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Editorial: Schultz-Taser dealings due serious cleanup measures

There is much to plug your nose about when it comes to former Albuquerque Police Department Chief Ray Schultz’s relationship with Taser International Inc.

Schultz retired in September 2013 and remained on APD’s payroll for several months, but quickly signed on as a consultant for the company that sells on-body cameras, 600 of which the city purchased in 2013.

As a result of Schultz’s cozy dealings with Taser, the city commissioned several audits, and councilors Ken Sanchez and Klarissa Peña asked for one by the state Auditor’s Office. The results were released last week by new State Auditor Tim Keller.

The audit says Schultz and others in APD received “certain benefits” from Taser as they helped the company secure a roughly $2 million no-bid contract to provide on-body cameras and other equipment.

Shortly after Schultz retired, his successor signed the final Taser contract, although Schultz allegedly in an email to Taser before he left said the approval process was “greased.” In retrospect, that may have been no more than an unfortunate choice of words, but it seems clear Schultz had a hand in getting the contract set up.

Schultz claimed Taser was the only company at the time that offered a way to securely upload body-camera video and provide other safeguards needed by APD. And a city employee answering a city Office of Internal Audit questionnaire said Taser cameras were better and more affordable than other products.

The auditor’s review found “probable violation” of state law and city ordinance, and deficiencies in the city procurement code and related ordinances.

Keller has recommended some changes, particularly clarifying definitions and limiting when a “sole source” procurement is permissible, and setting up an independent committee to review requests for purchases without seeking competing proposals. City Hall officials say they already have made some changes, including moving procurement decisions out of the police department.

While the known benefits to Schultz and other city employees at the time were not earth-shakingly lucrative, the point is that proper procedures may not have been followed, and Schultz and the city failed to err on the side of transparency when it came to spending $2 million of taxpayers’ money.

The aromas of an appearance of a conflict of interest at the least or potential criminal violations at the worst are stinking up the kitchen. The city should apply a whole lot of sunshine to this cleanup project.

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.