Social Justice: Taxpayers and Employees Pay for Corruption
The Arbitrary and Capricious Politics of Retaliation
Cover Ups Uncovered
Facts begin to Emerge
This morning’s news concerning Taos County’s firing of its detention center director speaks volumes. The jail administrator, Johna Gonzales, was the last weak link in County Government, due to the arbitrary and capricious nature of her administration, alleged romances, and mercurial approach to management. The new County Executive, Manager Leandro Cordova, former finance department chief, is known for running a tight ship. By his side, Attorney Bob Malone, is a stickler for the “rule of law.”
Former Detention Center Jail Administrator William Cordova, who helped smooth the transition from the old jail to the new facility, is the only administrator at the detention center to evade scandal: not a single lawsuit was filed during his administration for suicide, escapes, abuse, etc. But he and his assistant Mary Mylet were fired for operating a “tight ship.”
Cordova was accused of leaking information—punished for free speech— to the press about one Johna Gonzales and a commissioner. Though the case was never proven, call it the politics of retaliation, his career was cut short. Regardless the County had built the complex “under budget and on time”: nobody went to jail, according to former Commissioner Dan Barrone. (Barrone can’t say that about town hall.)
Today, due to what appears to be “honest government” the County is a model for other public institutions, institutions, which can’t get their collective heads around the notion of straight dealing.
Recently, the community and The Taos News discovered that Kit Carson Electric Coop (KCEC) was being mismanaged on a grand scale. Huge debts due to investments in diverse enterprises, mangled accounting practices and cover-ups, excessive fees and travel expenses paid to the Board of Trustees, weak cash controls resulting in stick-ups, and the complaints go on and on. Activists have been crying out in the wilderness for years about corrupt and inane practices. But they have been ignored until now as the Coop slides toward bankruptcy, receivership, and insolvency.
Even the feds and the state have conspired with the Coop to expand Broadband services and stick the members of the electric-side with the bill, resulting in sky-rocketing electric rates. $60 million was not enough so the Coop invested revenue generated by electricity sales to subsidize the Broadband venture. The Coop claims they have between 1300 and 1700 customers. (Prove it, I say!)
At the Coop never have so few exploited so many due to the whims of one man. Now the fate of the Coop is in the hands of various state and federal agencies, agencies who have over-ruled the wishes of the members who protested in the past. The PRC is caught in a Catch 22 situation.
Town of Taos
Now comes the Town of Taos. Two years ago residents supported a new team in hopes electing an honest administration: Mayor Dan Barrone, Councilor Fritz Hahn, and Councilor Judy Cantu. Specifically, the Chicano Chamber of Commerce, veterans of politics and elective offices, lobbied the new team for a “forensic audit” due to years of fraud, mismanagement, violations of the Procurement code, and the anti-donation clause at the Town of Taos.
But, thanks to Manager Rick Bellis, the power behind the puppets and the procrastinator par excellence, nothing happened. A few sour apples got expelled but several road apples remained.
While Bellis continues an arbitrary and capricious battle against the Plaza Merchants, whimsically closing the Plaza to traffic, the concert groupie and promoter, who sees himself as the reincarnation of Bill Graham, has covered up violations of the law at Town Hall. Just as he ignores simple things like the sign code or spirit of dark skies ordinance, so he ignores the nuts and bolts of local development: no teeth in the Planning Department, no building inspector, code enforcer, etc.
He hired a a world-class marketing agency, who, after several months, had not discovered Taos and its diverse Native Hispanic and Native American people. (They missed the orientation.)
Even as Bellis promotes photo ops, Kongo concerts and pig roasts, for the Mayor, he ignores incompetent and corrupt Public Works, Finance, and Police Departments.
At the latter a records clerk, and sister to the perp in a controversial cop case, has more influence and power than the chief himself, according to current and former employees.. Not only is Sergeant Jani Davis up against “sexism” but she appears to be the victim of “movida making” inside the cop shop. Few Anglos understand the native appreciation of the “political movida.”
If Luis Reyes is a dedicated energizer bunny run amok, Bellis is a frustrated 70s groupie—garish lights, pig roasts, Kongo Juvenilia, craft beer, a haircut from the Disco era. He seems intent on trying to sequester and transform the vital historic character of the Plaza as well as the Native Hispanic and American Indian culture into a museum piece for gawkers while freezing out the locals and the merchants who pay the bills. Cultural marginalization and the cover-up of corruption are anti-business.
The Chicano Chamber of Commerce
Although the Disappeared Barber of El Prado took his leave, he instilled a sense of “justice” in his followers, like Gene Sanchez and Arsenio Cordova. (The pesky insect and Chonky i.e. the Gringo is mere “recorder” of the news.) Since the new mayor and council refused to conduct a “forensic audit,” the Chicano Chamber has conducted its own investigation.
