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Mayor’s Office asked about personnel transfers

Albuquerque’s inspector general and acting city auditor sent an open letter to Mayor Richard Berry’s administration this week raising concerns about mayoral appointees being shuffled into protected positions in the final months of the mayor’s term.

Mayor Richard Berry

Mayor Richard Berry

But Rob Perry, the city’s chief administrative officer, is firing back.

“For eight years now, we’ve held ourselves and our management team to the highest ethical standards, and we don’t appreciate anyone impugning that,” Perry told the Journal late Thursday.

In their Sept. 6 letter, Inspector General David Harper and Acting City Auditor Lawrence Davis asked the city’s finance and human resources departments to provide records associated with the transfer of individuals from unclassified to classified positions.

Unclassified jobs are unprotected positions and the individuals who hold them serve at the pleasure of the mayor. By contrast, classified employees have normal protections against being fired.

Harper and Davis said in their letter that they are concerned with the transfers “and intend to bring transparency” to the moves.

Perry said that under the city’s personnel rules, employees who have held a classified position with the city for more than 10 years prior to serving in an unclassified post must be allowed to return to a classified position. Three employees fall into that category, he said. They are City Clerk Natalie Howard, Melissa Lozoya and Doug Chaplin.

Perry said two other nonclassified employees – T.J. Wilham and Dayna Crawford – followed the competitive process for the protected jobs they now have.

Suzanne Lubar, the city’s planning director, has expressed an interest in applying for the metropolitan redevelopment authority director position. Perry said she was told to apply for it.

Perry said that while individuals who have served in the Berry administration shouldn’t get preferential treatment, they also shouldn’t be penalized.

It’s not uncommon for outgoing administrations to transfer political appointees to protected positions prior to handing over the reins. Mayor Martin Chávez’s administration gave pay raises and job transfers before leaving office in 2009.

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