his new second alternate judge, Faron Seggotta. “The court has functioned with just one alternate for most of a year, but we’ve reached the point where I want to make sure we have double backup,” Cook said. “I’ve answered the phone every weekend for six years and at some point and time I want to take a vacation.”

Segotta said he has known Cook for more than 30 years since they both worked for the New Mexico State Police and “there are some stories I could tell,” a light moment in what was one of the calmer council meetings in recent memory. Riesberg even got a laugh when he announced the proposed city budget would be released on Friday, offering it as some “light reading” for the Governing Body.

The final councilors’ comments section gave everyone a chance to offer praise for the two departing members. Normally the mayor has the last word, but he spoke ahead of Wilkins to give the departing councilor the final chance to speak.

To the end, the outspoken Wilkins wanted to talk policy, saying “I will stay engaged.” He announced he had recently been elected to the board of directors of the Tea Party.

“I was engaged with city, coming up for three minutes (the speaking time limit) probably five or six times a meeting before I was elected, and I will be coming up again after my term is done on Monday.”

He then relayed a story about a woman who was interested in buying a home along Third Street, which currently is a dirt road.

He said he told her, “If you are going to buy a house dependent on your road being paved by the city, don’t buy it. Because it’s not going to happen unless you and your neighbors pay for it. If you want a paved road, buy a house that already has a paved road.”

When the woman asked why Wilkins wasn’t staying on the council and should she move to Albuquerque, he said, “My answer was no. We have a good community here. I don’t always agree with the way things run at City Hall but it’s a good community. We have a good school system, our police and fire department are among the best and our libraries are the best.

“I’m getting ready to build my final home here. I have my business here and I am keeping it here. I believe in Rio Rancho.

“I’m glad I served and sometime down the road here I’ll be running again. I’ll be coming back. I’ll to my best to come back.”

Clayton, who made it a point to answer media inquiries about his age by saying “in two weeks I will be 82 years old,” gave no indication that he plans to seek future political office.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Owen, Bency win runoff races

Click here for complete results


They’re former no more.

Dave Bency and Jim Owen will be returning to the Rio Rancho Governing Body, both winning elections Tuesday just as they did 14 years ago.

Bency, a two-time city councilor, was reelected in 2002, the same year Owen was elected as mayor. This time both will be councilors, sitting at opposite ends of the podium after repeating their March 1 triumphs with runoff victories.

Bency garnered 603 votes (71.3 percent) to oust incumbent Lonnie Clayton (243 votes, 28.7 percent) in District 6.

Owen won by a much closer margin, getting 333 votes (52.4 percent) to 302 for Joshua Hernandez (47.6 percent).

“I’m a little bit overwhelmed, and humbled, by the vote totals,” Bency said. “And I’m honored that the voters of District have chosen to make me their city councilor once again.”

Owen, who had lost three straight bids to become mayor again, seemed almost shocked that he won. Told he had a new position – councilor-elect – a few moments after the polls closed, he said, “I just hope I can live up to the title. That’s all I can really say right now.”

Both Bency and Owen pretty much had their election locked up before Election Day by virtue of early and absentee voting. Bency got 350 votes before the polls opened at 7 a.m. (311 early and 39 absentee) compared to 96 for Clayton (84 early, 14 absentee).

In District 1, Owen had a 152-96 edge in pre-Election Day voting, including a 129-84 early lead and 23-14 absentee edge.

Bency won every voting location across the board except Soul Rio Church, where he lost 12-11.

In District 1, Hernandez actually won every Election Day location, but no by enough to overcome Owen’s early/absentee advantage.

Bency plans to hit the ground running with early policy proposals on campaign changes such as a permanent fund and election reform.

“I apologize to the voters of Rio Rancho for having to spend so much money on a runoff,” he said. “That’s one thing we need to look at, the whole election process.”

The runoff was often vicious series of charges and counter-charges, both political and legal. But Bency said he has no grudges.

“I wish my opponent well in his retirement,” Bency said. “Lonnie Clayton is a good man who I have known for a long time, and he has worked hard for our city.

“I look forward to working with other members of the Governing Body in developing policy initiatives that serve all citizens of Rio Rancho.  Help me bring back the vision that makes our city great.”

Bency still faces a Magistrate Court charge of filing a false report in regards to tampering with campaign signs. A hearing date has not been set.

Tuesday’s results are unofficial. The formal canvass certifying the totals will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday, and the new councilors will be sworn in at 6 p.m. Monday.  

The coalition of city councilors that has been in charge of the council may completely change within months. Three new councilors were elected this cycle -- Bency, Owen and Marlene Feuer, who won her District 4 seat outright on March 1. District 5 councilor Shelby Smith plans to resign this summer to take care of his parents in Arizona.

An early test on new alliances will be on Mayor Gregg Hull's nominee to replace Smith.

Monday, April 11, 2016
Polls open at 7 a.m. for runoff

Powdrell-Culbert now unopposed in House race

Sign sticker purchased 6 days before charge filed


Two Rio Rancho city council races will be decided Tuesday, while a state representative from the city was re-elected the easy way, with no campaign needed.    

And in an update of Saturday’s story on the District 6 city council race between frontrunner Dave Bency and incumbent Lonnie Clayton, learned that a city-required sticker on a sign touting a police charge against Bency was issued by the city six days before the charge was filed.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at four convenience centers – Meadowlark Senior Center, Sol Rio Church, City Hall and Mountain View Middle School.

According to the city clerk’s office, 631 ballots were cast in early voting to decide the city councilors from District 1 and District 6. Twice as many votes were cast at the Loma Colorado Library (427) as were at City Hall (201).

