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Torrance County Commissioner Retires from DOT

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lonnie Freyburger has come under fire for being both a New Mexico Department of Transportation employee and a Torrance County commissioner. He has retired from the DOT, but the matter isn’t quite finished yet.

Freyburger was told earlier this month that by being both an employee of NMDOT and a county commissioner, he was in violation of the State Personnel Act and the State Personnel Board Rule.

At that time, Mike McEntee, adjutant secretary with the transportation department, explained that state employees can, with authorization, take full-time continuous leave without pay when running for office.

McEntee also said that “classified employees may hold only a nonpartisan county or municipal political office during employment in the classified service.”

Freyburger has been a commissioner for over a year and has said that he was given permission to run and hold the office. Freyburger said they even call him “commissioner” at work.

However, officials at the DOT say they only became aware of the conflict with Freyburger’s jobs when another DOT employee filed to run for the Torrance County Commission last month.

Freyburger supplied the Telegraph with a copy of an email he received from Bernie Padilla, human resources director for the DOT. The email is dated Feb. 21, 2011.

In the email, Padilla wrote, “I believe we have other employees who are elected officials in their respective local governments and it’s my understanding that as long as they recues (sic) themselves from voting on matters that appear to be or could be a conflict of interest with their positions at the DOT, that it is allowable.”

In an interview this week, Freyburger said that as of April 24 he is “retired,” but he will “pursue legal alternatives.”

McEntee did not return requests for comment on Freyburger’s retirement, but earlier this month he did say, “Cabinet Secretary Alvin Dominguez … has ordered an investigation into the matter … State Personnel Board rules preclude us from discussing any specific actions but the public can rest assured that at the conclusion of the investigation, appropriate action will be taken.”
— This article appeared on page C02 of the Albuquerque Journal

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