An Albuquerque city councilor is asking Attorney General Raul Torrez to investigate the city’ purchase of the artificial turf the Duke City Gladiators utilize at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
Louie Sanchez submitted the request Wednesday, saying, “I am writing to you today as the Albuquerque District 1 City Councilor and a 26-year veteran of law enforcement regarding what I believe to be potential criminal conduct by the [Mayor Tim} Keller Administration within the City of Albuquerque government. I am requesting that your office open an investigation into the recent matter of the Keller Administration’s spending $236,000 of Albuquerque tax dollars for artificial turf which appears to have been given to a campaign donors’ football team located in Rio Rancho.”
He referred to the March 10 Office of the Inspector General Report that stated the State of New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration found the purchase was in violation of the Anti-Donation Clause.
“DFA rejected Mayor Keller’s attempt and stated his administration broke the law. Yet the Keller Administration still bought the turf for a the private company in a different city with Albuquerque tax dollars,” Sanchez wrote in his request.
According to a March 10 Albuquerque Journal article, managing city attorney Alan Heinz says the city retains ownership of the field, which sports the “One Albuquerque” logo and that it is merely allowing the Gladiators and the events center to use it in exchange for “valuable consideration,” including the Gladiators hosting and staffing 14 youth events per year and for the team to provide the city 50 free tickets for each home game.
Gladiators owner Gina Prieskorn-Thomas told the Journal the team had met its obligations “and then some.” She also said she lobbied state legislators for the turf field initially slated to be installed at Tingley Coliseum, a state-owned facility where the Gladiators previously played. The team relocated to Rio Rancho in 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from using Tingley Coliseum.
“There was never any intent for that field not to be in Albuquerque,” Prieskorn-Thomas told the Journal.