Dirty Hands: Trump to Taos
A News Advocate’s Opinion
According to news reports, the Army Corps of Engineers has advised the Standing Rock Tribe that they will take a second look at the Dakota Pipeline re: the desecration of Tribal lands and the threat to water resources. In addition, news reports in the Guardian say one Donald Trump has investments in the pipeline project. So the “conflict of interest” issues have arisen quickly as the worldwide real estate magnate and investor, also President-elect prepares to sit in the oval office. The blatant disregard for ethics is mind-boggling.
Here in Taos a similar “conflict of interest issue” will play out in the Town of Taos municipal court at 10 am on Thursday, November 17. The sign man, Jeff Northrup, has been accused of “trespassing” and will face charges in the municipal court of Judge Jim Fambro, a sitting county commissioner, who also works for the Town of Taos. Fambro’s wife, Marietta Fambro, is the Finance Director for the town. According to the Antonio Martin affidavit, posted below, La Fambro has “allegedly” violated in spirit if not the letter of the law the “procurement code.”
The alleged trespasser, Jeff Northrup, aka the sign man, has a 2012 letter in his possession, written by Judge Fambro, recusing himself from the prior 2012 case with Northrup, per advice from municipal Judge Chavez and District Court Judge Sara Backus.
Now, apparently, the wise judge has had a change of heart. Despite requests for recusal by Northrup, Fambro, who has accused Northrup of making threats that Fambro apparently believes, might jeopardize his and his wife’s income, according to Northrup, but the onetime fire chief has refused to recuse himself.
The ignorance of ethical issues, whether the subject is Donald Trump or Jim Fambro is obvious: If a public official has a vested financial iinterest in a case, be it a pipeline or an accusation and threat to income, then the official cannot serve in the role as unbiased arbiter, mediator, or judge. A special prosecutor or judge should then be appointed.
Like Washington D.C., Taos is rife with “conflicts of interest” whether at the Town of Taos, Taos County, or the Kit Carson Coop. As Mayor Bobby Duran once said, “Everybody is related in Taos.”
Allegedly, like Trump, Taos County Commissioner Fambro, who replaced Mayor Dan Barrone as commissioner, does not understand either judicial or political ethics. (Editor’s Note: Fambro has voiced interest in the Mayor’s job when Barrone runs for state legislature.)
According to activists, the Town of Taos is getting ready to re-establish the “ETZ” zone so that Bellis and Barrone can control zoning and building regulations in the County. Most local citizens believe the “ETZ” policy will lead down a slippery slope to the “annexation” of the Ranchos de Taos and El Prado areas. Former Mayor Fred Peralta tried this before in 2002. The real question concerns Taos County. Will the County once again defend constituents against the ETZ encroachment and annexation as it has done in the past due to opposition and political pressure by neighbors in Canon, Ranchos, and El Prado?
In light of the above and as a reminder to citizens that Taos Friction does its homework, we are re-posting two January 13, 2016 stories. The first story, see excerpts below, posts the settlement or “hush money” paid to whistleblower Antonio Martin by the Town. In the second, Friction posts the entire Antonio Martin affidavit and allegations upon which the alleged “hush money” was paid It’s old news but indicative of the culture at Town Hall. The historic culture at Town Hall bleeds from one administration into the next.
Remember: Fambro’s wife, Marietta, signed off on checks for his role as fire chief (see below) at the Town of Taos and currently approves compensation for his role as municipal judge. Ethics take a back seat to “custom” at the Town but when it comes to criminal justice matters, we believe a higher standard should be observed even for a lowlife like the sign man, whose friends are called upon to bail out the Quixotic upholder of free speech who also believes in the right to free assembly and cheap gas.
Off the Record, On the Q.T., Very Hush Hush
By: Bill Whaley
13 January 2016
IN the Antonio Daniel Martin Settlement (If you read the whistle-blower’s affidavit below under “Social Justice,” you will note that Martin (pronounced Marteeen) never filed a lawsuit. He got fired, deposed by the town and another attorney, testified to his affidavit, and got paid hush money. So we post the confirmation, which goes to the character of his allegations in the affidavit. Why pay him to go away?
RELEASE AND SETTLEMENTAGREEMENT
ANTONIO MARTIN (“Mr. Martin”) desires to settle and discharge any and all claims which have or could have been asserted by Mr. Martin against THE TOWN OF TAOS and its current and/or former employees, agents, predecessors and successors, elected officials, officers, representatives, attorneys, and insurers (“Released Parties) regarding his employment and separation from employment with the Town of Taos, New Mexico.
The parties agree as follows:
The Town of Taos will pay the sum of forty thousand two hundred eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents ($40,287.50) to Mr. Martin and attorney’s fees in the amount of fourteen thousand seven hundred twelve dollars and fifty cents ($14,712.50) to Torrez Law & Strategy in full settlement of all claims and demands against the Released Parties resulting from or relating to Mr. Martin’s employment and separation of employment with the Town of Taos and all claims and demands made in or relating to all other claims which
Mr. Martin may have against the Released Parties, including subrogation claims, claims made by third parties, or any other claim.
