If Mayor Tony Marquez kept his promise on open government, he would make his life a lot easier. And he’d do the public a big favor.
Here we go again: The mayor gets in his bunker, broods in secret and comes up with schemes to get back at his perceived enemies. Then he ends up embarrassing his administration. And then when the bad news gets out, he lashes out yet again. And around and around we go.
The latest ordeal involves the special audit into billing practices in the utilities department. The city commissioned this audit after the mayor, through the city attorney, alleged that former Utilities Director George DuFour and a councilman took part in corruption by giving people credits on their bills. The mayor coyly didn’t name the councilman, but the information given by the city pointed to Councilman Andrew Feldman, who had been critical of Marquez’s administration. The mayor apparently hoped the audit would make his case.
On June 30, the auditing firm, Albuquerque-based Accounting & Consulting Group, produced a draft report that recommended a number of changes to internal controls. But it didn’t indicate that any corruption had taken place, as the mayor had suggested.
This wasn’t the answer Marquez was looking for. So the city wrote a list of objections to the firm — apparently keeping the City Council out of the loop. The city wanted the firm to point the finger at someone for the billing credits in question. But the firm declined, sticking by its original audit.
Usually, an audited entity would argue that an audit is unnecessarily harsh. But this is a rare instance in which an entity is actually begging to be whipped. This is not out of some laudable sense of accountability.
Rather, the mayor will have some major egg on his face if the audit stands. After all, he called for DuFour’s firing, saying the director broke the law in adjusting bills. If the audit doesn’t show that, DuFour could have some valuable ammunition with the wrongful termination lawsuit he filed earlier this summer.
Three weeks ago, Feldman demanded the immediate release of the audit. But City Attorney Carlos Quiñones and other city officials say that ball is in State Auditor Hector Balderas’ court.
Not so, Balderas says. He said he is still awaiting a final audit report and has called for the city and the auditing firm to turn in a final report by this week. He pointed to “unprofessional delay” in the audit’s release, saying it has taken unusually long.
Last week, this newspaper obtained a copy of the draft audit and the city’s objections, all of which are still officially confidential. Predictably, the city is not pleased that such information has gotten out. But if the city hadn’t been delaying this whole process for so long, the documents would have been public by now anyway.
The mayor should start working for the city, not pursuing his list of political grudges. And let’s face it: That’s what this whole latest situation is all about.
Again, the Marquez would do himself a world of good if he started opening the doors of government, not closing them. That’s what he promised to do when he ran for mayor.