“It’s concerning when a public official goes after someone who is engaging in their First Amendment rights,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who sits on the water authority board.
At issue is the water supply for Santolina, the planned 21-square-mile development southwest of Interstate 40 and 118th Street. Santolina could some day be home to 90,000 people, but in order to move forward with the project, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings must have a fully executed development agreement with the water authority.
Albuquerque’s mayor has a seat on the water authority board, and Keller has been a vocal critic of Santolina for years, calling it sprawl development.
WALH, the Santolina owner, opposes Keller in the mayoral race and contributed $30,000 to a political action committee that ran TV and radio attack ads against Keller.
On Sept. 15 — the same week the ads began running — Keller’s office sent a letter questioning whether the water authority is illegally subsidizing the water infrastructure for Santolina. The letter instructs REDW, the authority’s independent auditor, to look into those allegations, which were made by Norman Gaume, a former water system manager/engineer for the city of Albuquerque, and others.
“It is the routine work of the State Auditor’s office staff to ensure independent auditors have the information they need to safeguard our taxpayer dollars in the hundreds of government entities that we audit,” said Justine Freeman, spokeswoman for Auditor Keller. “Our office has an obligation to evaluate allegations of wrongdoing and this is one of 50 referral letters we’ve sent this year on a wide variety of issues.”