Among the whistle blowers who stepped up, few will have the impact of Antonio Daniel Martin (pronounced Marteeen). He grew up in northern New Mexico, mostly in Rio Arriba County, under the aegis of his father, the legendary Chicano lawyer, Rudy Martin. You might call Antonio a “zealot” for the code, unlike the Town of Taos, where the mayor and council, executives like Attorney Brian James, Manager Oscar Rodriquez, Finance Director Marietta Fambro, and Public Works Director Francis “French” Espinsoa, as well as a host of underlings, “preferred” to ignore the lawful rules of procurement. The corruption infects just about every department head, according to the affidavit.
As Antonio has said repeatedly in his affidavit and deposition, they wanted him to work “in the grey area.” He wouldn’t so they fired him. But he recorded their instructions to allegedly violate the procurement code even as he was terminated for failing to follow illegal orders and going public about the Cordova administration.
Though the newly elected mayor, councilors, and executives ignored the canary, the Chicano Chamber and its supporters took him seriously. Now the Town has paid him $50,000 in hush money though he never even filed a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, a host of other employees at Town Hall under the Barrone-Bellis administration are claiming “wrongful termination” and filing lawsuits. Sometimes your outsider politicos don’t know the “good ‘uns from the bad ‘uns.” Thanks to lawsuits more information about the corrupt doings is coming to light.
Due to these mind-numbing lawsuits, which produced some of what’s in the public record today, and due to the Council, Mayor, and Manager’s refusal to hold miscreants accountable for the millions of dollars wasted on road and building projects, the Chamber will be posting long boring documents and reams of evidence here at Taos Friction.
Copies of the “Community Corruption Package,” which material is growing like Coop debt, have been forwarded to the IG at the USDA/RUS, NMAG, NMDFA. Apparently the NM State Auditor has been conducting its own investigation of the Town. We are at a unique moment in the community when years of corruption are merging and fusing in the common interests of elected officials. Not everyone participates.
The Chamber doesn’t have much confidence in outside agencies because they always say, “You Taosenos just like to fight.” Every year is “1847” in Taos. The Town and Coop frequently worked together, the County less so. But there’s a budding interest in Commissioners Fambro, Gallegos, and Blankenhorn to work with the ethically empty suits at Town Hall and that poses a worry. We need checks and balances in this community due to the virus of corruption. Remember when the County sued the Town to stop annexation.
Mostly it’s time for the voters and the aspiring candidates to learn about the rat’s nest on Camino de la Placita and on Civic Plaza Drive or to see what’s going on at one of its “69” buildings. It was way too much work for Cindy Spray so she dropped out early. But this is the stuff Bellis and the department heads didn’t tell you at your candidate’s orientation.
Today we post the Antonio Daniel Martin affidavit and the record of settlement with the Town of Taos. We have pungent excerpts from the Espinoza and Martin depositions, wherein French confesses to “frustration” with the code, using obscenities and sexually explicit language, while he also admits to his lack of credentials: a two-year degree from TVI. Yet he’s in charge of “10” departments.
Marietta did graduate from high school but has historically approved projects due to political pressure or because of her interest in holding onto “power.” The damage has been done to taxpayers, who have been defrauded by incompetence, devious decisions, and employees, who have been fired because they wouldn’t play the game.
This is what we call violations of “Social Injustice” on the municipal or mini scale. Some of Antonio’s interpretations, born of his paranoia, due to the corrupt culture, are wrong. But most of it rings true, according to insiders. In addition to recordings, Antonio says he has a lot of “exhibits.” The corruption at Town Hall has also destroyed the lives of victims.
Affidavit of Antonio Daniel Martin
I began working for the Town of Taos August 5, 2014. I was offered the position of Purchasing Agent/Financial Specialist with an hourly wage of $15.42 per hour. I was told that this was a training position because I was not qualified for the position of Procurement Officer.
I hold 2 Masters Degrees in Public Administration and Community Planning. I hold a Baccalaureate Degree inPolitical Science. I have I O years of experience in financial services and over 12 years working in a law office. I have 3 years as a State of New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Tax Complianpe Specialist. As this relates to the qualifications of Procurement Officer, the position I applied for was 6 months in Government Procurement and an associate’ s degree. I was told by Marietta Fambro that she did not perceive my education as meeting the qualifications. This statemeµt made by a woman with a High School education.