A total of 83 absentee ballots had been issued as of 2 p.m. Monday. There were still 20 outstanding ballots that must be returned before 7 p.m. Tuesday to be counted.

The runoff elections are necessary under city ordinance because no candidate obtained more than 50 percent of the total vote in the March 1 election as ballots were spread among multiple candidates.
The District 1 runoff matches former Mayor Jim Owen against Club Rio Rancho CEO Joshua Hernandez. Owen got 409 votes in the first election (46.6 percent) and Hernandez had 339 (38.7 percent).

In District 6, Bency received 535 votes, more than doubling the total garnered by Clayton (261). But because there were four candidates in the field, Bency only received 42.7 percent.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert will be going back to the Legislature without a fight. The long-time Republican member of the New Mexico House of Representatives had drawn a Democratic opponent for the general election in November, but Robert Benton Howell withdrew his candidacy on March 31, according to the Sandoval County Bureau of Elections.

The deadline to withdraw was April 5.

The city’s development department confirmed that a required sticker on a sign pointing to a web site (see below) was issued on Friday, April 1, six days before charges of filing a false police report were filed in Magistrate Court against Bency on Thursday, April 7.

The committee’s finance report lists a $40 expense “for signs,” though it is not clear if that includes the cost for the sticker.

The report also lists a $150 expense “for mailer,” with the address associated with the item as Clayton’s home address. A mailer sent out by Clayton hit homes on Saturday.

The sticker was sold to Larry Ross, treasurer of the Candidate Honesty Committee that has published the web site and a mailer attacking Bency, who has already been elected twice to the Governing Body and twice to the Sandoval County Commission in a political career dating back to 1998.

It was not immediately clear how the committee decided to purchase a sticker that ended up on a sign that announced a police charge that had not yet been filed.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

IT CONTINUES: Signs promoting a website attacking District 6 frontrunner Dave Bency, like this one on Riverside Drive, began appearing Thursday morning before charges were filed in Magistrate Court. Bency said Saturday neither he or his attorney have been formally advised of any charges.

Bency says police haven't given formal notice of any charges

Photographer confronted by Clayton


Two full days after reports of a police filing against former city councilor Dave Bency first surfaced, the frontrunner in Tuesday’s District 6 runoff election said Saturday he has not received formal notification of legal charges.

And while photographing the city permit on a sign criticizing Bency, this reporter was confronted by his opponent, Lonnie Clayton.

In an exclusive interview with Bency in his Rio Rancho home, the former two-term Sandoval County commissioner said he could not comment on the pending court case because he had not seen the specific charge.

“I have not formally received anything, either hand-delivered, by phone in the mail – no communication whatsoever,” Bency said. “And my attorney has not called me stating likewise. If he had I am sure he would have contacted me immediately.

“I found out from a third-party e-mail from the fourth floor of City Hall from assistant city manager Peter Wells. My attorney also found out only when I forwarded that e-mail.”

That e-mail, addressed to the Governing Body, reads: 

“Please be advised that today the Rio Rancho Police Department filed a charge (a public record) of making a false report, under state law provision which is a misdemeanor, in Magistrate Court against David Bency related to the recent political sign issue.”

The e-mail was also copied to several city officials: city manager Keith Riesberg, city attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown, city clerk Steve Ruger; deputy city manager John Craig, police chief Michael Geier and communications/information manager Annemarie Garcia.

A time stamp on the one-page complant, which obtained from the KRQE-TV website, shows the report was filed on Thursday, April 7 at 3:44 p.m. But Bency and his wife Teresa said signs at the entrance to their Rivers Edge neighborhood with the allegation first appeared early Thursday morning, before the report was officially filed.

“Apparently a website (on the sign) even knew about it before I did,” Bency said. “There’s a hateful website out there and apparently they posted about this even before it happened.

“So here we are. I can’t talk about the specifics of the case until we go to court, and I welcome that day. But the events that led up to that do not pass the smell test.”

When was taking pictures of the sign on Riverside Drive at about 5:10 p.m. on Saturday, incumbent Councilor Clayton drove up, stopped and said, “What are you doing, vandalizing signs too?”

Told it was simply an attempt to verify the date that the city-required sticker was issued, Clayton said, “That’s baloney” and drove off.

In a report aired on KRQE-TV Friday night, reporter Chris McKee said, “Clayton told us and police he denies kicking anyone’s sign.” In the TV report Clayton said, “I have never done it.”

That doesn’t match the recollection of sitting councilor Chuck Wilkins, who told on Saturday that he witnessed Clayton removing an opposition sign on Election Night four years ago.

Wilkins said the night when Clayton was elected in a runoff over sitting councilor Kathy Colley, he was driving behind Clayton to a victory celebration. Wilkins said they were on Loma Colorado Boulevard when Clayton stopped and removed a sign saying “What are you hiding, Lonnie?”

When they met at the party, Wilkins said Clayton verbally confirmed that he had removed the sign. Wilkins also said he told Clayton he was not allowed to do that, that the sign could only be legally removed by the Code Enforcement division of the police department or by the campaign that placed it.

“I’m a city councilor and I can do anything I want” was Clayton’s response, according to Wilkins.

Bency served six years on the city council from 1996-2002 before being elected county commissioner for height years. Technology was such that councilors carried city-issued pagers, then cell phones, for communication, but Bency said he never received a notice from the city administration about a police action being taken against a private citizen.

