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Mora sheriff fires rival candidate

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By David Giuliani

Taking on the boss can often be a risky strategy.

Mora County resident Timothy Marquez knows that firsthand. As the county’s undersheriff, he decided to run against Sheriff Roy Cordova in the June 1 Democratic primary.

Shortly after, Marquez found himself without a job.

On March 16, Marquez, Cordova and two others filed their Democratic candidacies for sheriff. A Republican entered the GOP primary.

In New Mexico counties, undersheriff is a political appointment, so undersheriffs don’t have normal personnel protections. Sheriffs pick their seconds in command and can fire them at will.

Marquez said he knew he may be fired if he filed for the top job. Unsurprisingly, he said, Cordova proceeded to do so almost immediately.

But the sheriff hit a snag when county paperwork showed that Marquez was still a deputy, not the undersheriff. As a deputy, Marquez would still enjoy personnel protections.

So Marquez said Cordova had to change the paperwork to make him undersheriff, a position that Marquez had held since June 2006. Then Cordova fired Marquez on March 23, Marquez said.

In an interview, Cordova would say little about what happened.

“The undersheriff was terminated,” the sheriff said. “I deeply regret letting the people of Mora know that. My lawyer told me not to comment any further.”

No one has replaced Marquez as undersheriff. The department has three deputies who are attending the state’s law enforcement academy; other than Cordova, only one other deputy is in Mora County, Sgt. Michael Benjamin.

Marquez said he wanted to address the issue of manpower as sheriff. He said he also was troubled by the Sheriff’s Department’s bad relationship with the state police. Cordova has publicly complained before that the state police don’t keep his office in the loop about crimes happening in Mora County.

The state police is an around-the-clock agency that serves Mora County, while the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have enough staffing for such service.

“The protection of the people needs to be addressed,” Marquez said.

The other Democratic candidates are Thomas Garza and Greg Laumbach. The GOP hopeful is Robert Romero.