I accepted the position with an understanding that by January I, 2014 I would qualify for the position of Procurement Officer. On December 31, 2013 I found out that this was not going to take place. I was then told that February 28, 2014 I would be appointed, but this too did not happen. Rather than having an evaluation the following week, I found myself in Human Resources for a perceived violation disclosed as “insubordination, authority, and control”.
At Human Resources, I was told that I had to work with directors to find a way to procure items, services, and construction procurement. My statement was that I had worked with departments, yet procurement was still in violation due to Town of Taos policy and/or violations of State Procurement. I was then told by the HR director that I had to not be so rigid in my internretations of the codes, but rather find the grey areas of the law. I stopped him and advise that I was not going to compromise my position, my ethics, or my morals for anyone. I advised them that I would continue to follow the procurement code as it was my duty as a Purchasing Agent in a Central Procurement Office: I was pushed for over 45 minutes to change my position and that I was misinformed and did not understand that the Procurement Code was interpretive.
I continued to hold my position saying I would not violate my ethics and that if it was in conflict with the Town of Taos’ position then they did not have to keep me. I also advised in the conversation that there were substantial violations of both the town and state codes and that I had throughout my employment attempted to correct these errors before processing the requisitions and distributing the Purchase Order. I then was sent back to the office.
Marietta returned to the Finance Department after our meeting and advised that she would not make a determination about keeping me until Friday, March 7, 2014. Throughout the week of March 3, 2014, I contacted the State Auditor’s Office seeking guidance. I was asked by Dianne Jaramillo an Auditor to come in and provide a statement. I have yet to go in for a statement, however did provide a brief statement online at the reporting link of the State Auditor.
On Friday March 14, 2014, at 4:45 PM Marietta came into my office closed the door and asked me if I had reconsidered my position about following her authority when it comes to processing procurement. I advised her that throughout the week I have been bombarded with requests for bids, and that all the requests were asking me to violate the procurement code.
Throughout the week of March 3, 2014, I contacted the State Auditor’s Office seeking guidance. I was asked by Dianne Jaramillo an Auditor to come in and provide a statement. I have yet to go in for a statement, however did provide a brief statement online at the reporting link of the State Auditor. I advised her that I would not violate any part of the code and would not be pushed to do so. I then advised her that it was my duty to follow the code and that included reporting procurement violations. She made the statement “you would report violations without giving people a warning or c01Tecting the problem”? I disclosed that there were “years of material violations and that it was my duty to report violations as a designee in a Central Procurement Office”. I advised her that because of her position not allowing invoices or determination letters to be scanned or placed as hard copy into the backup she too was in violation of the procurement code. I advised her that all information would be reported to the State Auditor’s Office. She then told me that we would be visiting Human Resources on Monday, March 10, 2014. I called in on Monday March 10 and Tuesday March 11, 2014 and reported to work on Wednesday March 12 at which time I was immediately removed to Human Resources and advised of my termination.
Fire Department Procurement
The discussion around the perceived violations was around a procurement request made by the Town Fire Department. On Friday, February 28, 2014, I received a request to procure 57, 5 gallon buckets of Class A Fire Foam. Upon reviewing the requisition I discovered several errors. First and most evident was that the quotes received differed in quantity, two requests were below the free shipping threshold and one was for the desired quantity. The second error which is a violation of 13-1-165, Name Brand Use, was done by the Fire Department. This is a violation based on the fact that the Procurement Officer must make a determination prior to solicitation of the name brand product. Because of both errors, I began to research and request information.
I contacted the lowest price vendor and asked if they would reduce their price, I was advised by the representative that the price of $82.00 was as low as they would go. I contacted the second vendor MES and advised that the quantity that they had quoted was wrong and asked if they would consider requiting using the correct quantity. The representative advised he would, I then asked (which was the error) if they could beat $82.00 per 5 gallon container as LN Curits had quoted that price, the representative stated that he could and would send out a new quote.
About 30 minutes later I received a quote for $81.54 per bucket. I called and advised the Fire Department.
Shortly after receiving the quote and advising the Fire Department, Marietta came into · my office quite upset and staited telling me I violated the procurement code. I asked her for information and she said that the Fire Chief was upset that I had called the vendors and that I received quotes after disclosing price and vendor. I advised that it was my duty to find lowest price. She continued to say I violated the procurement code and I continued to say that the procurement code was not violated. The conversation was heated from the beginning and she continued to demand that I find the part of the code that supports my position. I asked the same of Marietta. She continued to demand and I advised that I would give her an analysis of the procurement code showing that there was nothing that prohibited my actions, I then asked her to leave my office. I immediately requested guidance from the Deputy Director of the Assistant Director of State Purchasing. I wrote my review and found no perceived violations and provided her with a copy. The following Monday I was in the Human Resources Office.