“The only time we were informed about a legal action was when the city was being sued and the city attorney needed to update us regarding the possibility of loss and wanted us to give guidance on how to go forth,” Bency said. “Then we would meet as the Governing Body in a closed session to discuss it, which we were obligated to do.

“We never got any messages on any actions – criminal or civil, felonies let alone misdemeanors – against private citizens by our police department.”

Bency filed a complaint with the Rio Rancho Police Department stating that a witness, Joe Nieto, told him that he had seen Clayton damaging a Bency campaign sign near the Meadowlark Senior Center, traditionally the convenience center that receives the most votes.  That complaint was investigated by the police department and Deputy Chief Paul Rogers told on Thursday, March 24, “The investigation is done now.”

Bency said, “On Monday, April 4, at around 11 a.m., I got a phone call from Det. Greg Herrera of the Rio Rancho Police Department. He said he needed to see me regarding a follow-up conversation about that specific complaint. He said he needed a written statement from me and that he would need to question me for 30 to 45 minutes.”

Bency said he told Herrera he could not meet that day but he would be available the following day, and a tentative appointment was set for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5.

“That night I started thinking how could this be a follow-up to that complaint when that complaint had been closed,” Bency said. “So I called back and left a message telling him that I was busy this week, working full-time and campaigning, and asked if he could e-mail me the follow-up questions so I could get back to him with some written responses.”

Bency said Herrera called him back about 3:30 p.m. the next day (Tuesday, April 5) and left a voice message.”

Bency then played the message for It said:

“Hi. Good afternoon, Mr. Bency. This is Det. Greg Herrera with the Rio Rancho Police Department. I’m calling you again. I did want to strongly encourage you to re-think canceling our appointment to get your written statement and to speak with you. I did want to advise you at this time I believe I have enough to charge you so that’s why I’m affording you every opportunity to come in and speak with me. And I would strongly encourage you to do that and not break our appointment. If you would sir, please give me a call back.”

The message went on to leave telephone numbers for a return call and “Thank you, sir. Have a nice day.”

Realizing his suspicions about a different investigation were confirmed, Bency said he immediately after hearing the message contacted Bill Tryon, a Rio Rancho attorney he has known for 20 years.

“I told him what happened, and he asked for the officer’s name and telephone number,” Bency said. “He said he would call him immediately, which he did.

“He said ‘I represent Mr. Bency, from now on you will only go through me regarding this situation, and he has a legal right to have me present at any questioning, ’ ” Bency said. “The officer agreed to that, understood it, and Mr. Tryon said he would call back at a later time when his schedule and my schedule would coincide and allow us both to meet with that officer.”

Bency said Tryon called him back later that day and “said he would represent me. He also said that the officer said that no complaint had been filed against me at that time.”

Bency said he and Tryon exchanged communications throughout the next day (Wednesday), a process complicated by the attorney’s court schedule and Bency’s job as an accounting instructor at Central New Mexico Community College.

“Mr. Tryon called the officer back on Wednesday or Thursday, I don’t know which, and stated that we could meet Wednesday, April 13, at 2 p.m., because that was the only time where his schedule and my schedule coincided and that I needed to be present at the time. The police officer, to my recollection, told Mr. Tryon, ‘No, that’s not good enough. We need to meet now.’ And Mr. Tryon said “this is the only time both me and my client are available.

“The next thing I know is the investigation phase of the case was concluded without talking to me without my attorney present and that charges had been filed against me in magistrate court by getting a copy of that e-mail from the fourth floor of City Hall.”

The final sentence of the document that Herrera filed with Magistrate Court reads, “I afforded Mr. Bency the opportunity to meet with me prior to filing this criminal complaint, but he refused.”

Both candidates sent out virtually identical mailers this week, with Bency’s hitting homes early in the week and Clayton’s arriving Saturday. They are the same size and printed in black-and-white. Both candidates extoll their achievements on one side and use the other to address what they consider political mud being flung by their opponent.

Clayton’s mailer was printed by the Center for Hands-On Learning (CHOL), a non-profit business that according to the New Mexico Secretary of State lists its agent as Genie Ryan, who is also a columnist for the Albuquerque Journal that printed a story on the controversy in its Saturday editions.

CHOL also printed a mailer for a group called the Candidate Honesty Committee. The mailer attacked Bency, supported Clayton and refereed readers to the web site, the same site that is on the sign on Riverside Road.

Research showed that that domain name is issued to Dave Heil, a candidate for county commission.

Financial supportersof the committee include Larry Ross, who is listed as the treasurer, city councilor Cheryl Everett and her husband Harry Gordon, and a political action committee that has the same address as county commissioner Don Chapman. 

Bency said his Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel may have been violated and he might consider legal action against the city. Sixth Amendment rights have been extended by legal precedent to include almost every phase of the judicial process, including police questioning.

“Given all that has transpired, I’m looking into the possibility that my civil rights have been violated and am contemplating possible legal action against the city,” Bency said. “If it can happen to me, a former twice-elected city councilor and twice-elected county commissioner who is a CPA and 28-year employee of CNM, what are they going do to the average Joe on the street?”

Bency said it also sends a scary message to citizens who might file a police complaint and have it investigated only to face possible countercharges of filing a false report.

“That sounds like a police state,” Bency said. “I don’t think it works very well.

“I don’t hold anything against the officer, because I believe he was only following orders. And those orders came from higher up, exactly from where the e-mail came from: the fourth floor of City Hall.”

Political signs are an especially important means of communication for candidates in Rio Rancho. In a town with no daily newspaper, television or news radio station, candidates relay on signs, mailers, social media, candidate forums and old-fashioned door knocking to get out there message.

