New Sandoval County Fire Chief Eric Masterson, far left, is sworn into office by Commissioner Michael Meek, a retired firefighter, in the commission chambers Thursday during the commission meeting. Masterson was joined by his wife, Jessie, and their daughters, Briana and Chloe, both 8. Masterson also thanked his 14-year-old son, Daniel, who couldn’t attend the ceremony.
(Stephen Montoya/ Rio Rancho Observer)

BERNALILLO — Sandoval County Commission Chairman Dave Heil during last week’s commission meeting tried to clear up facts he said were misrepresented over the past few meetings.

“This is not a time for debate; it’s a time for listening and learning and, when appropriate, take some action,” he said.

Heil began by pointing out the difference between an ordinance and a resolution.

“A resolution asserts an opinion lawmakers want to emphasize,” he said. “Ordinances are laws passed by the local government and they initiate enforcement. However, they can also be superseded by higher-level legislative bodies and rendered moot.”

Heil went on to say there have been several incorrect comments in regard to county employees’ wage increases.

He said that in 2015, county employees received a 3 percent pay increase. Also, in 2016, employees who made less than $50,000 received a 1.5 percent increase.

In 2017, there was a 2 percent salary increase; in 2018, there was no increase; but in 2019, there was a 4 percent PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association of New Mexico) adjustment.

“This is really an increase to take-home pay,” Heil said. “When you reduce the expense that an employee has to take out of their pocket, their paycheck that goes home is bigger.”

He then moved on to talk about county contract workers and the role they play to aid with county business.

“Contract services like lobbyists and financial advisors are like making an investment for which we must expect a return,” he said.

Heil said if these contractors are not doing their job, terms of their contracts allow the county to terminate their services.

“There have been several comments made on wasting money on consultants, which seem to indicate that we don’t know how we function financially” he said.

The commission has the ultimate responsibility for the county’s finances, Heil said.

“This why we have a financial advisor,” he said. “The financial advisor’s role is quite different than the treasurer’s role.”

Heil said the treasurer is not licensed and certified to be a financial advisor. The financial advisor’s role for the county, he said, is to oversee how well investments are being made.

“An important part of the financial advisor’s job is structuring contracts to provide a final agreement,” he said. “The return on investment with our current financial advisor is well over 36 times what we’ve invested.”

Heil said county financial advisor Rob Burpo may have made over $100,000 every year, but in a seven-year time frame, Burpo has returned more than $6.5 million from investments to be used in other areas.

Commissioner Katherine Bruch said the language and feel of Heil’s presentation was derogatory at best.

“Yes, we need contractors and consultants,” Bruch said. “It is never about if we need those folks — it’s about if we validate the work product that they produce for us.”

Bruch said her concern on Heil producing a document like the one he presented was that it was over-reaching at best.

“There are many items here and Mr. Burpo is not here to defend himself, plus there are many items here that he has done over the course of a year that I am totally unaware of that perhaps preceded me,” she said.

Bruch said she should’ve minimally been notified of the financial actions Burpo took before entering office in January.

Commissioner Jay Block said Burpo has asked Bruch in three emails to meet, but she did not respond.

“I would advise you to sit down and talk to him,” Block said.

Bruch said she never received such emails, even though Block said he had copies of them.

Block also said Burpo was the one who helped renegotiate the Industrial Revenue Bond for Intel Corp.

“I believe that created about 300 new jobs,” Block said. “That wasn’t on the presentation, but that’s has a huge impact in the community that he was able to renegotiate that IRB.”