Corrales’ new mayor Scott Kominiak and his predecessor have locked horns over a trove of village documents that former mayor Phil Gasteyer took home when he left office this spring.
On Monday, the village police chief, clerk and administrator went to Gasteyer’s home and retrieved about 17 boxes of documents, spurring a blistering response from Councilor John Alsobrook, who questioned the legal authority for their action and whether they had a warrant to “seize” the materials.
Kominiak was elected mayor in March. Gasteyer is now a village councilor.
At the council meeting on Tuesday night, Gasteyer said he chose not to exercise his right to ask for a warrant when he turned over several boxes of documents. These were in addition to “10 or 11” he said he delivered to the village office three weeks ago and about the same number he brought there on Monday morning.
Gasteyer said he had been preparing to return the files but he needed to sort through them because there were some personal documents mingled in with village papers.
He disagreed with what he perceived as Kominiak’s direction for them to come to his home.
“I think mayor you perhaps exceeded your authority on this occasion,” Gasteyer said.
After that, he handed a slim blue file he said contained privileged attorney/client communications to village attorney John Appel, saying Appel’s law firm could decide what to do with them.
Kominiak responded saying he had been trying “amicably” to get the documents back for months but met with “resistance.”
“This is between a guy who left office and took documents, and the village that owns them,” Kominiak said. “It is inappropriate to leave your successor in the lurch.”
He rejected Gasteyer’s characterization of the visit to his home. He said village staff talked with Gasteyer when he delivered documents on Monday morning and they informed him they would be coming to his home to get the rest.
Kominiak said attorneys have advised him that the village could be found in violation of state law if it was unable to provide material in response to a legal request to inspect public documents.
Kominiak said 39 boxes have been returned to date. Those that he has examined contained binders, reports on various projects, reports from outside agencies, notes on negotiations for contracts and correspondence with the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority.
He said he, the village clerk and a temporary staffer would go through documents to make sure no personal material was still there.
In an interview after the meeting, Gasteyer said he took the materials home when he was clearing out the office for the new mayor so he could sort them.
“There were things I’d collected in my eight years as mayor,” he said, adding there were personal materials mixed among them such as medical documents pertaining to his wife.
He said none of the village documents were originals and that staff had copies of everything he had.
Gasteyer said he had agreed to return the materials before the action on Monday.
“I set a time frame for returning them by September 30 and that didn’t satisfy the new mayor,” Gasteyer said.
Melanie Scholer, a village resident who spoke at the meeting, questioned why the council didn’t demand the documents before now.
“The tragedy is that six months have gone by and we won’t know if anything was destroyed,” Scholer said.