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Sheriff Lucero Files Suit Against County Council

on September 11, 2017 - 3:11pm
Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos County Sheriff Marco Lucero has filed a complaint for declaratory judgement in the First Judicial District Court against the Los Alamos County Council. The complaint, which has been assigned to Judge Francis Mathews, was filed Aug. 29 by Lucero’s attorney, A. Blair Dunn.

Sheriff Lucero said today that he is disappointed that things have gotten to this point. He said he has tried without success to reach agreement with the Council, that the voters spoke plainly in the November 2016 election and that the Council has done nothing to supplement the Sheriff’s budget.

“There was some discussion at the public hearing July 26 of forming some kind of committee to review the Charter as it relates to the Sheriff’s Office, but as far as I am aware, nothing has been done about that,” he said.

At the July hearing, Lucero stated that the County had formed a citizen committee to review the Charter several years ago and that to do the same thing would just be going full circle, not productive and a waste of time.

Lucero’s complaint asked the Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Council to fulfill its statutory responsibility “to pass the necessary budget measures to adequately fund the Office of the County Sheriff that are conducive to the welfare of the municipality” and for him to perform all acts directed by state statute. The complaint asks the Court to declare that the County’s charter, with regard to law enforcement, cannot be interpreted contrary to state statute.

The complaint alleges that in 2016, some members of the Council began a campaign to extinguish the Office of Sheriff through improper means contrary to the law, including firing all Sheriff’s Office personnel and transferring his executive secretary. It states that in 2017, the Council has “continued its vendetta” by refusing to provide a budget for the salary of the undersheriff and the executive secretary or the necessary minimum budget required to allow Lucero to fulfill his minimum statutory obligations.

“The actions of the County Council are both contrary to the statutes governing the duties required of the Sheriff and are also a failure to fulfill their nondiscretionary responsibilities under state law for a county council organized in such a manner as Los Alamos,” the complaint states.

“The actions of the County Council are to elevate the County’s Charter Section 304.4 as controlling over state law in violation of the principle of supremacy over statutes over a county’s ordinance passed under the authority granted by statutes. Further, the County Council’s actions to recently re-interpret the phrase law enforcement in a manner inconsistent with the supremacy state statutes only serves to highlight the failure of the County Council to act in a manner consistent with state law as is required of them,” the complaint states.

The complaint asks the Court to order the Council to appropriate the funds in question and restrain the Council from taking any further actions contrary to the law establishing the Office of County Sheriff or his statutory obligations. It also asks the Court to declare that interpreting the Charter to abridge state statutes violates the principles of supremacy of the statutes that govern the actions of the County Council and that actions of the County Council are in violation of the law and should be declared void ab initio or from their initiation.

In contacting the County for comment, Public Information Officer Julie Habiger said that the County does not comment on pending litigation.