David T. Harper – who, until recently, oversaw the investigation of corruption and financial crimes for the Air Force in Washington, D.C. – won appointment late Monday as Albuquerque’s next inspector general.
“My passion has been protecting the public trust and the public dollar,” Harper told city councilors.
He lives in New Hampshire now, he said, but wants to move to the West. Harper said he has been interested in New Mexico since conducting a major fraud investigation at Kirtland Air Force Base about 15 years ago.
He will be Albuquerque’s first permanent inspector general in three years. It’s been filled on an acting basis since the last IG resigned in late 2012.
Harper won Monday’s confirmation over two other finalists – retired Air Force Col. Joseph Grasso and ex-prosecutor Robin Hammer, who once headed the city office that investigates citizen complaints against police.
City councilors ranked each of the three candidates on paper ballots, and then their staff added up the scores. Harper was the highest-ranked, and the council voted to confirm the appointment.
The city’s Office of Inspector General operates independent of the executive and legislative branches of municipal government. It has two investigators, besides the inspector general.
Harper, who’s in his late 50s, said he devoted most of his 40-year career in the Air Force to combating economic crimes. He participated in an investigation that resulted in a defense contractor’s returning $600 million to the Air Force, he said.
Harper said he understands that the IG’s office in Albuquerque is a small operation and that he will look for ways to make its work efficient. He broached the idea of a peer review, in which the inspector general for another city would evaluate Albuquerque’s office.
Under city ordinance, the inspector general reports to the Accountability in Government Oversight Committee, a five-member group appointed by the mayor and City Council.
The accountability committee screened the candidates and agreed on the three finalists considered Monday.