Thursday, October 22, 2009

Money, Money, Money…

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Just days after the mayoral election, Scott Forrester who works in the mayor’s office got a handsome raise; 67 percent according to Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer Dan McKay.

Forrester is officially listed as Executive Assistant to the Mayor, but has been acting chief of staff for Martin Chávez replacing Bianca Ortiz-Wertheim who left to be State Director of Sen. Tom Udall’s local office. Forrester’s salary jumped from around $48,000 to just under $80,000.

Chávez’ administrative staff also served as his “volunteer” political staff and only a few people were paid by the campaign. Unclassified city employees, who serve at the pleasure of the mayor could have been assured they would have received normal pay raises had Chávez been reelected to an unprecedented third consecutive term.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

It’s easy to speculate that the huge raise for Forrester may well be a method of rewarding him with taxpayer money for what couldn’t be accomplished during the election because of the limits imposed by the new public financed campaign limits.

Four years ago, Chávez raised more than a million dollars to run his campaign. He had so much money that he paid his chief fundraiser, his former City Mayor’s Office Chief of Staff Terrie Baird, left, $100,000 for her efforts; 10 percent.

Chávez’ campaign is already unable and unwilling to pay its outstanding debts. It is highly probable that the campaign has incurred debt in excess of the public financed campaign limits.

So why should anyone be surprised that Chávez wouldn’t reward loyal service during the campaign with a monetary raise using city funds? Even if Forrester only served out Chávez’ term, the end of November, the pay raise might amount to as much as $8,000. Not bad reward for working hard on the campaign or at city hall.

My blogging buddy, over at the Eye on Albuquerque; I’ve never called him that before, but he has taken on Chávez for moving around some of his most loyal staff.
Frankly, no matter what excuse is given these raises are appalling. Our Eyes tell us that since the Once Almighty Alcalde lost the election earlier in the month, Hizz Honor has been busy squirreling away his minions and busily trying to reclassify his unclassified friends. One such reclassification was Director of Parks and Recreation, Jay Evans who was recently moved from his unclassified directors position in Parks and Rec to an over $80,000 a year classified position running Open Space.

The intent of the Chavez administration is to protect their minions while leaving them behind as land mines ready to explode on an unsuspecting Berry administration.
The Eye may not recall that Evans, seen below, sketching at the KOB Mayoral Forum, was in the Open Space job before becoming a member of the inner circle and taking on the unclassified job.
I represented an Open Space Ranger once in front of Evans and he handled it appropriately. He also yelled at me during a break in a Labor Board meeting for my having challenged the mayor’s claimed authority to disregard a union contract. Not to overly confuse things, it is my understanding that Evans was once Chávez’ landlord.

The old Jeffersonian, “to the victors go the spoils,” has been altered by the merit system concept.

Current Chief of Public Safety Pete Dinelli had something to do with this back when he was a one term City Councillor, 1985-89. Dinelli proposed a bill that would allow long-term city workers who had been classified, then promoted to unclassified positions, serving at the pleasure of the mayor, to retain the employment if they had served for more than four years in the unclassified position. Dinelli’s stated thinking, at the time was, if a second mayor retained the individual, then some of the merit system would apply.

The reasoning was actually to allow city employees to continue to work toward retirement benefits and not be thrown out of their careers simply because they had closely worked with the preceding mayor.
§ 3-1-1 The Merit System.

§ 3-1-7 Employment by the City.

(C) Employees who have held a classified position with the city for more than ten years prior to serving in an unclassified position shall be allowed to return to a classified position.
It was a two-sided coin. If I recall correctly, it wouldn’t apply to people who were hired directly into unclassified positions, even if they did serve more than a mayor’s single term. So it wouldn’t apply to Dinelli.

Yet there is no reason to believe that once a sycophant, always a sycophant and the leader and their politics are secondary. Evans loyalty to Chávez aside, there is no evidence that he is unqualified to return to Open Space, or that he wouldn’t perform the job.

Mayor-elect Richard R.J. Berry promised to run the city like a business. If he thinks removing formally loyal Chávez aides who are now protected by the merit system is the way business is run, he’s about to learn why government is not the same as business.

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