SANDOVAL COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Tom Garcia is a phantom employee. He was elected Sandoval County Assessor three-and-a-half years ago and is paid a hefty salary, but you won’t find him in the office much.
Garcia was enjoying retirement when he said politicos approached him and asked him to run for the position as Sandoval County Assessor. He’s the person that calculates the value of each property which then determines owners’ taxes. Garcia said at the time, he disclosed that he couldn’t work a full shift at the office.
“I told them when I first said I’d run for the office that I had health issues that I probably could not put in a 40 hour work week and they asked me to run anyway so I did,” Garcia said.
He won by 54 percent of the vote in November 2010.
Garcia said he has serious health complications that restrict his work hours. He says he’s physically not able to work 40 hours a week or more. In fact, he says he works much less.
“It varies,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll put in as many 30 others 10.”
KRQE News 13 visited his office and called about a half dozen times over the past month and never found him in the office.
Garcia, who collects $65,000 a year for the job, said he usually works on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment.
KRQE News 13 asked Garcia if he should give up the office to someone who can spend more there. Garcia said he doesn’t have to be in the office full-time because he says his staff runs his office. And when asked about the perception that he leads by example for the rest of the staff, he dismissed that idea.
“That’s a perception. And that’s all that it is,” he said. “My management staff is leading by example. They’re the ones that are here on a daily basis. They’re the ones I’d expect to set the example.”
Plenty of people praise Garcia for his work over the years. He was the Director of Property Tax Division for eight years and also trained other Assessors in New Mexico.
A few years ago, he found a half-million dollars for Rio Rancho Schools from unpaid business taxes.
Santa Fe County Assessor Domingo Martinez also acknowledges Garcia’s good work, but questions the few hours he spends in the office as an Assessor.
“That isn’t enough time for an assessor to be spending in the office,” said Martinez. “You can’t count on your employees being here if you’re not going to be here.”
Garcia said the people who asked him to run knew that he was ill and would not be able to work full-time, but the people who elected him and pay his salary don’t have a clue.
“To me, a man is supposed to work a 40-hour week, so he’s getting off easy,” said taxpayer Roger Long.
Even though Garcia said his health will not improve, he’s planning on running for a second term this November. He said his health issues will not hinder his job.
“The only way it will impede me is if they bury me six feet under,” Garcia said.