After the meeting at HR, I received an e-mail from State Purchasing advising that I did not violate the procurement code, but did violate a best practice and I should in the future refrain from creating an auction scenario among vendors. I forwarded the e-mail to Marietta with a statement that I would continue to follow the Procurement Code and that I would be extra diligent that I did not violate it in any way.
Taos Municipal Court
One of the first procurement violations that I encountered was for the Municipal Court. The requisition was for Ankle Bracelet monitoring. At this time I do not remember the name of the individual but do remember the circumstances. The requisition initially came in with a statement on the cover sheet that the provider is recommended because they have used him for over 25 years. I immediately questioned this and asked for guidance. Miranda Quintana stated that it was a good requisition request because they had acquired three quotes. I told her that the Town of Taos Procurement Code states that all procurement over $10,000.00 had to go th the Procurement Office and had to be completed using a small bid. I was told that@fhe quote was advantageous to the Town of Taos because it was far below the two other quotes attached.
In reflection of this procurement today, the procurement violated the code in multiple ways. First it violates the State Procurement Code State Use Act. Second it violates the Town of Taos Code by not having this taken to bid. Third, it violates State Law because these services have extended beyond the 8 year maximum without having gone out to formal bid. Fourth the limits of this contract are in violation of the state and town limits for contracts. The contract was intentionally split by creating an annual contract below $30,000.00 to keep it within the authority of the Mayor’s signatory authority. The limits for State Procurement are violated because any contract that may exceed $60,000.00 must go through a fo1mal bid process. This procurement in two years violates that requirement. Lastly, the bidder himself had insider knowledge about the
$30,000.00 council requirement and adjusted the bid price to fall exactly at that limit.
This procurement was approved by Miranda Quintana without any determination letter or formal process. The Procurement Officer intentionally and willfully violated both State and Town Procurement. I verbally objected to this procurement and told that since it was a contract extension that procurement had been met. Upon further examination I have never found any previous procurement file for this contract.
I was approached by Julie Skansie the Building Officer for the Town of T&os and presented with a BID for the Library HVAC. I was told to put it out for BID and post on the website. The BID was published on the website; however the Procurement Officer never published or asked it to be published in the Newspaper. I was told to send it directly to two bidders in particular. The vendors who were to be contacted were Bond Plumbing and Phoenix Mechanical. Rather than limiting competition, I sent it out to every plumbing and heating business in Taos via e-mail.
We received four bids which B & D plumbing had the lowest bid, just under $60,000.00 before GRT. All other bids were at or over $80,000.00. I was told that the Town of Taos had a budget of $50,000.00 and that the contract would be awarded. The lowest price vendor provided the information about a system for review. The contract was awarded, but it was not till the last week of my employment it was discovered that the system did not meet BID requirements. The system had different requirement and I presented the information to the Facilities Director, Steve Kennebeck. I did not hear anything prior to my termination.
This BID violated procurement in the fact that it did not meet the State Use Act requirements. It violated procurement in the fact that there was a tour of the facility prior to the
BID being officially published. The BID itself was never reviewed by an engineer or P-Tab prior to being submitted, nor had professional guidance as per State Law.
The procurement of Audio and Video Services for the New Mexico Municipal League during September 2013 was the clearest violation of the procurement code for small purchases. In October, I received a requisition request from Facilities for payment of these services. I immediately questioned the procurement due to the fact that it was procurement after the fact. What I discovered upon my investigation is that it violated the procurement code in multiple areas. First the services violated the State Use Act. Second, no other quotations were sought a violation of the Town of Taos Procurement Code. Third, price was not negotiated. Fourth, it was procurement after the fact.
I blocked payment of this multiple times until I was told that it had to be processed. I found in the Procurement Code that the prompt payment of goods and services had to be made. I wrote a determination letter and attached the invoice and e-mails as procurement after the fact proof. I was then told by Marietta and Miranda that I was not to include the determination letter, nor place documentation regarding procurement after the fact in any procurement backup. Upon the Town of Taos Mayor, Darren Cordova’s departure I saw a trash can filled with documents, the first document was about Gypsey Frank and a demand for payment of services.
The procurement was finally processed as payment to NMML rather than Gypse Frank. I was told that it was to be processed this way to avoid issues of procurement. The procurement was processed under 13-1-98 A, government to government. This decision was made by the Procurement Officer and no determination letter was made.
Since August, 2013, I have advised the Town of Taos Finance Department that the Procurement Card purchases were in direct violation of the Procurement Code. I advised that the town policy did not have review of procurement made by procurement card. The policy also did not have any enforcement mechanisms.
