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New Magistrate Resigns at Richardson Request

Associated Press
      A Rio Arriba County magistrate disciplined as a state police officer for various infractions has resigned at the request of Gov. Bill Richardson, the governor's office announced Thursday.
    The governor met with Thomas Rodella on Tuesday and asked for his resignation after learning Rodella had hand-delivered an order to release an acquaintance who had been jailed on a charge of drunken driving over the Fourth of July holiday. Richardson and an anti-DWI advocate criticized Rodella last week for the release order.
    "The actions of our judges must be above reproach,'' the governor said. "I am very disappointed, but in my opinion this was the appropriate course of action.''
    Richardson's office said Rodella's resignation was effective Wednesday.
    Richardson had named Rodella, husband of state Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-San Juan Pueblo, to the post in March.
    Rodella's resignation letter said, "It has been an honor and a truly rewarding experience to have had the opportunity to serve the people of Rio Arriba in this capacity. I look forward to working together on issues of mutual concern.''
    The Albuquerque Journal, in a copyright story in Thursday's editions, reported Rodella had been disciplined for marijuana use, improper use of a weapon, physical abuse, falsifying official reports, abusing sick leave and using his position for personal gain while a state police officer. The Journal cited internal affairs reports it obtained.
    The newspaper said Rodella declined to comment on its story and that he said he preferred to focus on his magistrate's job rather than be distracted by controversies.
    He responded "yes'' when the Journal asked if he had been a good officer, adding, "I excelled at everything I did.''
    Rodella, who joined the state police in 1982, retired on a disability pension in 1995.
    He acknowledged earlier he was the target of several investigations as an officer, and that some were substantiated.
    A resume Rodella submitted to the governor's office offered highlights of his state police career, including arrests of a murder suspect and other felons, but did not mention charges in an internal affairs report in November 1994.
    He had at least three 30-day suspensions as a state police officer and was transferred off a security detail for then-Gov. Toney Anaya.
    State police considered the report confidential but a copy was disclosed in a federal excessive force lawsuit against Rodella in December 1994. The state paid $5,000 to settle the lawsuit. Rodella had denied the charges.
    A state police internal affairs report said a 1985 investigation sustained "conduct unbecoming'' charges against Rodella — specifically marijuana use, physical abuse and improper use of a weapon. He was suspended for 30 days and transferred.
    The internal affairs report said a 1993 investigation sustained an allegation he used his position for personal gain. He was suspended for 30 days again.
    A 1994 investigation sustained allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer, abuse of sick leave and falsifying official reports. Discipline on those allegations was pending when the report was prepared.
    Rodella also received a letter of caution after a 1992 investigation into allegations of "failure to perform duties of a supervisor,'' the report said, but gave no details. Rodella has said he received the letter because he and other officers went bungee-jumping at the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque.
    Rodella also was suspended for 30 days for firing at a deer decoy set out by game officers to catch poachers on the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Civil charges against him were filed in Jicarilla tribal court in 1993. Debbie Rodella has said those charges were dismissed.
    The Rio Grande Sun newspaper of Española reported in April that Thomas Rodella was investigated in the early 1990s for allegedly using his position as a state police sergeant to have traffic tickets dismissed to help his wife's campaign.
    The Rio Grande Sun said the internal affairs division found he violated rules, regulations and policies and said 25 officers had dismissed or canceled citations at his request. Rodella denied those allegations.
    Complaints also were lodged against Rodella in 1996, 1998 and 2000 about his assistance of voters in Española. In 2000, the complaints prompted state agents to monitor early voting in Rio Arriba County.