City ordinance limits candidates running for a city council seat to 25 signs that can be placed in the public right of way. There is no limit on signs that can be placed on private property.

City-wide candidates and issues are limited to 50 signs. The sign promoting the anti-Bency web site has a city-wide sticker issued by the Development Services Department; signs for candidates Bency and Clayton are restricted to District 6, even though the four convenience center polling places used on Election Day are outside the district borders.

Sign controversies are nothing new in Rio Rancho. Two years ago, when mayoral candidate Morgan Braden filed a complaint against eventual winner Gregg Hull, Riesberg directed the police department not to enforce the city’s sign ordinance because it was possibly illegal and could result in litigation. Charges were also filed, but later dismissed, by the  city against mayoral candidate Mike Williams, and a fight sparked by signs being waived too close to opponents resulted in charges being filed (also later dismissed) against former Democratic Party chairman Jim Moran, then-council candidate Dawnn -Robinson and her husband.

After Bency was elected to the county commission in November 2002, Clayton was appointed to fill the term by then-Mayor Jim Owen. When Clayton sought a full term in the 2004 election, he finished third in a three-person race, hurt in part when he had to dismiss a campaign worker for accusing eventual winner Marilyn Salzman of putting a swastika symbols on one of her signs to gain attention. Salzman is Jewish.

Saturday’s developments are just the latest in a series of events leading up to Tuesday’s runoff.  Polls open at 7 a.m. at the same four locations used in the March 1 general election: the Meadowlark Senior Center, Sol Rio Church, City Hall and Mountain View Middle School.

There is also a runoff in City Council District 1, where Owen defeated Club Rio Rancho CEO Joshua Hernandez by 80 votes in the first round of voting in a three-person field.

Because there were multiple candidates in both races, no one exceeded the 50 percent threshold required for election.
Bency got 42.7 percent of the vote in a four-candidate field, and had a bigger raw vote margin of victory (264) than second-place finisher Clayton had actual votes (261).


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Commissioners praise
assessors' office efforts

Revaluation brings big bucks into the county


Sandoval County commissioners listed and talked a lot, but did very little officially, at their bi-monthly meeting Thursday night.

Most of the time was spent on two presentations, one from the assessors’ office on the reassessment program put in place when Tom Garcia took office shortly after Jan. 1, 2011.  

The commission also heard a presentation about a fee and dividend system on carbon emissions before spending 20 minutes in closed session to discuss a contract extension for county manager Phil Rios.

Commissioners were unanimous in their praise of the assessor’s work. According to the annual report presented by Garcia, chief deputy assessor Christie Humphrey and chief assessment officer Ed Olona, the assessment plan has added nearly a net of almost $73 million of value to property tax rolls from last year, an increase of 2.3 percent.

That figure does not include the results of protests that may be filed since the protest period began just last week, though the report also shows the dollar amount of protests filed has decreased each year since 2011.

Property in Sandoval County has a taxable value of $3.132 billion dollars, exceeding the high of $3.121 billion in 2011 before the national recession decreased property values nationwide. But the new figure also includes values of properties that have decreased since then and are now being calculated.

Prior to this program, there had not been a county-wide reevaluation of property in 12 years. By collecting updated data and imputing it in its new computer system, the assessors’ office will not be able to do continuous revaluations on a regular basis, surveying about 1/5 of the county every year.

That means every property will be reassessed at least once every five years and not be subject to the automatic three percent “tax lightning” automatic increase that is available under state law.

Humphrey, a likely candidate to succeed Garcia when he is term limited at the end of 2018, pointed out the county is required to lower an assessment by the full amount when it is determined property is overvalued, but when a property is undervalued the county can only raise taxes by the state-imposed three percent each year until it catches up the full amount.

As more data has been collected and entered into the computer, the accurate value of property in the county – and the amount of taxes it generates – has become clearer.

Amazingly, the county added more than $94.7 million to its tax rolls, though, though the net was only $73 million because some properties were overvalued and are now paying a lower rate.

Also, according to the report, all 45,284 residential properties in the county have been inspected. Of those, 36,382 records have been entered into the computer, leaving 8,923 for data entry personnel to input into the system.

The report estimates that task will be completed by Oct. 31.

All 1,209 commercial properties have been inspected and entered into the system.

Because the presentation was listed on the agenda as a discussion item only, the report will have to be formally approved at a future commission meeting, most likely the next one on April 21.

The presentation on carbon usage, made by resident Elaine Cimino, would impose a fee at the source of the energy, mostly gas pumps and electrical generating stations. However places such as the county landfill that also give off some carbon could be subject to some fees.

Rios promised commissioners he would do more research on the issue, less than the committee that Cimino requested. One major hurdle that would have to be cleared, as commissioner Glenn Walters pointed out, is getting authority from the state for the county to impose such a gas tax.

There is currently no state-wide tax or fee on carbon emissions. Cimino insisted at one point that the program would be “revenue neutral” to the county because money generated would be used to pay for inspectors enforcing tighter environmental standards, though she later said money could be routed to the general fund for use on other county projects.

The program would include a rebate or tax credit for lower income individuals. Those would pay more would be the industries and customers at the gas pump who did not qualify for the rebate.

Rios’ contract ends June 30. If tradition holds, the commission will grant a two-year rolling extension after completing its evaluation in closed session. Because it would be considered a contract, the commission would have to vote on it during a public session and not simply include it in the annual budget.