The P-Card purchases were all approved by the Department Heads and Finance before being submitted for procurement review. Upon review over the /t7 months I have discovered numerous procurement issues. There have been countless services procured using the P-card. There are sensitive items procured including I Pads for executive and power equipment, all of which were purchased with disregard for lowest price. I have found that dues have been paid for council members and staff using the procurement card rather than 1 through PO.
The reason this is all in violation of the Town of Taos Procurement Code is because the policy states that the P-Card is to be used for emergency purchases. The cards have been used for everything departments would like to purchase without having to submit requests for purchase orders. To have written proof of violations I have indicated violations on the coversheet of each statement. These determinations are all on file in the finance department vault as we keep all statements.
The most flagrant violation I can present is the purchase of a room for the Town of Taos Manager, Oscar Rodriguez. Purchases for hotel rooms were done in the month of January 2014. One room in particular was purchased at the La Fonda de Santa Fe Hotel for an amount of over $300.00 per night. This is in clear violation of the Town Procurement Code and the State of New Mexico Per-Diem Act. Since I did not have authority to demand repayment, I noted the purchase under Cathy Romero’s backup for P-Card purchases.
I have on numerous occasions requested halting the P-Card program and submitted policy changes to Marietta Fambro for review to no avail. On a letter dated December 19, and released December 31, 2013, Oscar Rodriguez indicates that the Procurement Card would continue to be used as usual and that there are no changes to be made to the P-Card policy. This I perceive as willful intent of the Town of Taos to continue to violate State Procurement. This alone constitutes thousands of procurement violations as the town regularly procures in excess of 40,000.00 per month.
Parks Department Vehicle Purchase
In February 2014, I was asked by Valorie Mondragon if the Facilities Department could use State Contract to purchase a vehicle. I told her that yes she could and that it would meet procurement requirements. About a week later Miranda and Marietta came into my office and told me “you are not going to like this” as they told me that Council, Town Manager and the Mayor wanted this to go out for local bid. I told them that there was a State Contract and if the price was higher they would not be able to procure from a local vendor. I told them if they wanted to do that then they should provide me a written letter stating that they were wishing to procure the truck from a local vendor knowing that it was not the lowest price. This stopped the pressure from Executive.
I did request a quote from Friday Motors, yet the price was almost $6,000.00 above State Contract. Upon review of past vehicle purchases, the council had the previous Procurement Officer issue bids. The procurement Officer had competent legal direction and was advised not to procure vehicles outside of State Contract as it would be a violation.
The Town of Taos has interpreted system maintenance service agreements as being exempt under the Procurement Code 13-1-98 J, this is false. I have sought legal opinion with Marietta Fambro blocking my request on numerous occasions. I have taken the position that all service agreements are sole source and had to be procured under sole source procurement. I was told by both the Finance Director and Chief Procurement Officer that my interpretation was too narrow and that they believe that 13-1-98 J allowed them to procure maintenance services under the exemption. I asked them several times since to seek legal opinion or allow me to seek opinion from outside the town, all requests have been denied. I advised them I would not allow procurement to take place outside of sole source procurement. Though I am responsible for presenting procurement and have been told that my signature is to be placed on PO’s I do not make final detenninations. Using the Procurement Code Exemption rather than a Sole Source Procurement is a violation of State Law. The Town of Taos has used this exemption since I have been working with them for SLEUTH, and Tyler Technologies. I am not sure how past procurement was completed.
Planning Department Procurement
The Planning Department submitted procurement for a maintenance agreement for their CAD system which is used by the 911 Communications Center and the Police Department, this is the LAMA suite. The procurement was a breach of the Procurement Code because it was not authorized by anyone with signatory authority to enter into contract. It also did not utilize a town contract but a private contract in violation of the State Constitution’s Indemnification Clause. The procurement for maintenance was for a different amount than what was listed in the contract. This procurement was not processed under my tenure in the Purchasing Department.
The SLEUTH maintenance agreement has previously been discussed. The maintenance agreement is currently being procured in violation of State Law. The upgrade of SLEUTH is currently an issue that impacts the Town and County partnership of the 911 Communications JPA. As of March 11, 2014 the Police Chief advised council that the town was into the upgrade contract and would be out in excess of $21,000.00. In late January I was presented with a PO for SLEUTH upgrade from version 8.0 to version 10.0. I presented this information to Marietta Fambro, she advised that a PO was issued in July. I pulled a copy of the PO and delivered it to the Police Department. The following day, I was presented with a requisition for the 911 Communications upgrade from version 8.0 to version 10.0. I immediately questioned this procurement, as there was alreii.dy a contract attached and it was the day after the PD’s request. I determined that it was split procurement. I was told by the Chief Procurement Officer that since the PO for the PD was issued in July that it was okay.
