A continuing distraction

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By Optic Editorial Board

Mora County Sheriff Roy Cordova has a month left of his term in his post. We sure wish he would step down now.

We protested loudly when he took another job in September as a deputy sheriff in Valencia County while still collecting his paycheck of more than $40,000 a year as Mora County sheriff. With the other job, Cordova only worked about half of his 40-hour shift as sheriff.

But he recently quit the Valencia County job after he crashed his squad car. He refused to take a breath-alcohol test. Now we’ll never know if he was driving while intoxicated. But his refusal to take the test leads to a reasonable suspicion. Why else would he refuse?
We finally got in touch with one of the county commissioners, Laudente Quintana, usually the only one who will talk with the media. (Quintana said we never tried to reach him on this issue because he has his cell phone on him at all times. Despite what he says, we did attempt to contact him. Perhaps his phone faltered.) To his credit, Quintana said he thought it was wrong that Cordova continued as sheriff while working as a deputy in Valencia County, two and a half hours away from Mora.

Quintana was saying what the average person was thinking. He referred further questions to the county attorney, John Grubesic.
The attorney revealed that he had sent a letter on behalf of the County Commission, instructing Cordova to quit his Valencia County job. Grubesic said the sheriff is required to be on duty at all times and that the job in Valencia County prevented Cordova from doing so.

Grubesic said the commission hadn’t asked him about the possibility of docking Cordova’s pay as sheriff. Why not? It’s against the law for public entities to be paying people for services not rendered. The County Commission shouldn’t be shy about standing up for taxpayers’ dollars and holding officials to account. Of course, the other two county commissioners, Gene Maes and Peter Martinez, are coasting to the end of their terms, which expire Dec. 31. They apparently don’t want to rock any boats.

A few weeks ago, a Mora County sheriff’s transport officer was found on Interstate 25, allegedly passed out drunk in a sheriff’s vehicle. His blood-alcohol level was reportedly .30, more than three times the presumed level of intoxication.

This put the Mora County Sheriff’s Department in a poor light. Now Cordova’s refusal to take a breath-alcohol test makes matters worse.
If Cordova returns as a full-time sheriff, people can legitimately wonder if he will be driving drunk in a taxpayer-funded vehicle. If he is angry at such suspicions, he should look into a mirror. That’s because he should have taken the breath test in Valencia County.

Meanwhile, we hope he stays away from the Mora sheriff’s office over the next month and declines his paycheck during that time. He will only be a distraction to law enforcement efforts.

Cordova appears to have a capable undersheriff, Michael Benjamin, who can continue to serve as the effective head of the department. Thomas Garza will be the new sheriff starting Jan. 1.