Proposal calls for Lopez to be a consultant

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

An agreement for New Mexico State Police Cpt. Daniel Lopez to serve as the city’s police consultant – as an unpaid volunteer for three months – is to be considered at a special meeting of the Tucumcari City Commission Thursday.

The agreement is an attempt to work around the Public Employees Retirement Association’s requirements, so Lopez can keep his benefits when he retires from the state police, yet work for the city, said city manager John Sutherland.

Lopez was selected for city police chief from a pool of eight applicants, but has not resigned to take the job because he does not want to jeopardize his retirement benefits from the state police. Former Police Chief Larry Ham resigned in mid-July.

PERA requires a 90-day separation period between retirement and employment with a similar governmental agency. Lopez has more than 21 years with PERA including 17 years with the state police.

The city has been working with its attorney and has been in discussions with PERA to see if it could hire Lopez sooner than three months from his retirement.

The proposed agreement states that Lopez “has agreed to volunteer his time and service to the City of Tucumcari for a period of ninety days without pay or compensation” because he will or may lose his PERA benefits.

“I haven’t had a chance to review the document and I can’t comment until I review it,” said Lopez, who was reached by phone in Albuquerque.

The contract follows a general outline from the city’s attorney following conversations with PERA, said city manager John Sutherland.
“It gives us something to work with that covers the 90-day PERA requirement,” Sutherland said.

Lopez will have an opportunity to review the document at a scheduled meeting today, Sutherland said.

“We probably will have to make some corrections … and some date changes. We’ll have to be flexible,” Sutherland said.

With Lopez’s and the commission’s approval, “it’ll give us an opportunity to use his advice and services,” Sutherland said.

Also, at the special meeting at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, city commissioners will review a funding recommendation from the Lodgers Tax Board for $1,000 to be given to the Tucumcari MainStreet project for its Six Shooter Siding Festival on Oct. 13.

Following the special meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday is the City Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting.