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Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart files ethics complaints against commissioners, county manager

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- Sheriff Kim Stewart has filed ethics complaints against County Manager Fernando Macias, as well as County Commissioners Diana Murillo and Susana Chaparro after comments that were made during an August 9 board meeting. She is referring to the comments as an alleged "political attack during an election year."

According to the document obtained by ABC-7, Sheriff Stewart filed the complaints to the county on August 16.

Stewart was accused by Murillo in the August 9 meeting of "throwing the board under the bus" for blaming the commission for a lack of school resource officers in the Gadsden Independent School District. Stewart alleges that Murillo waited until she had left the chambers to make any sort of comment when she knew Stewart would not be able to respond.

In the complaints, Stewart also accuses County Manager Macias and Commissioner Chaparro of misrepresenting facts regarding both the budget and vacancies within the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Office.

ABC-7 has reached out to all three parties named in the complaint. Murillo told ABC-7 Wednesday morning that she was just stating facts and that her comments made during the meeting should stand on their own merit "without further explanation." We have not heard back from Chaparro or Macias at this time. Several requests have been sent for response.

August 16 Ethics Complaint by KVIA ABC-7 on Scribd

The following is a response from County Manager Fernando Macias:

“The information shared by Commissioner Murillo at the August 9, 2022, Board of County Commissioners’ meeting was accurate and supported by the County’s Human Resource Department records and official budgetary information from the Finance Department.”
The information provided below in response to Sheriff Stewart’s evidence to support her claim.

  1. “Commissioner Murillo said correctly we have 19 vacancies but indicated we needed to fill them. This is not possible given the HR mandate we keep those vacancies as long as we run our own Academy. Macias made comments DASO has 44 vacant positions. Again, coherent questions about these “vacancies” would have been “fair.”

RESPONSE: There is no County or HR mandate to hold positions for the Academy. Historically, even when there was a hiring freeze in place, it did not apply to public safety, including DASO. In the past, because we understand the importance of keeping a full roster of public safety, HR and DASO developed a plan to accommodate the hiring of qualified candidates for the academy in excess of their available positions if necessary. However, the plan was never implemented because DASO never reached hiring capacity.

Furthermore, County policy does allow a position to be reclassified or renamed to meet operational needs. See the HR record of vacancies for DASO attached.

  1. “Commissioner Murillo said in reference to the former Sheriff, in essence, “…he had some vacancies, but was able to fill his SRO’s.” This was a joint contract with GISD and only covered half the expense of the positions. DASO attempted to re-negotiate for a higher amount in 2019 and GISD did not respond. This was also a political ploy done in 2018 when my predecessor was running for Sheriff, as he further shorted Patrol by creating SRO position(s).”

RESPONSE: Lack of funding for SROs is not due to the County’s unwillingness to provide funding. Sheriff Stewart’s commitment to entering a contract with GISD would be reflected in her continuing the conversations that have laid dormant since 2019 by her own admission.

  1. Commissioner Murillo said we received 1.3 million for DASO fleet so we can hire. We cannot move operational/capital outlay into payroll expenses.

RESPONSE: Doña Ana County Resolution No. 2018-55, specifically allows the County Manager to approve line-item revisions associated with salaries not to exceed 25% of adopted budget and further allows line-item revisions with capital, not to exceed 25% of the adopted budget. Any adjustments above this amount can be approved by the Board of County Commissioners. No such requests were made. See attached resolution.

The Sheriff is fully aware of the ability to have money moved from one portion of the budget to another. For the last fiscal year, DASO requested eight budget adjustments totaling $979,600. DASO did not use $1,670,000 in personnel costs and $589,000 in operation funds for a total of $2,300,000 million. All of this is correct information that was shared at the meeting.

  1. Commissioner Chaparro erroneously commented I had come before the board to request a $50,000 server and implied it was for DASO. I spoke up on behalf of the IT department because DASO’s server had been found to be inadequate just days before the final budget was to be presented to the Commission and it should have been brought to the Commission’s attention, but obviously wasn’t going to be.

RESPONSE: This item was placed in the IT department’s budget for the benefit of DASO, as it pays for additional storage that will allow the County to retain a greater amount of video from the Sheriff’s vehicle and body cameras.

This is the only issue that was raised before the County Commission regarding DASO’s budget.

“County government should be focused on the public safety of the community instead of engaging in accusations back and forth that serve no public benefit.” -Fernando R. Macias

Article Topic Follows: News

Jason McNabb

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