Amid Allegations of Illegal Private Meetings, New Mexico County Names Chavez a Finalist

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez is again seeking a position as a county executive – this time in her home state of New Mexico – and once again controversies about transparency and politicking are dogging her bid.

One local Albuquerque television station last week called the selection process in New Mexico’s biggest county, Bernalillo County, “a rocky road.”

Chavez, who twice lost bids for Mayor of San Jose, saw her finalist standing for San Diego County chief administrative officer derailed after a sexual harassment scandal and bickering among supervisors, a very public attempt by organized labor to influence the proceedings and threats by Chavez of a discrimination lawsuit.

The New Mexico Department of Justice last week accused the Bernalillo County Commission of violating state law in its search for the next county manager, and declared the search process by the state’s largest county “null and void,” until commissioners fixed the problem.

As the county commission introduced and interviewed its three finalists – including Chavez, a current Bernalillo County department head and a former Oregon city manager – two commissioners asked the state to investigate their colleagues, alleging violation of New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act.

Faced with a state justice department ultimatum to either hold a new public meeting to summarize their previous private communications, or start the process from scratch, the commissioners held a special meeting in Albuquerque Tuesday to take a public vote naming the finalists, allowing the selection process to move forward.

The state investigation was initiated after Commissioners Steven Quezada, a Democrat, and Walt Benson, a Republican, accused three colleagues, Barbara Baca, Adriann Barboa, and Eric Olivas, all Democrats, of discussing the finalists and hiring plan before last week’s commission meeting.

The state investigation found that the commissioners had engaged in a “rolling quorum” around a resolution that outlined the hiring process for a new Bernalillo County manager. A rolling quorum is when the majority of a public body confers on public business over phone or email outside of a public meeting.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the private communications on public business included text messages and phone calls between commissioners about the county manager hiring process, and “reply-all” emails on county business that included all of the commissioners.

“These communications taken together constituted multiple rolling quorums prompting our letter requiring corrective action, which the commission took today,” a state official told the Albuquerque Journal Tuesday..

Commissioners Benson and Quezada voted against the motion to restart the process.

“This afternoon’s vote signals to the public that not all of their voices are relevant or equal when it comes to highly important county decisions,” the two commissioners said in a joint statement to Albuquerque media. “While the county chair may call today’s vote ‘a cure’ to their deliberately deceitful practices, it is anything but. It cannot cure the fact that the search for a new county manager proceeded without input from the full commission.”

On Tuesday, Baca apologized to the public, county staff, search committee volunteers and county manager applicants, and said the commission is going to change how it handles ‘reply-all’ emails in the future.

The Bernalillo County commissioners expect to make a decision by the end of the month.

In last week’s public question-and-answer session, the Albuquerque reported that Chavez touted her work with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, claiming that as a board member she helped secure $30 million to attract green technology companies.

She also was asked about her threat to sue San Diego County for rejecting her application for the top administrative post.

“One member of the board, in conversations with others, was discussing my ethnicity,” she was quoted as telling the commissioners. “I’m Mexican-American, Chavez is my name, and using that as a reason not to hire me…when that kind of thing happened, I felt really obligated to weigh in because that shouldn’t happen to anybody.”

San Diego supervisors unanimously selected a career county department head, an African-American woman with strong local ties, as its new chief administrative officer. As of today, no Chavez lawsuit had been filed.

The salary for the Bernalillo County post would be about half the $425,000 annual salary paid to the top San Diego County manager. But median housing in New Mexico is less than half of California’s median prices, and the sales tax rate outside the City of Albuquerque is less than 5%.

Chavez was born in New Mexico and grew up in the East Bay.

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. Of all the armpits in this infinitely arm-pitted country, none can compare to the sheer pit-ery of Albuquerque. What an absolute human and cultural wasteland.

    No people are more deserving of Chavez and vis versa.

    This is True Justice.

  2. Cindy Chavez didn’t tout her service on the VTA board? The toxic work environment? The employee vax mandates?

  3. For the past three years I had to “live” in ABQ. It has huge problems across the board. The police department is horrible and many on the take. The violent crime is top ten. APS is a poorly staffed district.

    In general, she would be well suited there and not in California.

  4. Albuquerque yes for her, Santa Fe no. Roswell, Artesia, Carlsbad, too small and unlikely, part of West Texas in reality, anyway. Chama, no — Rockies town. Las Cruces, Socorro, no and Taos, Red River, no, Española, no. They’re too small.

    El Paso, bleaker or more pit-ty than Albuquerque, beside huge, “fun” Juárez, no.

    Rio Grande Valley might work if she got into Brownsville.

    There are more pit-ty places than ABQ, including in New Mexico and elsewhere. Parts of the east side of ABQ retain character. You’re through it in 20-30 minutes and it’s no surprise the Herd chose Salt Lake instead as its next Western city.

  5. I think the picture choice is very subversive (or perhaps passive aggressive.)

    Chavez is framed as the Bag Lady with “bag” in hand looking for a hand-out. Usually, picturing a politician sitting is not flattering, but in this case, more so, they look like they are waiting at the DMV for their license renewal or at the Hive Nest waiting for some social service entitlement. Chavez looks the least happy to be there, pondering “Well, how did I get here?”

    The “guy” on the right, who is probably perfectly qualified and positioned for the job obviously won’t win, because whiteness of course.

    The “guy” on the right does have some intersectional points, being body positive. The tie implies possible indigenous points as well. Now if he put on a wig and proclaim she/they pronouns, it’d be game over.

    Imagine running for Mayor of San Jose with a “latinx” last name and lose to some failed tech bro jogger. Then line up a cush San Diego gig and lose just to find yourself sitting between these two for HALF. HALF. The best thing for her would be to lose this job, but as this is True Justice, she’ll probably win.

    BTW – Salt Lake is Carmel compared to Albuquerque, c’mon now.

  6. Okay, Salt Lake vs. Albuquerque is an unfair fight, but Salt Lake is the Herd’s next “discovery.” Parts of Albuquerque are nice, as in any city — same for St. Louis, for example, character in St. Louis County vs. the city with the aerial bombardment look in some neighborhoods. Albuquerque is more remote, too, also delaying the Herd.

  7. TF MULLET, I am not surprised if the decline in a number of cities includes Albuquerque and I’m not saying it’s not truly bad, just that it’s not the worst. Moreover, on returning there after having been there for a while earlier, I noticed that while Central Avenue had been cleaned up, with the removal of the skimpy-but-there Sidewalk Smörgåsbord, but more remarkable were the police, including the guy who pulled me over (did he not like my vehicle?) and was loud and confrontational, in fact seeming to want trouble, and in a fatal police shooting seeming to happen each week. (When I noticed my example was maybe seeking trouble, I took advantage of out-of-state plates with my return and played dumb as well as meek to stay cool and leave ASAP. I simply got chided, then sent away.) While Dem DOJs are highly politicized, there were good reasons to investigate APD and later force some kind of supervisory agreement for correction. I had already left by then. I spent some time on the east side as well as west side, but the latter was by Corrales.

    ABQ is known in cycling for goat head tire punctures and claims of bicycle friendliness, while having ghost bikes (for fatalities on the streets) in many places.

    Oh, and Jon Jones, cage fighter, has made negative news there as well.

    There’s still some good but of course there’s bad.

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