City sends $211K bill to Trump campaign for visit

President Donald Trump holds a rally at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The city of Albuquerque says President Donald Trump's recent visit cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in police service and lost work time, and now it wants him to pay up.

The city sent a $211,175.94 invoice last week to the president's campaign organization, Donald J. Trump for President Inc.

Trump visited New Mexico last month for a campaign rally, not official presidential business.

Though his Sept. 16 stump speech took place in Rio Rancho, several public agencies, including the city of Albuquerque, aided with manpower and resources.

The Albuquerque Police Department incurred $71,242 in expenses to provide “1,528 hours of additional police coverage required by the campaign visit,” according to an Oct. 17 letter the city included with the invoice.

Albuquerque also charged the campaign $7,102 for barricades.

And because the president spent the night in Downtown Albuquerque, the U.S. Secret Service required local governments to vacate nearby buildings early on Sept. 16 and open late on Sept. 17.

The city still paid all the employees for the hours they did not work, which amounted to $132,832.

“Our resources for law enforcement are critical and limited. The President's campaign stop in the Albuquerque area cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, including over 1,500 hours of police overtime that was required by the campaign,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a written statement. “We are asking the Trump campaign to pay our taxpayers back for the costs from his campaign stop.”

A spokeswoman for the Democratic mayor said his administration – which took office two years ago – has not charged any other presidential campaigns for Albuquerque stops because they have “not required any assistance from the city.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to Journal questions Wednesday.

Albuquerque was not the only public entity to assist with the Trump stop, though it is the only one the Journal contacted that has sent a bill.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office provided about 15 deputies for traffic control and 12 members of its SWAT unit and various Emergency Response Team personnel for the Trump visit.

The Sheriff's Office has not fulfilled a Journal public records request detailing those personnel costs, but spokeswoman Felicia Maggard said Wednesday that the office would not be issuing an invoice.

“At the request of the Secret Service and local agencies, BCSO provided assistance to maintain public safety and order in the metro area during the Presidential visit,” Maggard wrote.

But BCSO may not get to make that call.

Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca plans to talk with Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales about the related expenses, county spokesman Tom Thorpe said.

Thorpe said that Morgas Baca may decide to bill the campaign for the BCSO work.

Bernalillo County – which shares a Downtown headquarters with the city of Albuquerque – will also consider trying to recoup the costs of paying 1,660 employee hours that were not actually worked due to the building's closure, Thorpe said. That amounted to $38,102.

“If it were an official presidential visit, you don't bill for that kind of thing,” Thorpe said. “It was campaign (related). That makes it different.”

New Mexico State Police assigned 109 officers to the Trump visit at a cost of $49,695, according to spokesman Lt. Mark Soriano.

The agency will not bill the president's campaign, he said.

“We have never requested reimbursement for any presidential visit,” he wrote in an email to the Journal. “We work closely with our federal law enforcement partners to create a safe event for both our citizens of New Mexico and dignitaries.”

The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management provided “a large mobile command unit” for the Trump event and the associated staff, as well as other resources that probably cost “in excess of $25,000,” according to Deputy Secretary Kelly Hamilton. He did not say whether the department would bill the campaign.

Rio Rancho has not completed a full accounting of the costs associated with the event.

A spokeswoman for the city said staffers are still calculating the “ancillary costs associated with the health, safety and welfare of the citizens, such as shutting down city services for the day or additional public safety resources in the area, that the city determined would be necessary.”

She said the city would not be billing the Trump campaign for those because the organization said it would not pay the costs.

“The Trump campaign verbally told staff that they would only pay for costs associated with the event occurring inside the venue. Any other costs that the City incurred determining what would be the best for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens was not part of the agreement and would be paid for by the City,” Rio Rancho spokeswoman Annemarie García said in an email to the Journal.

The campaign has paid about $146,000 for rental of the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. None of that goes directly to the city, however, because the venue is managed by an outside contractor.

Trump's rally attracted about 10,000 people to the Santa Ana Star Center – 8,704 of whom watched inside and approximately 1,500 of whom stood outside.

Albuquerque is not the first municipality to bill Trump for costs tied to his campaign events. The city of El Paso invoiced the Trump organization for its security, busing and other support tied to a February campaign stop. The El Paso Times reported earlier this month that the campaign still had not paid and that the bill – which started at $470,417 – has grown to about $560,000 with fees.

The unpaid El Paso bill is among several highlighted in a June report by the Center for Public Integrity called “Why the Trump Campaign Won't Pay Police Bills.” The story identified 10 city governments with outstanding bills totaling $841,219, some for campaign stops he made before he was president.

It also noted that politicians have a spotty history of paying such invoices, reporting, for example, that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was diligent in paying and that Democrat Bernie Sanders refused to pay more than 20 public safety bills during his 2016 campaign but that his committee “began quietly paying” those bills in the lead-up to his current run.

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