BERNALILLO — The Sandoval County Commission unanimously approved the creation of an in-house investigator position under the Sandoval County Attorney’s Office.
This person would be mainly responsible for internal investigations within Sandoval County.
The request was postponed at the last county commission meeting due to a lack of information. With a job description and information about costs presented to commissioners, they made a decision on Thursday night at the Sandoval County Administration Building.
The county spent about $50,000 in time, resources and contract private investigators during the 2018-19 fiscal year.
This investigator would be housed within the administration building and potentially serve as security.
“When we hire outside investigators, one, they don’t know the structure of the county; it takes them time to learn it. And two, there aren’t that many private investigative companies that work both for the association of counties, municipal leagues and various municipal state agencies,” said County Attorney Robin Hammer.
There is often a delay between a complaint being reported and an outside investigator being hired to investigate, she said.
“By having someone on staff, we can address it quicker,” Hammer said.
Not having someone readily available makes the county liable, sheriff’s office Capt. Allen Mills said.
“And courts are heading in the direction of penalizing for failure to investigate quickly,” Mills said.
The sheriff’s office has conducted internal investigations for the county, he said.
“You are using a captain and undersheriff or an administrative sergeant for this. We do have other jobs to do that we are not doing when we are conducting one of these huge investigations. It’s very specialized; you have to have certifications and only three or four of us have those certifications,” Mills said.
An investigative position was frozen at the Sandoval County Detention Center.
County Manager Dianne Maes said there was such a position in the past and salary savings in the Human Resources Department can be utilized in moving forward.
“We would be updating the job description; we do have funds to take us to the end of this fiscal year and therefore we would move forward with the hiring and have the ability to retain the integrity of whatever investigation needs to happen,” Maes said.
“In the past, I don’t think the county took the appropriate actions — in my opinion as a professional law enforcement officer of 38 years experience — and I think we need to move in that direction,” Mills said.
Director of Human Resources Patricia Miller — like the county attorney— spoke about what complications a delayed investigation can cause.
“When there is a delay, there is an automatic perception that the complaint is not being taken seriously, that they are being blown off. But there are day-to-day complaints that don’t merit a full-scale investigation and those are addressed,” Miller said. “We don’t not look at complaints when they come to us. Sometimes they are fact-finding or it’s informal, or a small issue that can be addressed very quickly.”
Miller said for the instances a larger investigation is needed, the county needs to move quickly to ensure quality evidence is obtained.
In the draft job description submitted to commissioners, the salary amount was left blank.
Commissioner Jay Block, District 2, asked the county attorney if $50,000-$55,000 would be the investigator’s estimated salary. The county attorney said most likely.
The next county commission meeting will be March 5.