Los Alamos resident Greg White has asked First Judicial District Judge Greg Shaffer to voluntarily recuse himself from an ongoing case he filed Jan. 12 against the Los Alamos County Council, County Manager Harry Burgess, County Attorney Alvin Leaphart, Assistant County Attorney Katie Thwaits and Police Chief Dino Sgambellone.
In the suit, White asks the Court to order the Council to “stop inserting words into the County Charter and to follow the Charter as written”. He asks that the defendants be enjoined from violating his rights to “fully functional elected law enforcement including a sufficient budget and personnel necessary to accomplish his duties”.
His July 17 brief states that he begs forgiveness for asking Judge Shaffer to step down and that he is not making “any accusations or charges regarding the honesty or integrity” of the judge and is “hopefully not being disrespectful or contemptible”. White said he fears the actions by Judge Shaffer and his campaign in the primary election have given rise to “improper association with defendants and one of their attorneys as well as the many contributions from attorneys is just plain a bad idea even though perfectly legal and allowed by the County rule”.
In his own campaign for Los Alamos County sheriff, White said he does not accept contributions from County residents to avoid “any appearance of influence or favoritism”. He said Judge Shafer’s campaign could have and should have done a check before accepting donations and printing ads to find out who the members of the Los Alamos County Council and County Attorneys are, as well as a search of Court records to determine who are the attorneys of record.
White also complains that Assistant County Attorney Kevin Powers donated $25 to Judge Shaffer’s campaign.
“While $25 would hardly influence anyone to anything, Mr. Powers is an assistant county attorney for Los Alamos and has listed himself in many Court filings including this one as well as being listed on the Los Alamos County’s page. He should have refrained from donating and the campaign should have refused it. Again, the donation acceptance by the campaign is perfectly legal and within Court rules,” White said.
He attached copies of photos taken by the Los Alamos Daily Post of Judge Shaffer speaking to County Manager Harry Burgess at a Jan. 11 breakfast meeting hosted by the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, some 14 days before Judge Shaffer was assigned the case, stating that this was not the only example of the judge attending social functions in Los Alamos where defendants in the case also were present.
White also states that Judge Shafer should have checked the list of cases he took over from Judge Sarah Singleton for any involving Los Alamos. He said he also wonders about the timing of the hearing on Judge Shaffer’s calendar for Aug. 2.
“For many months my plea to have a hearing and the need for expeditious resolve due to deadlines for candidates to file for sheriff in Los Alamos as well as the need to have my local government obey basic laws like their own ordinances were ignored. The first deadline of March 13 passed, then the final deadline of June 28 passed. The Court’s calendar last updated May 30 and covering through Aug. 13 did not list my case. Then suddenly, upon your honor losing the primary and my being put on the ballot by the New Mexico Secretary of State, the Court has found time for me to be heard,” White said.
He concludes by saying that taken as a whole he feels less comfortable with Judge Shaffer continuing the case and respectfully request’s his voluntary recusal. White said he spoke to the County’s attorney Donald DeCandia July 17 and that DeCandia opposes the motion.
The Aug. 2 hearing is slated for 9 a.m. in Judge Shaffer’s courtroom in Santa Fe.