Rios, who previously served as the county’s public works director, was promoted to county manager after Debbie Hays retired in October 2008. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

State treasurers
endorse Montoya

Sandoval County Treasurer Laura M. Montoya is being backed by two men who have held the same position at the state level.
Current state treasurer Tim Eichenberg and former treasurer James B. Lewis have endorsed Montoya, according to a news release issued by her campaign on Wednesday.

“Every entity in Sandoval County that relies on tax dollars will benefit from having Laura in office for another term,” Eichenberg said. “Sandoval has a 99.2 percent collection rate over the last 10 years. That number is even more impressive when you realize that the tax roll has increased to a record total of $1.3 billion dollars. The money collected goes back to your community.

 “I am endorsing Laura M. Montoya because she is a strong leader. As the Treasurer’s Affiliate Legislative Chairwoman, she has assisted in the passage of several pieces of legislation at the state level. Significant bills that she has fought for include helping Veterans and the elderly as well as bills to alleviate tax loopholes.

“I’m excited to see what she will do during her next term.”

Former Treasurer James B. Lewis said he met Montoya when she was working in the state treasurer’s office after he took office in 2007.

 “Laura is trustworthy, hardworking and works diligently for what she believes is in the best interest of the taxpayers and her office,” he said. “I support her re-election whole-heartedly, and I know her constituents value the work she has accomplished and will support her in June.

“Ms. Montoya has been a steadfast and disciplined treasurer, she is ingrained in the community she serves, and has made her mark participating in national organizations."

Montoya was recently elected Vice Chair of the National Associa




tion of Counties (NACo) Next Generation Network, a group of approximately 300 young elected county officials dedicated to public policy, professional development and community service. She was appointed by the NACo president to be vice-chair of the Fiscal Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, which works on national policy that affects county government.

Montoya faces two opponents in the June 7 Democratic primary, James S. Baca and Eugene A. Rinaldi. Leroy Joseph Lovato is unopposed in the Republican primary.

 “I believe our taxpayers appreciate the transparency and efficient work results we have completed in the last three years,” Montoya said. “We have developed strategies to make sure that everyone is paying their fair share. We are keeping taxpayer dollars safe, providing quality customer service and full-time leadership.”

Montoya has also been endorsed by several other current or former elected officials, including Patrick Varela, current Santa Fe County Treasurer and chairman of the Treasurer Affiliate; Bernalillo County Assessor Tanya Giddings; state Sen. Benny Shendo, Mayor Jack Torres, and Councilman Dale Prairie of Bernalillo; Councilwoman Pat Clauser of Corrales; and former Sandoval County Commissioner Donnie Leonard.

Monday, March 28, 2016

North Nine Association
rejects Pulte proposal;
Club Rio Rancho to seek zoning change from city

Public can see plan at April 17 open house


North Nine Neighborhood Association homeowners have rejected a proposed compromise allowing houses to be built on the dilapidated area of Club Rio Rancho.

As a result, the owner of Club Rio Rancho said Monday he will re-file a request with the city’s Planning and Zoning commission to seek rezoning of the property to allow for residential development.
Jhett Browne also said Club Rio Rancho will host an open house on April 17 where Pulte Homes will present its plans to the public “and we will celebrate Club Rio Rancho, the heart of Rio Rancho.” 
Browne said festivities will begin with live entertainment at noon and displays of development plans. Garrett Price of Pulte Homes will make a presentation at 2 p.m.

Browne said the Pulte plan has “high-end, low density (housing), much less density than the current homes (on the North Nine). It would not just benefit the community as a whole but their fellow homeowners and the people this place provides quality of life for. 
“Hopefully more people will see that as a good thing. I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

In a news release issued Monday morning, North Nine attorney Mark Hirsch said, “Many NNNA paid for and acquired the right to have the North Nine maintained as a golf course or open space when they bought their homes. As a result their agreement was not less than ‘part and parcel of what residents paid a premium for when they purchased their homes.”

Hirsh wrote instead the group “intends to continue to pursue an amicable resolution and to work with all other property owners, the City (of Rio Rancho) and the County (Sandoval) to establish the area as a North Nine Open Space and preserve the promised community environment.”

Various city councilors in past meetings have stated their objections to having the city purchase the land and/or maintain the golf courses.

Asked for comment, Mayor Gregg Hull said, “As it’s still a private concern, it would be inappropriate for the city or my office to comment at this point and time. But we’ll continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Sandoval County spokesman Sidney Hill also said the county had no comment because “This really is a city matter.”

Ever since he began negotiations to purchase the club, and after completing the deal May 1, Browne has said that he needed to generate revenue from the nine golf holes of the 27-hole layout that had been largely abandoned by previous owners. The revenue, Browne said, would be used to renovate the other 18 holes and improve the clubhouse and other facilities. 

Several proposals have been discussed since then, including membership drives and financing by homeowners, to keep the lad as part of the club or as open space. When those efforts didn’t bring in enough revenue, Browne began considering other offers, though critics say selling the land was his plan all along.

“Our stance has been the same all the way through this I’ve said the same thing since day one – for the club to make it the North Nine has to bring in some money,” Browne said. “Our plans are to proceed forward with Pulte, to present the plans to the community and to celebrate the positive aspects of Club Rio Rancho and what it provides to the community.”

After initially agreeing to work with Browne when he purchased the club for $1 million from Harry Apodaca, homeowners obviously don’t trust Browne now. The new release references stories saying that Browne would close the other 18 holes if he could not generate revenue from the North Nine; that he was offered $5.2 million for the West Nine; and that he was seeking investors with a promise of a 10 percent return on their money.

It also mentions that Club Rio Rancho is $130,000 in arrears to the city on its water bill.

