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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Senator's New Job Not Posted
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
Bernalillo County hired state Sen. Linda Lopez this fall without advertising the job so others could apply.
County Manager Thaddeus Lucero said he waived the requirement to post the job because Lopez essentially was keeping the same position she had at the Mid-Region Council of Governments but was switching to the county.
The county was paying the Council of Governments for the job Lopez was doing working on regional jail initiatives and other assignments so it made sense to bring her over, Lucero said.
She makes about $26 an hour, the same amount she made at the COG, for 15 to 20 hours a week, officials said.
Lopez, a South Valley Democrat who is seeking her party's nomination for lieutenant governor, said her role as a state lawmaker didn't affect her hiring.
"I felt that since they were paying my salary ... it made sense to work for the county," Lopez said. "The money was already being funneled straight over to the COG."
Lucero said Lopez approached him about making the switch.
"I considered it a transfer of positions from one government agency to another," Lucero said Monday in an interview. "She was already doing" the work.
The Legislature is important to Bernalillo County and other local governments, which often lobby lawmakers for funding, changes in state law and other priorities.
The county hired Lopez on Oct. 12 as a part-time special projects coordinator in the capital improvements program, where she tracks legislation before the county commission and construction projects.
The job would pay about $54,000 a year if she worked full time, but Lopez works only 15 to 20 hours a week, Lucero said, meaning she would make less than $27,000 a year.
It's a "term" position with benefits, a county spokeswoman said. That means the job isn't permanent, though it could last for years.
Lopez said her benefits didn't improve with the switch over.
Asked whether Lopez's position as a state senator played a role in her hiring, Lucero said: "Her unique experience in understanding the process and knowing the players was important, but she also has a great skill set. She's a great facilitator. She's a good collaborator."
He added that Lopez is "one of the best" at organizing and running a meeting.
Lucero said Lopez worked at the Council of Governments on regional jail initiatives. Much of the work ended up involving Bernalillo County's jail, one of the largest in the country.
No county commissioner pushed for her to get a county job, he said.
"I just felt it was best to bring her over to the county and report directly to us," Lucero said.
He said the county's personnel rules give him authority to waive the typical posting of job openings. Seeking other applicants didn't make sense, he said.
"She has been working on these jail initiatives for two years," and it would take someone else time to get up to speed, Lucero said.
Lopez has been a good employee, he said, and responded to all his requests.
"I'm truly confident in her work ethic and skills," he said.
No other state lawmakers work for Bernalillo County, Lucero said.
New Mexico legislators aren't paid, but they can receive a daily allowance when they're doing official work.