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Editorial: City needs answers on Schultz-TASER contract

“A former employee shall not within one year after the date of termination from employment represent any person or business in connection with a matter in which the former employee has performed an official act, unless the Chief Administrative Officer consents to such representation.”

– Albuquerque ordinance 3-3-7, “Conflicts of Interest; Former Employees”

As with many laws, policies and procedures, what might look clear on paper can get awfully murky in practice. Such is the case of former Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz, his new employer TASER, and the city’s conflict-of-interest ordinance covering former city employees.

City Councilor Dan Lewis has asked City Hall’s inspector general to investigate whether Schultz violated a city ordinance when he found a familiar place to land after leaving APD last fall. Schultz quickly became a consultant to the company that provides lapel cameras and other equipment to the department and law enforcement agencies nationwide.

In a separate request, Councilors Ken Sanchez and Klarissa Peña want state Auditor Hector Balderas to conduct an “independent review” of how Taser received a no-bid city contract – Schultz has said it was the only provider at the time – and whether there was any improper conduct by Schultz.

There’s no question snagging the former police chief of a major metropolitan area is a marketing coup for a company that targets law enforcement departments, and Schultz was at the forefront of smart change in policing in pushing for lapel cameras on officers at APD.

But it’s unclear if the city’s administrative order allows Schultz to go work for TASER as long as he isn’t involved with dealings involving APD, if he was in fact working for two masters in the waning weeks of his tenure, or if he has since had dealings with APD on behalf of TASER.

It’s also disturbing that while he was still chief Schultz allegedly emailed TASER that “the approval process for the contract ‘has been greased.’ ”

Schultz maintains he did not violate the conflict-of-interest ordinance, his successor handled the current contract with the company, and “greased” was a poor choice of words.

Taxpayers and Schultz deserve an impartial opinion.

Mayor Richard Berry has said that while his administration and the city attorney have reviewed the matter, “it is best to err on the side of being thorough and have the IG take a look.” He’s right.

Depending on those findings, it might be necessary to have the state auditor and/or the attorney general conduct further review.

The City Council can also use this experience to determine how or whether the “Conflicts of Interest; Former Employees” ordinance should be clarified going forward. Employees deserve clarity when it comes to acceptable employment after they leave the city.

The public also deserves clarity when it comes to having current employees spend – or ex-employees solicit – their tax dollars.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.