I have yet to advise the council or mayor that the SLEUTH upgrade has not been vouchered though a PO has been issued, the same with Communications. SLEUTH has stated that their product is sole source and is willing to submit a letter stating that fact. It is my belief that since the PD and Communications contracts are dependent on each other, the procurement has been split a violation of State Law.
Clerk Assistant Procurement
On January 24, 2014 I was presented with a requisition for a temporary employee. This request stems from a meeting in December between the Clerk’s Office, HR and Procurement. The HR Director indicated to the Clerk that the individual Carol Valade would constitute an employee
and would have to be placed on payroll because she would use town property and be required to work specified hours. My position was that the hiring should go through HR and not Procurement. Miranda Quintana said that they could submit a temporary service contract.
A month later I was presented this contract, I immediately notified the Clerk that this had to go through NM Horizons before any procurement. I e-mailed NM Horizons to follow the State Use Act. A scope of work was sent and there was a reply that NM Horizons could provide the service. I notified the clerk that they needed to provide more information. The Clerk’s Office narrowed the scope as to be limited to Carol stating they needed someone with direct knowledge of the Town of Taos practices and procedures. I submitted the new scope to NM Horizons; they called and advised that this was a violation of the Procurement Code.
I notified the Clerk’s Office that it was a violation and that they had to utilize NM Horizons. I was told that they did not need the service any longer. The following day I was presented with a State Contract for temporary services. Miranda and Marietta both advised that rather than using it for the Clerk’s Office exclusively that they would issue the contract based on Task Order. I advised that this was a way to circumvent the State Use Act and that if they hired Carol Valade that they could possibly create a civil rights violation in addition to breaking the State Use Act law.
I was later presented with the State Contract for review. It being a State Contract I signed off on procurement review. The week of March 5, 2014 I was presented with a requisition for
$10,000 + which could only be approved by the Procurement Officer. I refused to review due to the fact that the information in the requisition was different than what I had signed off on. In addition, Carol Valade had already been working at the Clerk’s Office for two weeks and the requisition was now procurement after the fact. I do not know if this was approved. I did notice that the scope had again been changed to the duties of an Administrative Assistant without Town of Taos knowledge of practices or policy.
I was asked to develop small RFP’s for several Public Works engineering contracts, all of which origionally were awarded to Abeyta Engineering. I knew from a Public Information Request from Judi Cantu that all of them violated the Procurement Code. I advised Marietta and Miranda of the violations and wrote an extensive review of what was required for engineering contracts. I did not receive a response. The engineering contracts awarded to Abeyta Engineering violated multiple laws including the award criteria. In these files there are hand written notes that the Public Works Director Fransisco Espinosa did not want the RFP advertised.
The RFP’s should have gone through the formal process as per State Law, should have been advertised, and shoµld have had prior approval from the Town Council if awarded to a single vendor, all of which are not apparent in the file. Additionally, each proposal was never reviewed by a committee. These contracts are all in violation of State Law, Town Ordinance, and simply not validated awards for such contracts. I believe that this was common practice.
I refused to process the request and advised I would only do so if the Town Attorney had made a legal determination in writing, no request was ever made by the Finance Director or the Chief Procurement Officer. The last day of my employment these contracts were readied by the Chief Procurement Officer for posting to the website. I am uncertain if these will also be advertised in the paper in accordance with State Law.
Chamisa Verde and Habitat for Humanity
The last full week of my employment I received an e-mail from the Legal Department requesting that I furnish an award letter to Habitat for Humanity for a procurement that took place in May 2013. Upon review of the file the file contained newspaper advertisements, review committee documents, the RFP, and a single “original” proposal. One document sparked my interest, a e-mail from C. Brian James indicating that Mortgage Finance Authority had approved the proposal and that they needed to move to enact a Fair Housing Ordinance at the next Council Meeting. No official determination documents were included. I advised Marietta Fambro that the RFP appears to be a violation of State Law; she said we need to talk with Brian but nothing ever transpired. Marietta did present a separate file saying she had signed ordinances and deeds, when I asked to see them she refused.
This procurement in particular shows willful intent by the Town of Taos Attorney in several regards. First according to a May 13, 2013 letter to Ms. Martin attorney for the Mortgage Finance Authority, he advises that the Town Council has approved an ordinance for Affordible Housing this was not done until the council meeting at the end of the week. The MFA attorney advised that they had in fact rejected the donation based on material violations to include; Chamisa Verde Phase I, Habitat for Humanity’s inability to acquire property at that time, and because the Town had not enacted any ordinances.
