From the Texas El Paso Times
You can read the rest at the link. Note, its a 500+ page report, and oddly no report on party affiliation....New Mexico takes over Sunland Park: Audit finds misappropriation of city money, more
SUNLAND PARK -- The state of New Mexico took over fiscal oversight of Sunland Park on Monday after a state audit found widespread fraud, criminal violations and misappropriation of city funds, including money used to pay for prostitutes in Mexico and improperly forgiving some residents' utility bills.
State Auditor Hector Balderas announced the findings of a special audit into the government of a small city still struggling to name a new mayor after the previous mayor-elect was arrested on extortion and other charges.
The audit found a government that operated with lax oversight, which made it fertile for fraud, waste and abuse.
Following the release of the audit, the state finance secretary, Tom Clifford, suspended Sunland Park's finance director, Helen Gonzalez, and the city's purchasing agent, Neryza Rivera, and took control of those positions. And more suspensions are possible.
State officials said city services will continue without interruption.
"This is a tragedy for the taxpayers and the residents of Sunland and it is a tragedy on how not to govern,"
"The extraordinary level of financial mismanagement in Sunland Park is unacceptable; protecting public funds will be our highest priority," she said in a statement.
Balderas said the special audit began Feb. 23 and his office would continue to look into the city's finances. The total cost of public money that may have been misused was still being calculated.
"It's a city in chaos at this point," Balderas said.
The 80-page audit report listed 27 separate cases regarding misappropriation of money from the city's Border Crossing Fund, misuse of travel and per diem payments, violations of the Open Meetings Act, and other problems.
Balderas said the audit confirmed that $42,161 was used from the Border Crossing Fund to pay invoices from EnviroSystems Management Consultants, Inc. The invoices were allegedly reimbursements for alcohol, strip clubs and even prostitutes for Daniel Salinas, then-mayor pro tem, and the city's public information officer, Arturo Alba, during a lobbying trip to Mexico. Money from the border fund was also used to pay for a campaign video for Salinas and was used to pay for a private investigator who filmed a hidden-camera video showing one of Salinas' political rivals with a topless dancer.
The audit reported that the city issued a contract for $2.4 million to EnviroSystems Management Consultants without competitive bid requirements.
"They used it (the Border Crossing Fund) as a private slush-fund account," Balderas said.
The state auditor said that Sunland Park also violated state regulations by hiring Frank Coppler as a city attorney without a competitive sealed bid process. The city has paid Coppler $481,378 in legal fees, the auditor said.
In 2010, the Sunland Park City Council improperly forgave about $200,000 in utility bills for some residential customers in violation of state law prohibiting donations from the government, the audit stated.
And there’s more, from Fox News:
Go to the FOX link and read the massively long report on all the violations that he had going on. I can't fit it all on this page.Voter fraud allegations in mayoral election rock New Mexico city
Sunland Park, N.M. – There is perhaps no other city in the country like Sunland Park, N.M.
The dusty border town minutes from El Paso, Texas, has been called "a city in chaos" by the state auditor, because a slew of public officials are facing felony charges that they ran City Hall like a personal piggy bank, tried to steal an election in order to remain in power and ruled the 14,000 residents through intimidation and fear.
The state is now moving to take over financial oversight of the city, as the council scrambles to try and name a new mayor.
The explosive case even involves Mexican prostitutes, strippers and an undercover video of a mayoral candidate getting a lap dance from a topless woman. The video allegedly was used to try to force him to drop out of the race.
Authorities say the extortion investigation has revealed widespread voter fraud and public corruption in the small city just south of the Rio Grande.
"It started with extortion charges, and from that it then led us to the voter fraud cases," says Dona Ana Third Judicial District Attorney Amy Orlando, who is prosecuting the growing case.
So far, her office has charged 12 people, many public officials and city employees, including 28-year-old Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas, who faces dozens of charges in four separate cases. He was barred from taking office, and the city has been without a mayor since the election on March 6. Isabel Santos is serving as mayor pro tem in the meantime.
The criminal charges against all the defendants range from voter fraud to bribery to extortion to conspiracy to kickbacks to blackmail.
"The whole common scheme was to get Mr. Salinas elected," Orlando told Fox News. "It was all done to further Daniel Salinas and the other people who wanted to stay in control of all the money, all the resources, which just hurts all of the citizens of Sunland Park.”
Among the allegations are charges that city workers registered people who didn't even live in New Mexico and convinced them to vote for Salinas during early voting.
In addition, absentee ballot applications were allegedly intercepted before reaching the city clerk, so that Salinas’ opponents could not hand them out to their supporters.
"They pressured the poor, old people, the people who don't know English. They were forced to sign without knowing what they were signing. It’s incredible, it’s disgusting," mayoral candidate Gerardo Hernandez told Fox News.
Hernandez says he was ahead on election night during in-person voting, but after the absentee votes were counted, he lost to Salinas by 84 votes. He charges the election was stolen from him "by manipulating the absentee and early voting."
Again. Oddly enough, no report on party affiliation.
But we get to what Salinas's lawyer said...
Read the restSalinas' defense attorney says arrests are politically motivated
SUNLAND PARK, N.M. —
The defense attorney for Sunland Park's former mayor-elect told KFOX14 that the recent string of arrests is politically motivated.
Daniel Salinas has now been arrested three times in the last month and a-half for three separate sets of charges.
Defense attorney Joshua Spencer said it's all been because of a political battle between Democrats and Republicans.
"This is political persecution," Spencer said.
Spencer said that the Dona Ana County district attorney's office, which is run mostly by Republicans, and Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, are attacking Salinas for his political affiliation as a Democrat.
Why am I not surprised...