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Downs Racino Hires White

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Former city Public Safety Director Darren White has been hired by the Downs at Albuquerque to assist the racino in putting together a proposal to continue operating the racetrack and casino at Expo New Mexico for the next 25 years.

Attorney Traci Wolf, vice president of the Downs at Albuquerque, confirmed Thursday that White was recently hired by the racino to consult on security issues.

“He has been hired as a consultant to assist us with preparing our request for proposal,” Wolf said.

New Mexico State Fair officials issued a long anticipated “request for proposals” July 24 for the 93 acres that Expo New Mexico has leased since 1985 to the Downs at Albuquerque.

The solicitation offers two options for potential investors: An entirely new use for the property now occupied by the racetrack and casino, or continued use of the facility as a racino.

The new lease could take effect as early as Jan. 12, 2012, or as late as Jan. 12, 2013. Albuquerque businessman Paul Blanchard and his two Louisiana partners are seeking a third one-year lease extension on the original 25-year lease.

Although interim State Fair Manager Dan Mourning signed the extension in June, questions arose over the legality of stretching the lease beyond its original 25-year term. Gov. Susana Martinez, who appointed Mourning, has said she will add the one-year lease extension to the agenda of the coming special legislative session.

The new lease, the first competitive lease offered for the property in more than a quarter century, will also be for 25 years, according to the RFP.

The deadline for submitting proposals is 2 p.m. Aug. 25.

White stepped down as Albuquerque public safety director July 15 amid controversy over his involvement in his wife’s single-car crash the week before.

An investigation by the city’s independent review officer determined that White violated city policies by showing up at the scene in his city vehicle with emergency equipment on, but that he did not use his position to influence a potential criminal investigation into Kathleen White.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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