On Feb. 25, the Santa Fe Police Officers Association passed “no-confidence” votes on Police Chief Aric Wheeler and his two deputy chiefs, Abram Anaya and Robin Contreras.
Less than a week after those votes were tabulated, Wheeler was telling his command staff Anaya was being demoted to lieutenant.
Wheeler and Mayor David Coss both essentially said last week that while they respected the union’s right to hold the votes, they weren’t really planning on changing anything because of it. Wheeler on Saturday told The New Mexican Anaya’s demotion was more about getting now former Lt. Gillian Alessio into the DC role because her strengths, primarily with finances, would be an asset to the department in a time when basically every government agency in the state is facing financial crisis.
But the timing of such a move begs the question: Is Anaya being thrown under the bus by the administration to appease the union?
After all, the department has been in financial crisis since long before the union’s vote last month or its vote last year of “no-confidence” on the city manager and assistant city attorney. So to make the move a week after the union speaks out against the administration once again can’t help but seen as peculiar.
Anaya, it should be pointed out, did nothing wrong to warrant being demoted, at least according to Wheeler. And it should also be pointed out that Alessio does in fact have a good reputation within the department for exactly what she’s being called on to address.
Wheeler told reporter Julie Ann Grimm on Saturday of Alessio:
“She has a lot of strengths when it comes to doing financial aspects in all of the information on the budget. We need her ability, especially since we are in this financial situation.”
This post isn’t about questioning her being the new deputy chief as much about wondering out loud (online anyway) if there is more to the Anaya demotion than meets the eye.
City Manager Robert Romero on Saturday said he hadn’t signed off on the move yet, but knew Wheeler had already announced it to his command staff.
In last month’s union vote, Anaya, whole still receiving a majority of “no-confidence” votes, had the most support of the union. He received 74.4 percent of “no-confidence” votes from the 117 voting union members while Wheeler received 80 percent and Contreras received 83.8 percent.
If this was a peace offering of some sort by the administration to the union, I don’t know if it is really going to go very far to calming things down. The big gripe the union has was never with Anaya. It has a lot more to do with the sense City Hall is micromanaging the department and Wheeler isn’t standing up to his bosses to run the department as he sees fit, a claim he has denied.
Again, there is probably more to this than meets the eye, but from cops I’ve spoken with over the past couple of weeks, the unrest is not going away anytime soon and if Anaya was offered up as nothing more than a good will gesture to the union, I don’t think it’s really going to work.