Two individuals Abigail Adame and C. Brian James claimed to have been the review committee for this RFP. They claim that Habitat for Humanity was a responsive bidder. According to the proposal, the tables of contents states that two required documents are blank. The documents are required to be a responsive bidder. One document is the Campaign Disclosure Form.
In addition to all of these errors, the value of each lot (2) being donated was estimated at almost $90,000.00. This shows a willful violation of the Procurement Office to process this RFP under a full RFP with all the requirements pertaining to the formal process. Rather the procurement office utilized the Town of Taos small RFP process to complete this project. I never did submit the letter, but rather contacted the State Auditor’s Office to report it. I was asked by the staff member to provide a formal statement. I have not made that statement as of yet.
It appears that every procurement for the 911 Emergency Call Center was a procurement violation. It appears all small services and items were procured after the fact. I processed no less than 8 after the fact procurements. One in particular was discovered in researching a Public Information Request. I have copies of this documentation including willful procurement violations made by the Town of Taos Manager Oscar Rodrigues. The violations include awarding sole source contracts, circumventing procurement to utilize state contracts, procuring services without any professional service contract, nor following State Use Act. I have advised the Finance Department and the Chief Procurement Officer that the actual lease is in violation of State Law and that the Town split the lease so that taxes and utilities were not part of the lease to keep it under the $25,000.00 limit for DFA approval. The contract term is 10 years. This by far; is the previous administrations most flagrant example of willfully violating the procurement code and State Law.
In addition I have e-mails and documentation surrounding the Val-Com contract and the initial phase of the Communications Center move in hard copy.
Real Property Leases
Since the beginning of my tenure, multiple leases have been processed through the Procurement Office. I have raised my concern with the Finance Director, Chief Procurement Officer and Town Attorney only to be advised to do my job. I was told that it was an accounting thing, and that procurement does not cover lease agreements. I have found that several parking lots are being leased by the Town of Taos. Some of which the Town of Taos has agreements where the Town pays Property Taxes in addition to lease payments. The US Bank parking lot shows clear anti-donation, as the Town of Taos has paid for the paving of this lot and pays Property Taxes. I have questioned this practice, and have questioned the Town if anyone has ever received an appraisal of the properties and if there is any information regarding the lease/rental value for the properties.
One case in particular is the parking lot leased by the Catholic Church to the Town of Taos. From what I can find in 2002, the Town entered into a lease for 1.5 acres for $20,000.00 per year with 5 weeks of blackout dates. This was increased in 2013 to $30,000.00 without appraisal or negotiation. I have found out that the Town of Taos had paved the property using public funds and knowing improvements are to remain property of the Catholic Church.
Lastly, the Town of Taos owns a home at Chamisa Verde. I have not found any lease agreement; however the Town has allowed an undisclosed officer to live there rent free for an undisclosed time. The town will as of the March 11, 2014 Council meeting allow the 911 Communications Director to live in the home. Itwas not disclosed if it is part of her salary and compensation, or if the home is provided rent free.
The Catholic Church leases its Gym to the Town of Taos for a period of three to four months. The amount of the lease is $15,000.00. The gym is only available three days out of the week and there are special restrictions on use and days.
Airport Rooftop Replacement
I received a request to post a small bid to our website for a rooftop replacement. Upon receipt of the documents, I was told by Julie Skansie that a walkthrough was going to happen December 3, 2014. I advised that no walkthrough was to be scheduled until after the bid has been reviewed and approved. Julie invited two contractors to take a walkthrough and provided the bid to them in advance of the actual bid being approved and published. I was told by the Chief Procurement Officer that “it never happened” and that I was to forget about it.
After problems as the scope of service being not being advertised and the information changing from the time it was sent to an architect we had to include a change order. That contract has yet to be signed as of the time I was dismissed.
Until I mandated that all service contracts had to come through me, every service violated the State Use Act. NM Horizons has the right of first refusal; no procurement can start without a determination. I have advised both the Finance Director and the Chief Procurement Officer that we have been breaking the law. I was only able to enact the policy for a month before I was dismissed. There have been at least 30 violations since my time as Purchasing Agent.
Though I have limited review of past procurement it appears that the Procurement Officer has failed to follow State Law, or has circumvented reporting violations of State Law. There are electronic and hard copy procurement violations that are on file that both the Procurement Officer and Finance Director have hidden from Auditors. Small bids and Small RFP’s that I
have reviewed may also be in violation of state law as many of them were not advertised in accordance with the Town Procurement Policy, or only one vendor was solicited. I have requested a procurement audit by the State Auditor’s Office.
