Tuesday, December 4, 2007
4 City Councilors Boycott New Board
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
During the first meeting of Albuquerque's new City Council on Monday, four members refused to attend because of a squabble over who should be president.
Don Harris, Sally Mayer, Ken Sanchez and new Councilor Trudy Jones boycotted the meeting. They met at Capo's restaurant, about three blocks away, and held a news conference later at City Hall.
In their absence, the council elected Brad Winter to serve as president for the next year.
Mayer, who was a candidate for president, said she skipped the meeting because she was angry about earlier negotiations over the presidency. She said Winter had repeatedly broken commitments on whom he would support.
She accused Winter of lying to her and said she wanted her absence to call attention to his behavior. "Brad Winter should be ashamed of himself."
Winter said he never lied, and if the councilors had a problem with his position, they should have attended the meeting.
"You have to have five votes" to become president, he said. "This is the place to have the debate, not in a press conference or behind closed doors."
Councilor Michael Cadigan, who backed Winter, said "jockeying for position" is typical. No one is expected to honor a commitment if the other person can't cobble together a five-vote majority, he said.
"There were more promises made and broken in the last two weeks than I've ever seen," he said. "Some of the four people accusing Brad of breaking commitments and lying are breaking commitments and lying, or they have on this issue."
The race for council president heated up over the weekend. Mayer, Sanchez and outgoing President Debbie O'Malley all were seeking the post.
Conservatives on the council wanted to piece together a five-vote majority to win the presidency. The group was to include four Republicans Winter, Mayer, Harris and Jones and one moderate Democrat, Sanchez.
Mayer said that for two months, Winter had said he would support her for the job. She said he later agreed to support Sanchez but changed his mind again just before Monday's meeting when he received a call from Allen Weh, chairman of the state Republican Party.
Mayer said Winter told her that Weh did not want him to support a Democrat.
Winter denied talking to Weh about the presidency. "That is absolutely not true," he said.
Weh would not comment when contacted by the Journal.
In the end, Winter won the presidency with the backing of four Democrats: Cadigan, Isaac Benton, Rey Garduño and O'Malley.
Harris said the race was important for philosophical reasons. In particular, he said, the council needs to start appointing moderates and conservatives to the city-county water board. The agency has been governed exclusively by Democrats in recent months, he said.
The council president traditionally appoints the council representatives to that board, Mayer said.
Winter, generally considered a moderate Republican, has served as council president at least three times.