A website created by Albuquerque City Councilor Don Harris alleging past criminal behavior by one of his two City Council challengers has created tension in the District 9 race.
Byron Powdrell, the target of the website, has responded by filing an ethics complaint against Harris alleging that the three-term incumbent used his position as a public official to illegally obtain police and court records. Harris denies the allegations.
Powdrell also alleged that the website has caused some advertisers to boycott his radio station, The Beat 99.9 FM, and may have led someone to vandalize his home and vehicle.
The website, called “The Real Byron Powdrell,” contains links to dozens of police reports, criminal complaints and restraining orders stemming from alleged incidents of domestic violence in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Harris said he created the website “just so that the public will know this about somebody who may be elected as a public official.”
Court records show that Powdrell was charged at least seven times with misdemeanor battery/domestic violence offenses in Albuquerque Metro Court from 1989 to 1994. The charges were dismissed in each case.
Powdrell acknowledges the charges and does not dispute the authenticity of the records on Harris’ website. He notes that he was never convicted of a criminal offense.
“I’ve never run from that,” Powdrell said of the charges. “I was cleared.”
The Journal asks each City Council candidate to complete a questionnaire. One question asks candidates if they have ever been arrested or charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
In his written response, Powdrell said: “Yes. More than 20 years ago I was arrested for domestic unrest, the cases were subsequently dropped.”
In his ethics complaint, Powdrell alleged that Harris illegally used Powdrell’s name and image to create the website.
Powdrell also alleged that Harris used his position as a city councilor to illegally obtain unredacted police and court records, which Harris posted on the website, containing personal identifying information.
He alleged that Harris hired a private investigator to obtain the records but did not declare the cost of the investigation as an in-kind contribution in his campaign filings.
Harris responded that he can legally use Powdrell’s name and image in a website because Powdrell is a City Council candidate and therefore a public figure.
Harris also said that all the records he obtained and posted are available to the public from Albuquerque police and the state archives.
“I hired an investigator who got that information,” Harris said. “He went through the same channels that anyone would have or could have.”
Harris said his law firm, New Mexico Financial Law, paid the private investigator with two checks. In his campaign filings, Harris declared the payment as a $316.25 in-kind contribution by his law firm to his campaign for “background investigation New Mexico criminal and police records.”
Harris also said the state archivist later informed him that some of the records posted on the website were unredacted and contained personal identifying information. Harris said he immediately redacted the personal information.