Town’s Secret Building Inspections for Primos and Cuates

By: Bill Whaley
7 October, 2015

(Breaking News) The County has encouraged staff to issue an RFP for a Farmer’s Market on the Complex parking lot for next summer. I’m betting about half the growers and vendors will join the exodus from the over-crowded Plaza to take advantage of local traffic on Paseo del Sur and a chance to “expand.”  

Everybody in Town is pretty happy with Cutler Paving on the Plaza. Congrats to the mayor and council. The Kansas Company is working quickly to resurface the historic district. With good weather and well wishing, the Mayor will be able to congratulate himself and his so-called manager.

According to insiders at the Town, the Department of Public Works, where the little Cowboy ropes in contracts for friends, the Council and Mayor could have used “Cutler” for years and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars while restoring the streets in neighborhoods. But that program didn’t fit into the Cowboy culture, which aims at keeping the “Contracts for Cuates” program alive and well. Instead of “fixing” the roads, the Public Works Department allegedly “fixes” the contracts to meet procurement.

You’d think Barrone would have figured this one out by now.

Maybe “contracts for cuates” is legal like it is for Luis, but it sure isn’t ethical. If you seek documents under the Inspection of Public Records Act at the Town of Taos, you have to specify where they are because, we’re told, the Public Works Department keeps their files discreetly locked away in a private office, apart from prying eyes in the Town Clerk’s office.

In the Friction’s continuing investigation of Public Works Department doings, we’ve discovered more discrepancies and violations of the procurement code, covered up and ignored by the Bellis/Barrone/Hahn team. Here’s how it worked last summer, 2014.

The Town needed a surveyor, allegedly for a cost of less than $5,000 to complete the road to nowhere or whatever. The procurement code requires three (3) bonafide bids but, as far as we can tell, only got one. Sure one was sent to Horizon, Inc. a company that helps the “disabled” but they don’t have surveyors, and according to the paperwork, responded with the words: “decline procurement.” (The Mayor encouraged the Cesar Chavez day organizer to contact Horizon for disabled “scholars.” Like the Mayor?) There is no record in the file of a third bid for a surveyor. So you’ve got one genuine bid, the guy who got the job; one fake bid; and a third “no bid.” Meanwhile, the Public Works Department, Procurement Code Office, and Finance Department all signed off. Everyone covers up for the cowboy).

Occasionally Public Works also furnishes letters for procurement from friendly contract engineers (like Souder-Miller?) who say they can’t do the job. So then the Public Works Director can hire his favorite hometown engineer, Alex. We’re all for giving locals work but not at the expense of the taxpayer. If the Town is going to give all the work to Alex, why not hire him full-time? A Hundred-thousand dollars here and there adds up.

The Town had a chance to hire a local and recent college graduate, a civil engineer, but he didn’t meet the Director and the Manager’s notion of “cuate” or “outsider”: or maybe it’s “no locals need apply.” Town officials love to preach about providing jobs for kids who go away to college but can’t come home ’cause there are no jobs. Not for locals, anyway.

Here’s some interesting news that raises issues about the integrity of Hahn, Bellis, and Barrone’s public pronouncements. Apparently, a qualified building inspector works for the Town at the Buildings and Grounds department. Why isn’t she doing inspections? (We know but we’re still asking.)

And here’s the kicker: Mr. Francis “French” Espinosa, the Town’s Public Works Director, was sent to school to get a “GB 98” in 2013 by former manager Oscar Rodriguez. So when French leaves town employment he is eligible to work as a “general building” contractor,  thanks to the town. (He got an associates degree in design from TVI, we hear.) Anyway, he passed the GB 98 exam and, according to more than one source, signs off on building plans and inspections when its convenient.

Bellis says he can’t find someone to sign off on a few garages, as he has so delightfully characterized the building trade. Maybe they have “purple hair.” Hey Contractors, go see French…if you’re a friend. Or ignore the requirements and beg for forgiveness or file a lawsuit for unfair treatment.

It appears that you can fool Fritz Hahn all the time, the Mayor most of the time, but Bellis, they say knows what’s going on even as he scapegoats employees and sends long rambling letters to the Council to cover his own failings.

(Political News) We hear the Mayor and Manager are trying to get rid of Councilor Andrew Gonzales and replace him with artist Steve Kilborn, the Potter from Pilar in the next election. Meanwhile folks on the Plaza expect Cindy Spray to grab Fred Peralta’s seat when he retires. 

So it goes in the Town that Time forgot.

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