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Acting Detox Chief Has Political Ties

FOR THE RECORD: This story reported that County Manager Thaddeus Lucero said he did not know what Andrew Garrison's previous position was. Lucero said he does not remember being asked that question, and that, in fact, Garrison's previous title was Health and Wellness administrator.

By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          Officials have appointed a longtime county employee with "good management experience" as acting director of the county's scandal-plagued drug and alcohol detox center.
        But County Manager Thaddeus Lucero would not say whether Andrew Garrison has any experience in the substance abuse field and did not know what Garrison's previous position with the county was.
        What is clear is that Garrison, who has previously worked for the county's Parks and Recreation Department and is an elected member of the state Public Education Commission, has ties to current and former county commissioners.
        Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz said Garrison has worked on De La Cruz's campaigns for public office. Campaign finance reports show Garrison donated a total of more than $1,200 to De La Cruz's last two election bids.
        "I appreciated that very much," De la Cruz said. "But let me be clear: I had nothing to do with his appointment."
        Garrison could not be reached for comment.
        Garrison also is the son-in-law of former commissioner Al Valdez.
        Valdez served on the commission from 1989 to 1996 and had been offered a job as a special projects coordinator with the county in April.
        After a Journal story appeared about the forthcoming hire, Lucero rescinded the offer to Valdez, who is also a campaign supporter of De La Cruz.
        "I'm looking more at a manager right now," Lucero said in an interview, adding that he has worked with Garrison for several years at the county.
        He said Garrison has been acting director of the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services facility for about two weeks, and that a national search will be conducted for someone permanent.
        He said he thinks Garrison makes about $80,000 a year.
        Garrison replaced the previous acting director, John Dantis, who is also deputy county manager for public safety.
        Dantis was barred from MATS after allegations surfaced that his son, Jamie Dantis, had violated county policies while working at MATS and that his father and other supervisors had covered up the alleged wrongdoings.
        A private law firm has completed an investigation into the cover-up allegations and whether John Dantis' supervisory authority over his son violated the county's nepotism policy.
        Lucero would not provide a copy of the law firm's report but said he plans to release the findings and detail disciplinary actions against MATS supervisors later this week.
        Asked how long John Dantis served as acting MATS director, Lucero at first responded: "About a year."
        He later conceded that before Garrison, Dantis had been the facility's only director since it opened in October 2005.
        De La Cruz said officials had planned to appoint Carl Broach, a supervisor in the county's Department of Substance Abuse Programs, as MATS director.
        "But that fell through," De La Cruz said.
        Broach was convicted of DWI last year and is now at the center of the Dantis/MATS investigation. Lucero has said Broach lied to him in late April by saying Jamie Dantis had a "spotless" personnel record.
        De La Cruz said Lucero had told him in a conversation that he planned to appoint Garrison as acting MATS director.
        "He said he was going to do that, and I said: 'That's your call,'" De La Cruz said. "I never suggested (Garrison) as a candidate. But he is a capable individual to get in there and hold down the fort. He worked for me for several years at Parks and Rec until I left in 2003. He ran the West Side Community Center and later headed up a section that did sports, fitness and wellness.
        "I think for the past few years Andrew has been working at the jail, but I'm not sure what he's been doing."
        Lucero said he didn't discuss Garrison's appointment with De La Cruz until after he had made it.
        He said he discussed the appointment with all five commissioners in the days after Garrison took the post.
        Commissioner Michael Brasher said he had never heard Garrison's name before Tuesday and that he had never discussed an appointment for MATS director with Lucero.
        Lucero said county officials this week are working on a job posting that will include qualifications for a permanent MATS director. He said anyone who meets the qualifications, including Garrison, may apply.
        "Anybody can be a candidate," he said. "John can reapply for it if he wants."

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