For jail boss, ‘red flags’ in inmate labor program


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Bernalillo County house arrest inmates assigned to clean up weeds and trash as part of their community service spent nearly as much time on private property as on public rights of way during a four-day stretch last summer, according to newly released GPS data obtained by KRQE News 13.

News 13 first reported on allegations involving De La Cruz, Metzgar and the clean team last month. At that time, Metzgar said the team never went onto private property because it was against the rules, and De La Cruz was emphatic in saying “no one ever stepped foot onto my property.”

GOING IN-DEPTH

  • GPS data obtained by KRQE News 13 dispute statements that Bernalillo Couny Commissioner Art De La Cruz told us last month that inmates never stepped onto his property
  • Inmates assigned to community service are only allowed to clean public rights of way, not private properties.
  • County jail boss promises tighter controls after seeing GPS data.

The data, provided to News 13 after a public records request, show that neither of those statements was true.

Each inmate assigned to CCP, including those working on the clean team, wears an ankle monitor equipped with a GPS tracking device. The devices send a “ping” back to CCP staff each time an inmate spends at least 30 consecutive seconds in the same location.

That’s a clear violation of county policy, and the county has brought in a private investigations firm to look into who is responsible and how deep the problems go.

The data offer a direct contradiction to claims made last month by County Commissioner Art De La Cruz and his friend, Ernie Metzgar, who supervises the Community Custody Program’s “clean team.”

Maps provided to News 13 show at least one inmate was on a piece of property owned by De La Cruz for at least 30 seconds one day last July. That piece of property is right next door to the commissioner’s private residence in the South Valley.

De La Cruz and Metzgar both said last month that the commissioner’s office had asked Metzgar to bring the clean team to De La Cruz’s and his friends’ neighborhoods to clean up in advance of a city garden tour they had been chosen for.

But they emphatically denied that inmates ever went onto anyone’s property. Instead, they said, the clean team was only working along public rights of way.

Deputy County Manager for Public Safety Tom Swisstack said his review of the data “really raised a flag,” given that they showed with certainty inmates on private property.

Swisstack said he has two primary concerns: public safety and whether officials abused their power.

He is awaiting the results of an investigation by Robert Caswell Investigations before making any determinations. But in the meantime, Swisstack said he is considering disallowing the practice of commissioners contacting Metzgar directly to request the clean team’s services.

A News 13 review of county records shows that the clean team spend more than 70 percent of its work time in Da La Cruz’s district, one of five in the county, during the past year.

Swisstack also said he may prohibit the clean team from working in residential areas at all.

Swisstack said he expects the results from Robert Caswell’s investigation in the coming weeks. He promised to make them public.

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