Letter To The Editor: On SB 203

By JOHN N. HORNE
Los Alamos
 
After reading Jaret McDonald’s letter opposing Senate Bill 203 I immediately began drafting a rebuttal.
 
During this process I happened to read another letter by Mr. Robert Gibson. Mr. Gibson’s most recent submission to the post is an excellent synopsis of the driving force behind our politicians in this county.
 
While I am not surprised that our politicians are as addicted to other people’s money as politicians are in every other locale, this fact is a fitting backdrop for the conversation regarding Senate Bill 203. Please take a moment to read this letter before considering what I have written here.
 
You see, there is a group of people in this county who cling to the County Charter with an irrational zealotry that would make an Imam blush. With his most recent letter Mr. McDonald has proven himself to be among these “charterists.” Along with Mr. George Chandler, who has now chimed in on the topic of the Sheriff and Los Alamos County, there seems to be a concerted effort to wrest power away from the citizens and consolidate it in the County Council.
 
As I have said many times in this forum the reason the Office of the Sheriff is so important is due to the fact that he works directly for the people without the need or desire for interference from self-serving politicians or bureaucratic functionaries. This fact drives people like Chandler, McDonald, O’Leary, and Girrens crazy because it blocks their power play. Thank God for that.
 
No one likes to be wrong so when someone goes to great lengths to state an untruth it is generally not without motive. In this case the motive is to sway public opinion away from the facts in order to allow a small group of politicians to possess power that actually belongs to the people.
 
We should all be wary of people who ascribe to the philosophy that; “If you tell an untruth enough times it becomes truth.”
 
The Statement: “…the Sheriff has no law enforcement authority,” is provably untrue. Mr. McDonald and Mr. Chandler both stress the language of the charter as if it is the last word and ultimate authority on the subject. In fact, the County Charter is the least authoritative legal document regarding this topic. Both State Law and the Constitution supersede this county ordinance.
 
In our system there is a hierarchy in law, that hierarchy is as follows:
 
1) The Constitution of the United States a.k.a. the Supreme Law of the Land
2) State Law
3) County Ordinance.
 
They exist in that order because each one is subordinate to the one above. The “charterists” speak only of the charter in order to cloud the fact that there is a higher
law.
 
Mr. McDonald states that according to the County Charter Section 304.4 the Sheriff has no real law enforcement authority. This section is unenforceable because it’s internally contradictory. In the same sentence the ordinance grants the Sheriff all law enforcement authority under state law (That wording is there because it has to be. The people who drafted this ordinance understood that they had to adhere to state law.), but in the second half of the same sentence the ordinance attempts to
strip that authority away in violation of State Law.
 
Chapter 29 Article 1 of the New Mexico Criminal and Traffic Law Manual define law-enforcement within the State of New Mexico. Here, the qualifications and duties of the Sheriff are clearly specified and incontrovertible.
 
Finally the US Supreme Court has determined the authority of the Sheriff. “the Sheriff is the Chief Executive and Administrative Officer of a county chosen by popular election. His principal duties are in aid of the criminal and civil courts of record; such as serving process, summoning juries, executing judgments, holding judicial sales and the like. He is also the chief conservator of the peace within his territorial jurisdiction.” Harston v Langston, Tex Civ. App.,292 S.W. 648, 650
 
All authority comes from the people. Colten v. Kentucky (1972) 407 U.S. 104, 122, 92 S. Ct. 1953 states; “The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents.”
 
Control freaks, progressive statists, and those with something to hide hate this fact and do everything in their power to undermine it. The fact remains, we elect the Sheriff, we empower the Sheriff, and we will not obfuscation to alter that.
 
And speaking of obfuscation, both McDonald and Chandler have stated that SB 203 would somehow alter term limits. There is nothing in SB 203 that would alter term limits. Being a lawyer Mr. Chandler should know that term limits for the Sheriff are proscribed under article 10 section 2 of the New Mexico Constitution. Any change in term limits would require a constitutional amendment. This legislation cannot alter the Sheriff’s term of office.
 
This argument was concocted to lead you to the false assumption that Sheriff Lucero’s support of this bill is for personal gain. Whether 203 passes or not Sheriff Lucero cannot run for another term.
 
Finally, “charterists” McDonald and Chandler are trying to make you believe that small counties are against this bill. As far as I know only Los Alamos and Quay County have come out in opposition of SB 203. That is a count of 31-2. Harding County, with a population of 693, is probably the smallest and most certainly one of the poorest counties in New Mexico yet they are in support of SB 203.
 
Incidentally, I spoke with the Harding County Treasurer this morning and found that the Sheriff’s budget for that county is $127,000 a year compared to Los Alamos County, being one of the richest, with a Sheriffs budget of only $84,000 a year. That is disgraceful. What is more disgraceful is Chandler’s preposterous suggestion that the office of the Sheriff should be eliminated.
 
A more fitting solution would be to convert the LAPD to the Sheriffs Office, deputize the officers, and allow the people of Los Alamos to continue to choose the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in the county as they do now.
 
Rest assured, any attempt to eliminate the office will be met with a contravening amendment to do precisely that. The County Charter and Ordinances are important governing documents for our community however, they need to be kept in context and should be enforced and interpreted with respect to their proper position which is subordinate to state law and our Constitution.
 
In the interest of full disclosure I am a Deputy Sheriff in Los Alamos County but these are my personal opinions backed by solid facts on the topic. I have always been a strong proponent of elected law enforcement precisely because it is a check on unbridled power. Checks and balances are essential especially when you have a government that has, as Mr. Gibson described, placed it’s own well being ahead of the people it is supposed to serve.
 
Please call your Senators in support of this bill.
 
Senator Richard Martinez 505.747.2337
Senator Carlos Cisneros 505.670.5610
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