Convention Center Repurposing
Though this procurement was not awarded there are issues surrounding the non-award. Upon the review of the proposals, Oscar Rodriguez came into the review and disclosed to the committee that the procurement was not in the best interest of the town. This statement stems from a non responsive letter from UNM which stated should procurement not be completed the UNM Taos branch would like to enter into negotiations with the Town of Taos. This letter is in the file. I later learned that Council, Town Manager and the Mayor all received the same letter on the same day.
TISA School for the Arts was responsive and did submit a detailed proposal, yet was not awarded based on a phone call from Oscar Rodriguez advising that I send a letter immediately advising that they were not awarded. Two weeks later unofficial negotiations with UNM Taos started. A week after that there was information that the Town of Taos was to lease with option to sell. At that time I disclosed to Marietta that no contract should be entered into unless it follows procurement. The contract was entered into without DFA or Legislative finance approval. The amount constitutes a violation of the Anti-Donation clause as it was leased without appraisal for $1.00 a year for 10 years, and option to purchase for $1.00.
There are at least I O contracts I have knowledge of where there was council approval prior to any procurement. I know that legal has issued contracts and have had procurement information back-dated to match the contract. Inmany cases. though, there are contracts that are issued and the procurement is submitted either after the work has started or after the work has been completed. AU contracts are for services, and have violated the State Use Act.
Griffin and Associates
The Griffin and associates contract has been amended twice since my arrival. In examining the initial contract I did not see the Campaign Disclosure form. Ifthis form was not signed at the time of proposal, the entire proposal would be non-responsive, therefore no award could be given. The first and only Campaign Disclosure is dated 2013 in year 3 of the contract. The reason for the Campaign Disclosure is because I demanded one when the contract extension was presented. Miranda Quintana as Chief Procurement Officer approved this contract extension.
In closing the inactive vendors, I discovered many large payments for artwork. Though some murals are on Town of Taos property, additional payments almost double the amount of the mural piece were paid to various artists.
One day I attended a lunch the Fire Department hoasted, in waling into the common area of the main Fire Department I found to my amazement hundred pieces of one of a kind artwork covering the walls. I asked the Chief where the artwork was from, he said they were all donations. I believe that public monies were used to purchase this art.
I am concerned about artwork that may be in the homes of previous administrators homes and believe that public monies may have been use to pay for art in private residences. It is certain that monies were spent to have one of a kind art pieces within town hall, particularly the Finance Department.
In my review of closed vendors, I discovered thousands of dollars donated to local teams, particularly the Taos High School teams. I have concerns that the Town of Taos is using public monies to fund local teams and providing free of charge the Town of Taos facilities to special interests and organizations. In particular the pool and ice rink managed by Brian Greer. I have also found batting cages that the Town of Taos has procured in 2010, however they have disappeared, or no record of the asset has been recorded.
Many assets of the Town of Taos have been depreciated, given away, or sold for pennies on the dollar to open auction bidders. This is in violation of the procurement code and should be examined. In particular, there are vehicles that are un accounted for, or have been given to other entities without record of transfer.
In closing inactive vendors I found information that shows Miranda Quintana the Chief Procurement Officer was provided a vacation to Disney World indicated as training back in 2006. This amount was in excess of $2,500.00 and included payments for per diem. This was for a leadership training at which time she was an employee at the Youth and Family Center. She was not a manager, but an employee.
Council member Andrew Gallegos has had similar perks provided as he has had leadership training and personal dues paid by the Town of Taos. These trainings are for individual gain and do not benefit the Town of Taos. He additionally has memberships paid for that are for individual benefit as the Alumni Association for a leadership program he attended.
I found substantial ethical violations committed by the mayor as his radio station benefited to the tune of almost $250,000.00 for advertising and other advertising related expenditures. Due to the evident rolling quorum that has plagued the Town of Taos under Mayor Cordova’s administration; I believe that he influenced council decisions.
Beyond these procurement violations that I have first-hand knowledge about, I would venture to say there has been willful intent to hide the procurement violations from the annual audit. I also believe that this type of procurement was standard practice, and that there may be hundreds of procurements that violate State Law. Beyond this, it is my belief that contracts have been given without any procurement. My intention is to provide a basic background of procurement violations. I have over 200 reviews that are hand written and in a spreadsheet that give a general background of the percentage of violations and the practice of violations that in the past were submitted and approved without proper procurement. I have compiled this brief review as an example and in no way have identified all procurement violations.
Thank you for the time and consideration in allowing me to present this information. I hope that it will assist in any investigation that may take place. I provide this information of free will under the New Mexico Whistleblowers Protection Act.