The photograph snapped near Plaza Park last month tells the story: A white city of Las Vegas parks department truck with a Susana Martinez for governor bumper sticker.
City officials concede the bumper sticker should never have been on the city-owned vehicle in the first place. It’s unclear who placed the sticker there.
Mayor Alfonso Ortiz, who has appeared in campaign commercials for the Republican governor, believes that the campaign sticker is linked to a break-in at the parks department in which several batteries were taken. The following day, he said, employees discovered the sticker on the vehicle.
But Martin Suazo, the San Miguel County Democratic party chairman, calls Ortiz’s explanation for how the sticker got on the vehicle “absurd,” saying he highly doubts that someone who breaks into a parks facility and steals batteries would take the time to place a Susana Martinez for governor sticker on a city vehicle.
The matter is receiving statewide attention with both a Santa Fe newspaper and an Albuquerque television news station carrying stories about it.
Interim City Manager Elmer Martinez on Monday sent out a memo to all city employees Monday advising them to check their vehicles to make sure there are no political signs or any other inappropriate advertising on any of them. If anything is found, the memo states, they are to report it and remove it immediately.
Parks department supervisor Jeff Rudolph is quoted in the New Mexican as saying that the break-in and theft occurred sometime in June.
The photo, which was circulated to media outlets by Suazo, was taken the morning of July 21, he said, raising the question of why it took so long for the city to remove the bumper sticker from the truck.
On Wednesday, Ortiz said the break-in actually occurred sometime in July, and the bumper sticker was removed a day or two later.
“We have a directive here that no political signs of any kind should be placed on any city vehicle,” Ortiz said. He said the photo is merely being circulated for political purposes.
Suazo, meanwhile, said that having a campaign sticker on a city vehicle is inappropriate.
“We need to make better use of taxpayer dollars than advertising a gubernatorial candidate or any campaign for that matter,” he said.
Suazo has previously criticized the city for making Martinez the grand marshal of this year’s fiesta parade, calling it a slap in the face to the community.