Guest editorial by Peter Dinelli, former chief deputy district attorney and former chief public safety officer for the city of Albuquerque.
From the Editors: Dinelli questions the need for expensive out-of-state legal counsel to negotiate the U.S. Department of Justice’s consent decree reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department. Last month, BurqueMedia.com filed a report about a letter we received dated May 26 containing details of an audit of the expenses and payments to DOJ negotiator Scott Greenwood of Ohio. The audit found that Greenwood had not submitted all his required expense reports, and that he had been overpaid. Yesterday it was reported that the administration of Mayor Richard Berry has requested an extension of Greenwood’s contract that would pay him an additional $250,000, for a total of $1 million. Dinelli says it’s unclear if Greenwood’s services are even needed.
Berry Making ‘Fools’ of City Council, Taxpayers
An additional $250,000, on top of the $750,000 already paid for the services of the attorneys who negotiated the DOJ consent decree, is absolutely obscene. Why are their services even needed when the DOJ consent decree has already been approved, it is being implemented and the City Attorney’s office has been doing the attorney work for some time now without them, and with the city having also hired a retired federal judge to assist in writing APD’s new policies?
Additionally, the city is paying the federal monitor, James Ginger, who is also from out of state, $4.5 million for his audits and reviews. When you add the additional $125,000 being asked for by the out-of-state attorneys to defend the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) bus project for the city, you can conclude that city taxpayers and the City Council are being made total fools of by the Berry administration.
These are “no bid” contracts being awarded to out-of-state attorneys by the Berry administration. The ART bus project is not the first time the city has had a project that required attorney assistance, and it should already have the expertise to defend it. Most if not all of the attorney work should be done by the City Attorney’s office or local attorneys who would be just as capable of doing the work.
New Mexico has some of the finest civil rights attorneys is the country—not to mention a few retired federal judges who just as easily could have negotiated the consent decree. Instead, the Berry administration enters into no-bid contracts and says they need “special” expertise. The hiring of out-of-state attorneys on no-bid contracts is an admission at the very least that the City Attorney’s office is incapable of doing its job, or, even worse, that it employs a bunch of incompetent attorneys that cannot adequately represent the city.
City Attorney Jessica Hernandez claims the out-of-state attorneys are being hired for their “extensive experience” in given areas. The City Attorney’s office should already have full-time assistant city attorneys or deputy city attorneys who have the experience and can do all the work at a fraction of the cost.
The City Attorney’s office has an annual budget of approximately $12 million and employs 33 assistant city attorneys, along with attorneys assigned to the various departments at an average salary of between $50,000 and $80,000 a year. It also has a support staff of paralegals, secretaries and administrative assistants; a litigation division; and a general counsel for APD that should have the experience to do all the work, both on the DOJ consent decree and the ART bus project.
The City Council needs to stop being played for fools and put a stop to the no-bid contracts and order City Attorney Hernandez and her department to do their jobs or get new ones.