Mr. Martin, his assigns, and successors hereby fully and unconditionally dismiss, release, and forever discharge the Released Parties and their representatives, officials, employees, predecessors and successors, insurers, attorneys, agents, and assigns from any and all claims (including attorneys’ fees and costs of suit), charges, causes of action, subrogation claims, or demands of any kind and nature whatsoever arising out of Mr. Martin’s employment and separation of employment with the Town of Taos, whether asserted or not.
Mr. Martin hereby represents that he is unaware of any subrogation claims, liens, or other third parties who have insured, paid, or indemnified them in connection with the losses or expenses claimed as damages arising out of his employment and separation of employment with
the Town of Taos. If any such subrogation claims or other demands are presented, Mr. Martin agrees to pay or to settle all such demands from the proceeds of this settlement and indemnify and hold the Released Parties harmless from any and all such claims. In addition, Mr. Martin agrees to reimburse the Released Parties for all reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs in defending against any such subrogation claims or demands by third parties.
Mr. Martin acknowledges that the consideration received under this Settlement Agreement is intended to and does release and discharge the Released Parties, their agents, representatives, successors, assigns, and insurers from any claims or consequences arising from Mr. Martin’s employment and separation of employment with the Town of Taos and hereby waive any right to assert in the future any claims not! Mown or suspected, even though if such claims were known, such knowledge would materially affect the terms of this Settlement Agreement.
Mr. Martin is responsible for any and all tax liabilities, if any, relative to the proceeds. of this settlement. Mr. Martin acknowledges that neither the Released Parties nor their attorneys have made any representations whatsoever as to any tax consequences Mr. Martin may incur as a result of the settlement.
The Town of Taos agrees to permit Mr. Martin to retroactively resign his position by replacing his letter of termination with a letter of resignation effective March 12, 2014 (the day of termination).
Should future employers seek a reference for Mr. Martin from the Town of Taos, the Town of Taos agrees to give a neutral reference. The neutral reference will confirm the dates Mr. Martin worked. for the Town of Taos, Mr. Martin’s compensation, and Mr. Martin’s date of resignation.
Mr. Martin agrees to not seek employment with nor to be employed by the Town of Taos at any point in the future.
This Agreement is not, and shall not be construed to be, an admission of fault or wrongdoing on the part of the Released Parties. The Released Parties have entered into this Agreement based solely on the consideration of the economic costs, including the time and expense of litigation, not on any admission of liability. The Released Parties have always denied and will continue to deny any liability whatsoever. This is a settlement of a disputed claim and is privileged and may not be used in any other litigation pursuant to Evidence Rule 408.
Mr. Martin acknowledges that the Released Parties have not made any promises or representations other than those recited in this Agreement to induce them to enter into this Agreement.
The terms of this Agreement are contractual, fully enforceable, and are not mere recital.
In the event that any paragraph or portion of this Agreement should be later determined unenforceable, all other paragraphs of this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect.
This Agreement contains the entire agreement between Mr. Martin and the Released Parties with regard to the matters set forth herein. There are no other understandings or agreements, oral or otherwise, between the parties except as expressly set forth herein.
This Agreement shall be construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of New Mexico.
I HAVE CAREFULLY READ THIS RELEASE, FULLY UNDERSTAND ITS TERMS, AND HAVE DISCUSSED THE IMPACT AND IMPORTANCE OF SIGNING THIS RELEASE WITH MY ATTORNEY.
STATE OF NEW MEXICO )
/j2 ) SS
COUNTY OF uma /if/o )
SUBSCRIBED and SWORN TO before me this
Torrez Law & Strat Attorney for An nio Martin
NMy Commission Expires: // ‘.) / 7
Social Justice: Taxpayers and Employees Pay for Corruption
By: Bill Whaley
13 January, 2016
The Arbitrary and Capricious Politics of Retaliation
Cover Ups Uncovered
Facts begin to Emerge
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 procurement code violations.
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.
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.
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. (Editor’s Note: The finance Director is in charge of holding town employees accountable to the procurement code.)
Below the Martin allegations characterize the nature of “Social Injustice” at town hall. Some of Antonio’s interpretations, born of his paranoia, due to the corrupt culture, seem wrong-headed. Most ring true, according to insiders. In addition to recordings, Antonio says he has a lot of “exhibits.”
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 in Political 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 Compliance 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 statement 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 interpretations 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 Curtis 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 stated telling me I violated the procurement code. I asked her for information and she said that the Fire Chief [jim Fambro] 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 the Procurement Office and had to be completed using a small bid. I was told that the 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 Taos 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 Gypsey 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
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.