How Tyler will keep her law enforcement license has two attorneys arguing that she's the beneficiary of a severe conflict of interest that smacks of impropriety
Tyler’s Ex-boss Heard Misconduct Case
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
It appears that Jessica Tyler, head of the Albuquerque Police Department’s training academy, will be exonerated on an allegation that she misled Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales about a $25,000 training academy for reserve deputies last year – an event that only one Bernalillo County reserve officer attended.
The administrative law judge at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy who has recommended that she be cleared of the allegations of wrongdoing against her is her former boss at the Sheriff’s Department, David Linthicum, who is also the former boss of Tyler’s husband, Bob Tyler. Sheriff Manny Gonzales filed the complaint against Tyler, seeking to revoke her law enforcement certification – which would prevent her from heading APD’s academy.
Linthicum was the chief deputy at the Sheriff’s Office before he went to work for the NMLEA. A Sheriff’s Office spokesman confirmed that Linthicum directly supervised Tyler when he was chief deputy.
Tyler’s attorney, J. Edward Hollington, told ABQ Free Press that Linthicum has already recommended that the NMLEA’s board drop the charges against his former employee. Linthicum hasn’t recused himself from the case. That led two Albuquerque attorneys to say that the disciplinary process at the NMLEA was deeply flawed.
“As an administrative law judge, Linthicum is bound to comply with the standards of judicial conduct,” said attorney Tom Grover, who has represented officers with disciplinary cases before the NMLEA.
Appearance of Impropriety
“On an occasion where there has been a previous relationship, and a potential conflict of interest exists, which there is [here], he has an affirmative duty to recuse himself and drop the matter all together. This case was not good to begin with and it’s getting worse. It exemplifies what a giant disaster it has become at the NMLEA board. It is a pure conflict of interest. If Linthicum was Tyler’s supervisor at any point in time he has no business hearing the case,” Grover said.
Pete Dinelli, a lawyer and former administrative law judge at the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration, agreed with Grover.
“Administrative law judges are bound by the same ethical considerations as a district judges and appointed judges and the code of judicial conduct and the code of professional conduct for lawyers,” Dinelli said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he should have disqualified himself. It leaves a clear option to set aside the decision and have another hearing. To me it’s not even a close call.”
Administrative law judges work for various government agencies and departments. They are not regulated by the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission, said Commission Executive Director and General Counsel Randall Roybal. However, their contracts with their agencies usually require ALJs to abide by the state’s judicial code of ethics, Roybal added. Under that code, judges are required to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Linthicum, who left the Sheriff’s Office in 2013 after a 30-year career, did not answer any questions ABQ Free Press emailed him about his potential conflict of interest in Tyler’s case.
Nor did departing New Mexico Department of Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt, whose department oversees the NMLEA’s operation. Fouratt was recently appointed as a U.S. magistrate in Las Cruces.
NMLEA Deputy Director Brian Coss acknowledged the newspaper’s email and said he would respond. As of Wednesday morning, he hadn’t. The paper asked if the NMLEA has any conflict-of-interest policies that govern its three administrative law judges. The newspaper asked how Linthicum came to be appointed to Tyler’s case.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is the chair of the NMLEA board that decides police discipline cases. His spokesperson, James Hallinan, sent ABQ Free Press this response to questions about Linthicum’s potential conflict of interest:
“We have not yet received that file (Jessica Tyler) from [the LEA Board]. Since we may receive the file — unless the Board decides to drop the matter — it would not be appropriate to comment on this case at this time. Your questions about LEA procedure — how the Academy assigns cases to hearing officers, and whether LEA has conflict of interest policies – are better directed at LEA.”
Linthicum is a partner with former Sheriff Darren White in White’s private eye firm, Darren White Investigations and Protection Group.
Both White and Linthicum’s names appeared on separate applications last year for nonprofits looking to become medical marijuana producers in New Mexico, according to news reports at the time. Linthicum is a director for Albuquerque Bernalillo County Organics, Inc., which is in the medical marijuana business, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s records.
The case against Tyler
Meanwhile, more information has been released about Sheriff Gonzales’ decertification case against Tyler, which he filed last year.
Had Tyler stayed at the Sheriff’s office and not gone to APD, Gonzales would have given her a lie-detector test regarding her involvement in organizing at the BSCO’s expense a training academy for reserve deputies, according to the complaint with the LEA that Gonzales filed against Tyler. ABQ Free Press obtained the complaint, called an LEA 90, through an Inspection of Public Records Act request.
“Had she remained employed with the BCSD, I would have directed that both chief deputy Tyler had Captain [Matt] Thomas take polygraphs to determine if there was deception, Gonzales’ report said.
Gonzales said he had several issues with Tyler’s handling of the reserve academy.
First, he said he found no evidence that the previous sheriff, Dan Houston, had ever approved it. Second, he was angry that Bernalillo County was paying $25,000 for the academy when only one cadet from Bernalillo County attended. There were, however, 10 reserve deputies from Sandoval County, where Tyler’s husband had once been in charge of deputy officers.
And finally, Tyler, who had been trying to get the Legislature to fund the academy, never told Gonzales or other BCSO officials that the bill to provide that funding had died in Santa Fe.
Tyler, Gonzales and other BCSO command staff met on March 24, 2015, to discuss the academy and the potential legislative funding, Gonzales’ complaint said. “The investigation revealed that Chief Deputy Tyler had correspondence with captain Thomas through text messages immediately after the command staff meeting on March 24, 2015,” the complaint said. “Through that correspondence, Captain Thomas had notified Chief Deputy Tyler that the proposed bill had already died. In fact, the bill had died in the Senate approximately 1 week prior to the command staff meeting. Despite the timing of he receiving this information, Chief Deputy Tyler failed to relay it up the chain of command.”
Gonzales’s complaint also alleged that Tyler filed discrimination and retaliation complaints with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau against Gonzales and the BCSO after learning she was named as a witness in an in a Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs investigation against Thomas and his role in the reserve academy.
“On May 12, 2015, Undersheriff [Rudy] Mora received a phone call from Chief Deputy Tyler while he was out of town,” Gonzales’ complaint said. “Chief Deputy Tyler told Undersheriff Mora that she wanted to make him aware she was filing charges of employment discrimination and retaliation against BCSO with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. Chief Deputy Tyler said that after becoming aware of the internal investigation regarding the reserve academy, she spoke with her attorney and was advised that he felt filing the charges was the best way to protect herself.”
Tyler did indeed file retaliation and discrimination complaints against Gonzales and the Sheriff’s Office on May 12 and July 20, 2015. They were included in her LEA 90 file. Her attorney submitted them “as evidence of Sheriff Gonzales’ motive for filing this LEA 90,” according to the file.
Tyler’s strange career
Linthicum’s potential conflict of interest is latest irregularity to surface in the professional background of Tyler, who last July was hired as director of training at the Albuquerque Police Department Academy without being subjected to a background check as required by APD policy.
Tyler failed two pre-employment lie-detector tests in 1998 and 1999 — one on a drug usage question — when she applied to become a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy, a situation that should have precluded her from ever having been hired as a law enforcement officer by the Sheriff’s Office.
Dinelli said it appears that the NMLEA has a big problem with Linthicum’s failure to recuse himself from Tyler’s case. “To me it’s pure stupidity on their part. Did they actually think they were going to get away with it?,” Dinelli said. “It goes to the question of what is on these peoples’ minds? What are these people on?”
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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