A city councilor and frequent critic of city leaders has asked the state attorney general to open two investigations into the administration’s spending of taxpayer money — the roughly $236,000 for turf installed at the Rio Rancho Events Center and the publishing of a book about the city’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to Attorney General Raúl Torrez, Councilor Louie Sanchez cited his 26 years in law enforcement and said he believed there was “potential criminal conduct by the (Tim) Keller Administration within the City of Albuquerque government.”
In response, a city spokeswoman said the allegations were “cheap political comments and empty accusations from a councilor who has been biased against this administration from day one.”
“Investing in local sports, opportunities for youth, and documenting our history are things that the City has always done and will keep doing,” Ava Montoya wrote in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office said they received the letter Wednesday morning and are reviewing the matter.
Last week the city of Albuquerque’s Office of Inspector General released a report detailing its finding that the $236,622 spent on the turf was inappropriate. The report said it “appears to be a donation/gift” to benefit the Duke City Gladiators and violates a New Mexico Constitution provision barring public entities from donating to private corporations. The team’s logo is printed on the field — as is “One Albuquerque.”
In the fall the city published a book, “City at the Crossroads: The Pandemic, Protests and Public Service in Albuquerque,” about the administration’s handling of the pandemic. It was written by former Journal columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger who has since retired from the Journal.
The book includes 36 photos of the mayor and the second chapter — “The Metal Mayor” — is about Keller. Keller wrote the book’s introduction and his wife wrote the foreword.
In November, councilor Dan Lewis asked the city’s Office of Inspector General to look into whether the book served any public purpose. It’s unclear whether the OIG took up the investigation.
In his letter, Sanchez questioned whether using taxpayer money to publish a book that appears to marketing for the mayor’s response to COVID is “appropriate or legal.”
“We are one of the poorest and most deadly states and cities in the country, our focus should be on public safety, health care, social services, and education,” Sanchez wrote. “Albuquerque & the State of New Mexico’s focus most certainly shouldn’t be on doling out taxpayer money to Mayor Keller’s political campaign donors or his neverending marketing campaigns to promote himself.”