The mistrust is also evidenced by language in the news release includes phrases such as “he promises to blame the NNNA for threatened closures,” “Jhett Browne’s scare tactics” and  “compromise and settlement is not a one-way street – agreement on this matter must include the recognition of homeowners’ rights, not just Mr. Browne’s financial woes.”

Representatives of the club, Pulte Homes and the NNNA began meetings last month in hopes of reaching a settlement. Hirsch confirmed in a telephone conversation the scaled-back Pulte proposal called for 145 homes, but said about 80 percent of more than 100 homeowners surveyed rejected the proposal. 

The news release said “the NNNA opposes any zone change to residential use on the North Nine.” That would seemingly mean homeowners would object to any housing on the land, but Hirsch suggested the door may still be open to negotiation.

“The latest proposal included 145 homes, I can only say that the proposal was rejected,” he said.  “A zone change would allow residential use.  The number of homes allowed would have to do with building codes and environmental codes.

 “The opposition is to an unlimited amount of homes, including 145 homes, versus maintaining it as open space. If there’s something in between I’m not aware of it.

“Any further mediation over the matter would occur if Mr. Browne were amenable to it, but no, there isn’t any discussion of any lower number.”

Browne hopes the community will support the Pulte plan, in part because it wants to see Club Rio Rancho succeed because of the services it provides.

“We have all kinds of kids’ organizations that have functions down here,” Browne said. “We literally provide services to thousands of kids.”
Browne mentioned that Club Rio Rancho provides programs for special needs children twice a week during the summer and also lets other community groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Sandoval Economic Alliance, Rotary clubs and bridge clubs use their facilities.

“You name it, we do it,” Browne said. “We even did stuff with the Catholic churches.

“We hope that more people join our cause and that more people from the North Nine will see a high end value than they currently see on their homes.”

Browne said Club Rio Rancho served 442 people for brunch on Easter Sunday.

“We’ve really got this thing rolling in the right direction,” Browne said. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

KEY PLAY: Veteran Carlsbad coach John Tigert argues with the home plate umpire over a call the seventh inning of Saturday's game with Cleveland. The three-run triple off the bat of Savannah Predika broke open a close game, eventually  won by the Storm 7-2.


Cleveland, Rop Rancho reach Griego tittle game;
high winds postpone championship contest


Rio Rancho softball teams blew away the completion, literally, this weekend in the Kristin Griego Memorial Tournament.

The Cleveland Storm and Rio Rancho Rams reached the tournament championship game on Saturday but winds exceeding 30 mph prompted tournament officials to call of the game. It will be rescheduled for a later date.

The same was true for all other late-afternoon games, including the third-place contest between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

The Final Four are among the top four teams in the state. Rio Rancho held off Hobbs 6-4 in their game; Cleveland scored four runs as the visiting team in the top of the seventh inning to put away Carlsbad 7-2.

Cleveland capitalized on shaky Carlsbad defense in the decisive inning. The first two Storm hitters, Jelaeni Kapanui and Ashlea Ortega, reached base on errors by Carlsbad freshman shortstop Jennifer Munro. Third-place hitter Lindsey Paebucek followed with a hot shot off the glove off Carlsbad pitcher Kaylee Hewitt, loading the bases.

With the infield drawn in to cut off another her run, cleanup hitter Savannah Predika hit a classic Baltimore chop that appeared from the Carlsbad dugout to go foul over the head of third baseman Mackenzie e Pineda. But umpires ruled that that ball ticked off the top of a leaping Pineda’s glove, making it a fair hit.

By the time left fielder Sierra Suter retrieved the ball, the three runners had scored and Predika was on third base. She scored the final run when the next hitter, Hannah Obrey, lofted a sacrifice fly to right.

Carlsbad went in order in the bottom of the inning.

Carlsbad coach John Tigert vehemently protested the call but did not want to comment on it.

“We did not win that game because we did not hit the ball,” Tigert said. “We should have hit that pitcher.

“For the first time our young ones kind of folded and made some errors. The bad call doesn't even come in to play if we make the two routine plays (to start the inning).”

Cleveland coach Angel Castillo may have had the best view of the controversial play from the third base coaching box.

“She was standing in fair territory and it bounced off of her glove,” Castillo said. “It went foul after that, but she was standing right there.”

Cleveland broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning. Predika led off with a walk, then came home on consecutive hits by Obrey and Adrianna Castillo.

Carlsbad tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. Gabby Aragon reached on a fielder’s choice, and Rylan Gonzales walked to move Aragon up to second. Hewitt followed up with a solid single to left to drive in the run.

Cleveland took the lead for good with two runs in the top of the fifth. Ninth-place hitter Celeste Gallindo reached on an error by Munro and Kapanui beat out an infield hit to third. Ortega moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt, and Paebucek and Predika followed up with RBI hits.

Carlsbad pulled within a run in the bottom of the sixth on another RBI single by Hewitt. But Castillo shut down the Cavergirls the rest of the way, not allowing a ball out of the infield (including two strikeouts) to get the final five Carlsbad hitters.

“She does a good job of locating her pitches and hitting her spots,” Castillo said.

Then the Storm put the game away by taking advantage of the Carlsbad errors.

“That’s just what we do,” Castillo said. “We want to hit the ball and make teams and make plays. If they make plays and beat us, they make plays and beat us.”
Tigert said Cleveland is the best team in Class 6A, but Castillo isn’t so sure.

“We’re pretty good, but there are still some other good teams,” he said.

“You still have LaCueva and Volcano Vista.  And Carlsbad is a really good team. They’re going to be right there in the thick of it.

