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Who Will The Next Mayor Fire?

Who Will The Next Mayor Fire?

Voters need to ask candidates who they intend to keep as department directors.


A new mayor of Albuquerque will be sworn in on Dec. 1.

Upon being sworn in, the new mayor will have the authority to appoint over 30 department heads or deputy department head positions who serve at the pleasure of the mayor and can be terminated without cause anytime by the mayor.

There are 223 full-time “ungraded” positions at City Hall, who are in unclassified positions and “at-will” employees who can be terminated “without cause” and by the mayor or the city council.

“Ungraded employees” or exempt employees, do not have the same vested rights classified employees have and have no appeal rights to the City Personnel Board for disciplinary action so when they are fired, they are in fact gone with no recourse.

It is not uncommon, towards the end of any mayor’s administration, for political appointees to begin to resign and go work somewhere else or try to get assigned to protected positions within City Hall.

I suspect most of Mayor Richard Berry’s political appointees are either updating their resumes and looking for employment elsewhere outside City Hall, or trying to find classified positions at City Hall to be transferred into to keep working.

What is noteworthy is that the news media has not reported any early resignations of Berry’s top political appointees or department directors, with only one being reported by the media as being assigned to a classified or protected position.

Those who are assigned to protected positions have a six-month probationary period and can be terminated without cause during their six-month probationary period.

It is very common for political appointees to work on the campaigns of other candidates running for mayor and donate to candidates to curry favor to stay on and keep employed by the new elected administration.

Voters should not be at all surprised if top level political appointees for Berry are in fact working behind the scenes and donating to those currently running for mayor, and may even be meeting with the mayoral candidates to curry favor and ask that they retain employment in exchange for information and support at City Hall.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry has donated $1,000 to Republican Dan Lewis’s mayoral campaign. Joanie Griffin of Griffin Associates, who is handling the public relation campaign for Berry’s ART bus project, has made a $1,000 in-kind donation to the Tim Keller campaign. Retired and former Albuquerque Police Department Commander Sonny Leeper, with Law Enforcement Training International, has given a $1,060 in-kind contribution to Republican Wayne Johnson.

Confidential sources have said Berry’s Director of Constituent Services and former Democrat City Councilor Alan E. Armijo and Economic Department Director Gary L. Oppedahl have met with at least one candidate for mayor.

Confidential sources have also said former APD command staff, retired sergeants, lieutenants and commanders have met with candidates for mayor seeking appointment as chief of police or seeking to be brought back in some management capacity to APD.

APD needs a new generation of leadership and a national search needs to be conducted to identify and hire a totally new APD command staff not from within the ranks of existing or former APD staff to complete the Department of Justice reforms.

Voters need to ask the candidates who they intend to keep as department directors or if they will be asking for resignations.

Voters need to ask candidates if they have promised appointed positions to anyone and who they are likely to appoint to positions such as chief administrate officer, chief operations officer, chief of police, chief of the fire department, city attorney, city clerk, cultural services director, transit director, economic development director, director of 311, and to head any one of the various other departments.

All the candidates would be wise not to make any firm commitments or promises to anyone for jobs or to be appointed as department heads to give themselves complete latitude in finding the best qualified people for positions free of political pressure.

Following are 31 “ungraded” or “unclassified” City Hall employees and department heads:

  1. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry, paid $92.29 an hour or $191,963.20 a year.
  2. APD Chief Gordon Eden, paid $81.00 an hour or $168,480 a year.
  3. BioPark Chief Executive Officer James Allen, paid $77.48 an hour or $161,158.40 a year.
  4. Director of Behavioral Sciences Nils Rosenbaum, paid $76.50 an hour or $159,120 a year.
  5. Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan, paid $73.53 an hour or $152,942.40 a year.
  6. City Attorney Jessica M. Hernandez, paid $72.99 an hour or $151,819.20 a year.
  7. Fire Chief David W. Downey, paid $64.09 an hour or $134,992 a year. (Announced departure and will be gone Sept. 25 to work for the Hillsboro Fire Department in Oregon.)
  8. Mayor’s Chief of Staff Gilbert A. Montano, paid $61.27 an hour or $127,441 a year.
  9. Director of Solid Waste Department John W. Soladay, $55.99 an hour or $116,459.20 a year.
  10. Assistant APD Chief Robert Huntsman, paid $57.43 an hour or $119,454.40 a year. (Has left the City already.)
  11. APD Executive Director William R. Slausen, paid $53.82 an hour or $111,945.60 a year.
  12. Environmental Health Director Mary L. Leonard, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196,80 a year.
  13. Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Taylor, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196,80 a year.
  14. Senior Affairs Director Jorja Armijo-Brasher, paid $52.41 an hour or $109,012.80 year.
  15. Animal Welfare Director Paul R. Caster, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
  16. Cultural Services Director Dana N. Feldman, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
  17. Planning Department Director Suzanne G. Lubar, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
  18. Human Resources Director Mary L. Scott, paid $53.46 an hour or $111,196.80 a year.
  19. Mark T. Leach, Manager of Technology Services, paid $53.04 an hour or $110,323.20 a year.
  20. Family Community Services Director Douglas Chaplin, paid $52.41 an hour or $109,012.80 a year.
  21. Transit Director Bruce A. Rizzieri, paid $52.41 an hour or $109,012.80 a year.
  22. Economic Department Director Gary L. Oppedahl, paid $51.27 an hour or $106,641.60 a year.
  23. Police Emergency Communications Manager Erika L. Wilson, paid $50.38 and hour or $104,790.40 a year.
  24. Aviation Director (Airport) James D. Hinde, paid $48.46 an hour or $100,796 a year.
  25. City Clerk Natalie Y. Howard, paid $48.46 an hour or $100,796 a year.
  26. Finance and Administrative Services Director Lou Hoffman, paid $48.46 an hour or $100,796 a year.
  27. 311 Citizens Contact Center Division Manager Maria C. Prothero, paid $43.71 an hour or $90.916.80 a year.
  28. Mayor’s Director of Constituent Services Alan E. Armijo, paid $39.71 an hour or $82,596 a year.
  29. Director of Office of Emergency Management Roger L. Ebner, paid $39.50 an hour or $82,160 a year.
  30. Real Time Crime Center Manager TJ Wilham, paid $39.50 an hour or $82,160 a year.
  31. APD Major and Academy Director Jessica Tyler, paid $51.26 an hour or $106,620 a year. (NOTE: Tyler is not listed as an ungraded employee but is “at will” as an APD Major.)
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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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