Sunday, December 12, 2010
Report Shows Some Knew of MATS Allegations in '09
By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Newly obtained documents and an interview with a long-silent Bernalillo County employee indicate that at least some top county officials knew about allegations of wrongdoing and nepotism at the county's drug and alcohol detox facility much earlier than previously acknowledged.
The county publicly acknowledged allegations involving the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services center and pledged to investigate after Journal news stories were published April 30.
But an anonymous ethics complaint sent to County Attorney Jeff Landers on Feb. 12 lays out a litany of allegations against Jamie Dantis, who was a substance abuse technician at MATS.
Many of the claims in the complaint filed on the county's website — including Jamie Dantis bringing a pellet gun to work, showing up to work at MATS impaired and crashing a county vehicle — were reported in the Journal stories and confirmed in June by a county-hired independent investigator.
The Feb. 12 complaint also includes allegations that Jamie Dantis boasted he was protected from discipline because his father, John Dantis, was deputy county manager for public safety with oversight of MATS.
The Journal this week obtained an unredacted portion of the 40-plus page investigative report compiled by the outside investigator that said Landers and then-county Human Resources Director Renetta Torres — since promoted to deputy county manager — were told of allegations involving Jamie Dantis made by an anonymous caller even earlier, on Dec. 14, 2009.
The outside attorney's report said the Human Resources employee who took the call "advised HR director Renetta Torres and County Attorney Jeff Landers. Since the caller was anonymous and did not follow up, nothing else was done."
The report was eventually released to the public but that portion pertaining to Landers and Torres was blacked out.
"The answer to why we redacted the language is because conversations between these Management personnel and the County Attorney were made in the course and scope of the attorney-client relationship," the county said in a statement Friday.
Asked why the call last December didn't trigger an investigation, the county said:
"It has been HR's practice to investigate matters in cases when there is an individual who can be interviewed or where witnesses are identified by an anonymous caller.
"The HR department established this practice after it determined that anonymous complaints when made in the past were often frivolous and thus resources were not being used efficiently to investigate such complaints."
There is no indication that the complaint filed on the website triggered a formal investigation, but it was turned over to a contract auditor who reviews ethics matters. The auditor eventually concluded the allegations preceded the current ethics ordinance.
The county in a statement issued Friday said County Manager Thaddeus Lucero didn't know about the ethics complaint until August.
Commissioners Michael Brasher and Maggie Hart Stebbins said they were unaware of the complaint until it was released several weeks ago in response to the Journal's public records request.
The county also said Lucero stood by his earlier statements that he did not learn of allegations involving Dantis until April but would not provide a specific date.
An e-mail obtained by the Journal this summer challenges Lucero's version of the timing. It shows John Dantis ordered Carl Broach, another MATS supervisor, to conduct an investigation into an allegation against the younger Dantis in June 2009. Lucero was copied on that correspondence.
Lucero said that he did not recall receiving the e-mail. He cited a high volume of e-mail. He later acknowledged receiving Broach's report on the matter. Asked in June to reconcile his previous statement that he was not aware of any allegations against Jamie Dantis prior to the Journal stories this spring, Lucero replied: "Jamie has since resigned."
The timing was also challenged by Dwight Dias, a former MATS manager who was disciplined and had his pay cut in half in connection with the Dantis matter for lying and supervisory failure.
Lucero told the Journal he met with Dias, Broach and both John and Jamie Dantis on April 29 to ask whether any complaints had been made against the younger Dantis during his time at MATS.
"They all said: 'No,' " Lucero said at the time.
Dias tells a different story.
He said that, in late February or early March, he and Broach requested a meeting with Lucero after they had received an anonymous letter making allegations against Jamie Dantis.
According to Dias, Lucero acknowledged that he had also received a copy of the letter but that Lucero said he wanted to know "about facts, not rumors."
"He asked me how Jamie was doing" in his job performance, Dias said. "I said: 'You know what, he's doing good.' "
But Dias claims that in the same meeting he told Lucero that Jamie Dantis' direct supervisor, Cecilia Baca, had reassigned the younger Dantis to desk duty so she "could keep an eye on him." That move, Dias told Lucero, was in response to numerous allegations from staff that Dantis was having trouble at work.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Lucero told Dias and Broach that Jamie Dantis would remain in his position at MATS, Dias said.
Dias said a second meeting, which he said was called by Lucero, occurred about a month later and also included Jamie and John Dantis.
Dias claims that at some point in the meeting he and Broach were asked to leave.
"Jamie showed up and his dad showed up, and Thaddeus talked to them behind closed doors," Dias said. Lucero "made a comment about: 'the media might be coming.'"
Lucero then said he was going to refer reporters to Broach and Dias. But once reporters started calling, Dias wasn't authorized to talk to them, he said. Instead, all media inquiries were handled by Lucero's office.
Departure and discipline
John Dantis announced his retirement on June 28. He cited medical and personal reasons and said his decision had nothing to do with the MATS scandal. Lucero has refused to say whether he planned to discipline John Dantis.
Jamie Dantis resigned his county post in June under threat of termination.
County substance abuse division supervisors Carl Broach and Adan Carriaga were placed on 12 months probation.
Dias was suspended for 60 days, demoted and had his pay cut in half.