Email Accuses Los Alamos County Councilors Of Violating Ruling On Office Of Sheriff Duties

By MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos resident Greg White has sent an email to Los Alamos County Councilors accusing them of violating a recent ruling by First Judicial District Judge Francis Mathew in a case filed by Sheriff Marco Lucero almost a year ago.

White, who is running for sheriff, gave permission for the Los Alamos Daily Post to disclose the contents of the email, which tells Councilors it is “absolutely amazing that you all are violating Judge Mathew’s order already”.

White claims Judge Mathew did not grant a stay pending any appeal, which he believes means that the Council is legally required “to fund the Sheriff’s Department and return all state functions to him at the first regularly scheduled meeting after the decision”.

“I do not believe any of you are so dumb you cannot read English,” the email states. “And especially Mrs. (Councilor Christine) Chandler being an attorney knows damn well what the Judge ordered.”

White said he has been forced to notify Judge Mathew of this “violation of his order”.

He suggests to Council members that if they haven’t read Judge Mathew’s order they should do so. He attached the order to the email as well as a “legal definition of ‘keeping the peace’, which he said only involves those statutes being violated that occur in public and are likely to “result in loud disturbance or violence”. 

“But keep violating a direct court order and I’ll get to see the Gang of Five in prison sooner than I hoped. Reference NM Statute 1-093 Criminal Contempt. Specifically, Section B 1 c. And I’m sure there’s other penalties,” White concluded.

Under the terms of the judgment, Judge Mathew granted the County a permanent injunction restraining Sheriff Marco Lucero from performing law enforcement duties, but it allows him to retain his “statutory and customary duties”. The judgment estops the County from eliminating the Office of the Sheriff by failing to fund or adequately staff the office sufficiently to allow it to perform its statutory and customary duties other than law enforcement concerning peacekeeping.

Judge Mathew issued his ruling two weeks ago on what started out as two separate cases. The first was filed by Sheriff Lucero in August 2017 requesting a writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment against the County Council asking the Court to declare that the County’s interpretation of its Charter violates the principles of the supremacy of the state statutes that govern the actions of the County Council and that the actions of the County Council are in violation of the law such that they should be declared void. 

Judge Mathew’s ruling referred to the 1976 Vaughn case noting that at that time, the County represented that its governing board exclusively assigned the police department duties of law enforcement within the County to eliminate duplication and competition between the police and sheriffs with all other statutory and customary duties of the sheriff remaining with the sheriff.

Judge Mathew said the judge in that case found that those assignments were in conformance with the New Mexico Constitution and issued a declaratory judgment declaring the amendment of the Charter valid. He found Sheriff Lucero’s claims related to Constitutional invalidity are barred by res judicata and should be dismissed.

In addition, Judge Mathew said the verified petition for temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction should be granted in part and denied in part.

“The relief requested by the sheriff in the amended complaint is denied. The claims of relief requested by the County’s restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction restraining the sheriff from engaging in law enforcement is granted and Sheriff Lucero is permanently restrained from exercising law enforcement duties involving keeping the peace,” he said, adding that the County is not allowed to perform the other duties of the sheriff besides law enforcement.

White attached a copy of the ruling to his email as well as a law dictionary definition of keeping the peace. 

Council Chair David Izraelevitz said Sunday he does not wish to comment on the email as it is part of ongoing litigation. Lucero’s attorney, Blair Dunn has indicated that he plans to appeal Judge Mathew’s decision.

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