Sunday, February 14, 2016

Would you trust these folks?

Imagine someone wants you to invest in a big company. 

“Who's your internal auditor?” you ask.

“Milton was, but he kept reporting embarrassing facts. We fired him. Some allegation of misconduct.”

“Who replaced him?”

“A very experienced lady, two or three years ago, but she took one look and quit within a week.”

“Who replaced her.”

“No one yet.”

“Well who's your risk manager?”

“Was Fridenstine, but he got crossways with our attorney. Wondered whether it was right for our in-house attorney to also be our outside counsel, paid separately. And other stuff. He's gone.”

“Who are your internal investigators?” 

“We had two, Kim Stewart and Lupe Quezada. Working under the attorney so he could control them.”


“Well, a jury awarded Kim a million bucks because we fired her after she made an embarrassing report about Curtis Childress. She was pesky that way. Lupe's still there. She's good, but the grand jury got hold of a report she did on jailer Chris Barela. We often go around her now. Use an outside investigator. Costs extra, but it's not my money.”

“Which investigator?”

“UIS, but sometimes they're a little too objective, so we're switching.  Maybe we'll try a law firm - make sure reports come out right.”

Sound familiar? The “big company” is Doña Ana County. And I wouldn't invest if I didn't have to.
This situation is wrong. As one employee told me Wednesday, “If an auditor says 'This isn't quite right,' you're not supposed to tell him to go pound sand. That's how you get sued.” The employee had called about problems at the County.

As I started to have coffee with him, my cell-phone rang. Unfamiliar number. “Hi, I'm Jane, I work at the County. We talked once a long time ago, do you have some time right now?”

Employees say that if management doesn't like you, you get suddenly told you're on administrative leave. Ask why, and you're told: “You'll find out, an investigator will contact you.” Maybe the employees exaggerate; but how would we know, as things stand now?

County management has had serious problems for years. The commissioners made what looked like a good move by hiring Julia Brown; but it hasn't worked out. They should face up to that. (Folks act like Leticia Benavidez was some nut case for being the only commissioner who voted not to extend Brown's contract; but as one employee said, “Leiticia's the only one who ever worked at the County and knows the shenanigans that go on.” 

Commissioners (for good reason) have limited power. They have none over elected officials like Treasurer David Gutierrez or Sheriff Kiki Vigil. They have little over the County Manager.
Before Ms. Brown, management acted badly, morale was terrible, and Commissioners trusted management too much. Now under Julia, management seems to be acting badly, and morale is terrible. 

There needs to be an auditor. There needs to be a way for employees to complain without the complaint going through the County Manager. And Ms. Brown should probably be gone.

On a happier note, there's Wally. Wally plays pickleball with us. He came from some tiny Texas town. I think his wife was his high-school sweetheart. Wally's so popular that Meerscheidt Rec Center staff brought out a surprise cake for his birthday Wednesday. We sang to him, but Wally still kept beating our butts. Hard shots, precisely aimed. It was his 81st birthday.
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, February 14  and will appear shortly on KRWG-TV's veb-site under News-->Local Viewpoints]

[The County may well have a good excuse for each of the events above: firing or driving away Duran and Fridenstine and Stewart, etc.  But the pattern - including apparent inaction as far as filling positions -- seems awfully suspicious.]

[As to whether Brown is getting revenge on enemies, I can't fully say; but certainly it's convenient for her to have Dennis Montoya (Sheriff Vigil's right-hand man in disputes and discussions with her and HR) out of the way.  Maybe he deserves it.  Two investigators who'd been working on the investigation of Barela (and ultimately Brown herself) are also gone.  These are not the only example.  Maybe each of her non-friends against whom action has been taken deserves the action; only time will tell, I guess.  Or a series of judges and juries will.),]

[I do feel I should add, again, that the County Commissioners have surprisingly little power.  Laws wisely implemented to protect against political interference necessarily restrict them.  As the embarrassing Mr. Gutierrez, our County Treasurer, proudly proclaims in a column in this morning's Sun-News, they can't do anything to him for his admitted misconduct.  Similarly, with regard to personnel the Commissioners can only hire and fire the County Manager.]


  1. Anyone who crosses Ms. Brown will suddenly find themselves under investigation or getting some written reprimand. The HR policy of keeping the name of the accuser secret in order to "protect" the individual creates an environment where abuse is rampant and there is no downside to having your complaint deemed unfounded.
    It now looks like Mr. Segovia has had enough of Ms. Browns edits as well. Ms. Brown is out of control! Find out why Mr. Caldwell left. Why is Mr. Noland looking to leave. The IT Director, Ms Hines, is constantly getting suspended without pay. Anyone supporting an individual in Ms. Browns sites will find themselves getting the wrath of HR.

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