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City Council OKs up to $750,000 for DOJ negotiator

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Just negotiating with the U.S. Department of Justice will cost Albuquerque about $750,000.

Or at least that’s what city councilors hope.

They approved an extra $530,000 late Monday for Scott Greenwood, the attorney who helped negotiate a settlement with the Justice Department, requiring a series of police reforms.

That brings his total contract to $750,000. Councilors made it clear they aren’t expecting to pay more than that.

“I would hope that our legal department can do a lot of that work and we’re not having to pay these extravagant legal fees,” Councilor Ken Sanchez said.

City officials also said they want to see more disclosure of the potential of any relationship that could appear to be a conflict of interest.

Debra Yoshimura, City Hall’s director of internal auditing, said Greenwood sometimes travels to speak at conferences sponsored, at least in part, by Taser, the company that provides body-worn cameras and other equipment used by Albuquerque police. Conference sponsors reimburse his travel expenses, she said, an arrangement he should disclose in the future when it happens.

But Yoshimura said it probably isn’t an actual conflict as long Greenwood is not trying to steer city business to Taser. No councilor made an allegation like that.

She briefed city councilors on the issue during Monday’s meeting at the request of Councilor Dan Lewis.

Greenwood’s contract won approval on a 6-3 vote, with Lewis, Rey Garduño and Klarissa Peña in dissent.

Peña said she didn’t like that Greenwood had been hired and paid so much under a no-bid contract, meaning the city didn’t seek competing proposals from other attorneys. Garduño said he didn’t want to keep Greenwood on the payroll for so long.

Most of the money approved Monday is for work Greenwood has already done. About $200,000 is for the coming year, which means Greenwood will have to slow down his work now that most of the negotiation is done.

City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said the $200,000 is based on an estimate from Greenwood. Unexpected circumstances could push the amount higher, she said.

The Berry administration said in a memo to councilors that hiring someone else would cost more.

Greenwood’s contract amount covers legal fees. Reimbursement of other expenses will cost more.

Several councilors said Greenwood’s experience – he’s a civil rights attorney based out of Cincinnati, Ohio – proved valuable during negotiations with the Justice Department.

The city hired Greenwood last year after a Department of Justice investigation found that Albuquerque police had a pattern of violating people’s civil rights through the use of force.

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