Tension among city commissioners continues

By Steve Hansen

QCS Managing Editor

After nearly universal calls for unity on the city commission at a candidates’ forum Tuesday, the divisions on the commission were on full display, in discussion at least, two days later.

District 1 Commissioner Dora Salinas-McTigue announced she had received a call from the state Attorney General about “what’s been going on here for the past several months.” The attorney general, she said, asked her to put her complaints into writing. “I intend to do that,” she said.

Salinas-McTigue also noted that City Manager Doug Powers, whose firing she supported in September, recently had a birthday. “I’m asking Doug to put in for retirement,” she said.

Later, when Powers said tree work in the city’s parks and cemetery had been done by Chad’s Tree Service, an Albuquerque firm, Salinas-McTigue asked why a local firm was not chosen. Powers said local firms were invited to submit request for proposal responses, but failed to do so.

The Albuquerque firm submitted the lowest price, he said.

Salinas-McTigue asked Mayor Amiel Curnutt if he had suggested Chad’s. Curnutt said he recommended them to receive the request for proposal, saying Chad’s did good work for Curnutt in the past.

Former City Commissioner Jimmy Sandoval, recalled in a January special election, said local firms don’t respond to RFPs because, “they never get anything.”

He also repeatedly said people have been “telling lies about me,” which led to his recall.

In addition, he said, “When I make a decision I stick to it. I don’t change my mind.”

“Voters wish to be respected,” he said.

District 3 Commissioner Ernest Dominguez, who voted to fire Powers in September, then voted to reinstate him two weeks later, denied Sandoval’s apparent implication he had spread lies about Sandoval. Dominguez said he voted to reinstate Powers after many of his constituents urged him to change his vote “on the phone and to my face.”

Sandoval and Salinas-McTigue voted to fire Powers in September and in the vote that reinstated him in October.

Gary Montaño, a frequent critic of commissioners Lumpkin and Curnutt, as well as of Powers, said Powers had not received any formal evaluations of his performance in all the 20 years he worked for the city. When he asked for copies of evaluations of other managers, he complained, much of the information on documents he received was obscured.

Montaño also showed the commission a page from an engineer’s study of the Sands Dorsey building performed in 2009, two years after fire gutted the structure. The report, Montaño said, showed no asbestos in the soil of the building’s foundation. ,Montaño said it shows the building could have been torn down and disposed of immediately. The building still lies in ruins downtown.

Another page of that same report, however, shows asbestos was embedded in other materials found in the building. The presence of asbestos and other potentially toxic materials, the engineering report said, would make special protective measures necessary for workers tearing the building down and hauling debris.

Lumpkin said written, formal evaluations can be “dangerous,” because they can lead to legal action against the city. He said Powers has been evaluated constantly as he works with city commissioners.

Lumpkin also chided Montaño for taking up staff time with document requests and said Montaño’s continual barrage of criticism is contributing to a perception of disunity. He said it hurts the city’s image with businesses that may be seeking to invest in the city.

Montaño attempted several times to interrupt Lumpkin’s rebuttal.

Salinas-McTigue, citing her previous experience with the California State Employees Association, said written evaluations are quite valuable, even though they can serve purposes “good and not so good.” They provide a record of improvement or lack of it, she said. They give a supervisor grounds both to terminate some employees and reward excellent performance, she said.

Despite the divisive discussion, the commission voted unanimously in favor of all seven items presented for vote Thursday.

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