“It depends on who stays consistent and who stays hot,” Castillo said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun down the road.”

Cleveland improved to 12-4 with four tournament victories; Rio Rancho is 10-7.

The Storm opens district play at Santa Fe on Thursday, while Rio Rancho begins its District 1-6A schedule by hosting the Lady Demons on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 24, 2016
Candidate responds to negative mailer;
Police close sign case and plan no charges


District 6 city counc,ted by political opponents by posting a letter on his campaign web site.

Meanwhile, the city has issued a three-paragraph news release regarding Bency’s allegation that his opponent, incumbent councilor Lonnie Clayton, tampered with one of his signs near the Meadowlark Senior Center.

In the letter, located at!response-to-attack-mailer/kizuq Bency reprints each allegation on the mailer distributed by the Candidate Honesty Committee, and then responds to it.

“In Rio Rancho LLC apparently doesn’t mean Limited Liability Corporation anymore,” Bency wrote. “During this election it seems to mean it seems to mean Liars for Lonnie Clayton.
“I’m sorry for this lengthy letter but it is important you know the truth before voting again.”

Bency was the top vote-getter in the four man District 6 city council election on March 1. He received 535, more than double than second-place finisher Clayton. But because he did not receive more than 50 percent of the total vote, the two will meet in a runoff election April 12.

Those sponsoring the committee and its affiliated web site, http//, contend they are simply responding to Bency’s original campaign mail piece. They believe Bency took unnecessary shots at Clayton in that mailer.

The Bency mailer includes a graphic depicting a mannequin named Walter used by comedian Jeff Dunham, with the caption “No More Dummies” underneath. The back side lists Bency’s record, which committee members say is inaccurate or distorted.

“Bency fired the first shot. He started it,” said Dave Heil, a Sandoval County Commission candidate who is the registered owner of the web site who said he is allowing the committee to use it.

Regarding the sign incident, the city generated its news release sometime Wednesday. The city puts only some news released on its web site; learned of the existence of this statement from Harry Gordon, husband of city councilor Cheryl Everett. 

Both Gordon and Everett contributed financially to the Candidate Honesty Committee whose name is on the document that Bency disputes. has unsuccessfully petitioned the city to be included on its news distribution list in the past. City public information officer Annamarie Garcia almost immediately e-mailed the release to upon request.

The release is headlined “Investigation of Alleged Tampering with Candidate’s Roadside Sign” and reads: 

“The Rio Rancho Police Department has received a citizen self-reporting form concerning damage to personal property. 

“The alleged incident occurred on 03/18/2016 and involved signage belonging to a candidate for political office. The owner of the sign reported the incident on 03/22/2016 by filing the self-reporting form with the Department.

“Although a suspect was identified in the original citizen account, preliminary investigation does not support that allegation. The incident is under investigation at this this time, and no charges have been filed.” 

The release goes on to list Paul Rogers, deputy chief of the Rio Rancho Police Department, as the contact person for further information.

Rogers said a police report that includes statements from Clayton, Bency and Joe Nieto, who Bency identified as a witness. Rogers said based on those statements, police have closed the case and no charges will be filed.

“We interviewed the three people involved, and the gentleman who evidently witnessed the incident (Nieto) could not identify who the subject was who was tampering with the sign,” Rogers said. 

“There aren’t any statements. There’s a police report that says who was interviewed and this was their reply. 

“The investigation is done now. When that release was sent out was basically yesterday (Wednesday) at this time (about 5 p.m.) In the ensuing time the officer has completed the investigation.

“There are no charges at this time. Unless new evidence is presented there will be none for tampering with the sign. However, I can’t tell you anything in reference to any future actions for a false police report.”

The report is under case number 16002253.

Because Rogers returned calls shortly after the records section closed for the day, was not able to obtain the actual police report and post it as a link from this story. Rogers said the several members of the Records  Department would be attending training in Albuquerque on Friday and it may be closed all day. will post a link to the police report by updating this story when the documents become available, either Friday or Monday.

By comparison, the District 1 runoff between Jim Owen and Joshua Hernandez has been relatively quiet. Owen, who was mayor from 2002-06, defeated Hernandez, the CEO of Club Rio Rancho, by 80 votes in a three-person race in the general election.

Hernandez did turn in his first campaign finance report on Wednesday, and it was posted shortly thereafter on the city’s web site. 

City clerk Steve Ruger said the reason other candidate reports for the runoff were not posted immediately upon receipt was the individual who handles that job was out of town and the city wanted to publish all the documents simultaneously. He said all future reports, including the final report for the general campaign, should be posted within a day of their submission to the clerk.

The first report was due March 15. Ruger said every candidate was given an extra day due to the quick turnaround with the runoff, Ruger said Hernandez did pay the find when he turned in the report and the clerk’s office would not accept any late report without payment of any fine.

Hernandez reported $450 in new contributions and a transfer of $2,063.42 from the previous campaign. He reported two minor new expenditures totaling $38.55.

Meanwhile, early voting began Wednesday at the Loma Colorado Library and City Hall. Polling places for the runoff will be exactly the same as the municipal election balloting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Chicken issue scratched
from city council agenda

 George Orwell would love Rio Rancho.

For the second time three nights city government meetings focused on animal issues, which no doubt would have pleased the author of Animal Farm.

On Monday the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting dealt with horses in the bosque. Wednesday, at the Rio Rancho City Council, the major topic was chickens and goats.

After a lengthy discussion, a proposed change to the city’s animal ordinance was formally pulled from the agenda. It was a procedural move to allow city staff to work on the proposal and re-introduce it as a new item rather than having the council taking up a tabled item and have to piecemeal changes it might want to make.  

Mayor Gregg Hull, who appeared to be the likely version of the issue, recommended action be delayed because he said he had issues with language regarding pygmy goats. Councilor Chuck Wilkins pointed out the small goats were being placed in the same classification in some areas and being treated as livestock in other ways, meaning potentially five goats could be allowed to live in an apartment but e same animal could be slaughtered for meat.

It was seemingly the first time in months the two men were on the same side of an issue and actually agreed on the rationale behind it. Perhaps it was the nature of the topic, but the entire council discussion was actually friendly and often humorous. Councilor Lonnie Clayton, who opposed the ordinance, even attempted to replicate the noise a brood of chickens can make; prompting laughter from the audience and will likely be making the rounds on social media soon.  

In that vein, readers may wonder what’s next for the animal ordinance -- lions and tigers and bears oh my? No, most likely just new language for these two animals that could come back to the council at its next meeting on April 13. 

But councilor Cheryl Everett said she may bring forth language to govern birds in the future, so just like proverbial chicken the council may have to cross that road when it gets to it.

The Governing Body did manage to address some serious issues, including making the water utility a separate department with its own department head. They also authorized three big-dollar water-related projects.

Tue, March 22, 2016


Police complaint filed against Clayton;
committee mailer, website attack Bency


What had been a quiet runoff election campaign in Rio Rancho turned ugly on Tuesday as a police complaint was filed against one candidate and web site and mailer attacked another.

Incumbent city councilor Lonnie Clayton was accused of damaging a sign put up by his opponent, former councilor Dave Bency.

The incident was witnessed, according to a police report on case number 16002253, by Joe Nieto. According to the statement filed by Bency, Nieto said last Friday “he was (driving) on Meadowlark Lane. He slowed down as he observed a senior man wrestling to take down my R.E. (re-election) sign … he positively ID’d the man as Lonnie Clayton, Cossack hat and all.”

The report includes an account of a verbal exchange between Nieto, president of the VFW Auxiliary, and the man he identified as Clayton.

Upon learning of the incident on Sunday, Bency wrote that he checked on his steel-reinforced sign that had been posted near the Meadowlark Senior Center, traditionally the polling place that gets the most voters. Bency wrote that the sign was pushed over and damaged.

Clayton did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Sign hijinks are nothing new in Rio Rancho political campaigns. What is new, and perhaps more sinister, is the use of the internet combined with traditional mail pieces being used to attack a candidate – especially when the individuals making those attacks are not identified.

A group called the Candidate Honesty Committee has sent out a mailer to homes in Rio Rancho strongly criticizing Bency’s record and accusing him of “lies on top of lies, misstated facts, unethical character and personal attacks” and states that Bency “claims credit for others’ work.”

The mailer encourages readers to “vote for Lonnie Clayton April 12 for City Council District 6” and directs readers to the web site

The website has been registered since 2012 to Dave Heil, a strong supporter of Mayor Gregg Hull who is currently a Republican candidate for the Sandoval County Commission.

The treasurer for the Campaign Honesty Committee, as listed in public documents on file with the city clerk, is Larry L. Ross, another strong supporter of the mayor in the past.

Ross did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Reached by telephone Tuesday evening, Hull said he had not seen the document or web site and had no comment.

“I have not been and have no need to be involved with it,” Hull said.

Heil confirmed he has had the domain name for several years but said he turned it over to the committee. He said he had seen the current content on the site and was told those who posted information on it had “thoroughly researched” the information, which Bency supporters strongly dispute.

Campaign documents officially creating the committee were filed with the city clerk on March 9, eight days after Bency defeated runner-up Clayton by 274 votes in the March 1 general election. But because Bency did not get more than 50 percent of the total vote in the four-man race, he and the second-place finisher are in the runoff even though his margin of victory was greater than the total number of votes Clayton received in the first balloting (261).

According to campaign finance documents on the city web site, four contributions have been made to fund the committee. District 3 city councilor Cheryl Everett gave $200, her husband Harry Gordon donated $100 and Ross gave $100.

The fourth contribution came from the “Reform Sandoval County PAC (Political Action Committee)” which includes the Alberta Avenue home address of county commissioner Don Chapman.

Just one expense is listed:  $753.07 for the “mailer” was paid to the Center for Hands-on Learning, 206 Frontage Road in Rio Rancho. According to a link to the Business Services Division of the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, the agent for that non-profit business is Genie Ryan.

She and her husband Mike are former publishers of the Rio Rancho Observer and currently write a weekly column for the Albuquerque Journal.

No in-kind payment for use of the web site was listed on teh committee expense report. The mailer was sent using bulk postage permit No. 1741, but it was not immediately clear who owns that permit. Mailing charges were not listed on the expense report but may or may not have been included in the "mailer" payment to the Center for Hands-on Learning.

None of the names associated with the mailer or website are listed on the mailer or website.

Speaking of finance reports, the city posted the first ones for the runoff. The committee and three out of four candidates submitted their documents that were due on March 15.

District 1 candidate Josh Hernandez, who lost the general election to Jim Owen by 80 votes, said Tuesday evening he missed an e-mail from city clerk Steve Ruger with the runoff deadlines and will file his report on Wednesday.

Hernandez is subject to a fine of $10 per day for each day past the deadline. He said he had some leftover money from the general election and has raised less than $1,000 for the runoff.

“It was a misunderstanding and I accept responsibility for it,” Hernandez said. “I am not trying to hide anything.”





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