Santa Fe County officials release statement, wont take questions about firing of jail warden

Posted: May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
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After a daylong pursuit of an interview with Santa Fe County officials by our county government reporter Phaedra Haywood, it seems a prepared statement sent out by a public information officer is all the county will say about the recent abrupt firing of Santa Fe County jail warden David Trujillo and deputy warden Ted Peperas.

Never mind that interview requests often indicate the public (you know, the voters paying the salaries at the county) might have specific questions it wants answered, or at least asked of public officials. A prepared statement released by a PR flack (in this case Kristine Mihelcic) is the government’s way of giving the public only what they feel the public should know.

It was interesting to find out from  Trujillo that he was given the option to resign if he agreed not to talk to the media or he’d be fired. He chose to be fired instead. Why would the county care if a man it is firing talks to the media?

There is a bit of interesting information in the last paragraph of the prepared statement released by Mihelcic. It is something those familiar with journalism would call burying the lead.

In the final paragraph, after Public Safety Director Pablo Sedillo is quoted as saying he’s trying to build a team (just a team apparently that can’t be bothered with informing taxpaying citizens), the statement suggests an “internal investigation … concerning drugs and contraband” is being conducted. It doesn’t say what, if anything that has to do with Trujillo and or Peperas, but is certainly implies they’re involved. Otherwise, why include it in a statement about firing them?

Of course we won’t really know more because the public officials aren’t feeling it necessary to actually talk about it right now. Rest assured, they’ll let us know when they’re ready to let us know. And remember, all this is a couple months after former Corrections Director Annabelle Romero was fired by Sedillo.

Here is the prepared statement:

Santa Fe County terminated the employment of former Warden, David Trujillo and former Deputy Warden, Ted Peperas May 1, 2012.   Chief Investigator, Mark Gallegos is acting as interim Warden and Corrections Manager, Mark Caldwell is acting as interim Deputy Warden.  There has been no disruption in the daily functions of the Adult Detention Facility.  Additionally, these are at-will positions that server at the pleasure of the County and are intentionally designed as such to allow for changes when management or administrations changes.

“I am building a team that has the same vision of accountability and integrity that I have and who also want to make the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility a model facility in New Mexico,” said Public Safety Director, Pablo Sedillo.

Santa Fe County can confirm there is an ongoing internal investigation at the Adult Detention Facility concerning drugs and contraband being stored, sometimes for several years, in unsecure locations in jail administrative offices. Santa Fe County will turn the internal investigation over to the Santa Fe County Sheriff when it is complete for investigation of any criminal conduct.  Any further comment from Santa Fe County at this time could hinder the investigation.

Phaedra will have more info in an article I’ll link to later when it posts. For now, here is a link to the Associated Press story, which is a rewrite of Alana Greenfogel’s first story aired Tuesday night on KOAT:

And here is a link to the February article of Romero being fired:

In recent months, there have been about a dozen jail guard positions frozen at the jail and I’m told Trujillo and Peperas fought to change that. Maybe that has something to do with their firing. Maybe its the drug investigation that came up late Wednesday afternoon in a press release.

As at-will employees, ultimately it may not matter as they can be fired for any reason. Still, it’d be nice to have some transparency for the public.

  1. says:

    When the local D.A.’s office recieves the so-called criminal investigation report from the new administration, including the Sheriff’s report, nothing will come out of it. What I heard through the grapevine is the County Commission wants to bring in the privitization back to the county jail. Since the County Commission layed down and closed thier eyes with no back-bone to defend and prevent the firings of these three top corrections officials (Romero, Trujillo and Peperras) from occuring with the County Manager involvement, wait and see what happens when this idea to privitized the jail to the public occurs. I am hoping the US Department of Justice intervenes and the County Commission is placed on notice when they are hit with a non-compliance violation relating to the jail operations. It is just a matter of time before something terrible happens at this jail and someone will end up dying because of the political and micromanagement involvement of the County Commission, County Manager and County Sheriff errror of judgement.

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