City personnel board rules Animal Welfare employee was wrongfully fired

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – She was accused of abusing her authority with Animal Welfare, and she lost her job over it. Now, the City of Albuquerque’s Personnel Board has ruled the former Animal Welfare Associate Director should get her job back, along with a nice chunk of change.

On Wednesday, during a hearing with City of Albuquerque’s Personnel Board, Attorney Thomas Grover said, “She’s a good employee, you know her heart is for the animals,” referring to his client, former Albuquerque Animal Welfare Associate Director, Deb Brinkley.

Brinkley was placed on paid administrative leave back in January 2018, amid allegations she was funneling adoptable dogs from the Albuquerque shelter to her own rescue in Colorado, and protecting potentially dangerous dogs from euthanasia.

The city’s Inspector General at the time confirmed Brinkley inappropriately took the dogs and broke laws. Whistleblower lawsuits were filed against the city by employees who say they were retaliated against after speaking out.

Then in March 2019, Brinkley was fired by the Mayor Keller administration. Brinkley appealed to determine whether the city’s termination was supported by law.

In a 27-page report, City Hearing Officer Judith Durzo sided with Brinkley, writing, “The city failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there was just cause to charge Ms. Brinkley with insubordination… and the disciplinary action of termination of her employment was not reasonable under the circumstances.”

“The hearing officer is correct when she says that this case is steeped in intrigue and toxicity in the workplace and a new city administration’s embarrassment over an unflattering media report,” Grover said. “And it certainly appears that every effort was made to remove Ms. Brinkley.”

The city’s attorney argued against that claim, saying Brinkley failed to cooperate with new management.

“As the second highest in command in that department, she serves as an example for every single other employee,” said City Attorney Melissa Kountz.

“Even if this board finds that termination is too harsh of a punishment, that doesn’t change the fact that there is just cause for discipline here.”

The personnel board ruled to reinstate Brinkley to an equivalent position within the city, reduce her discipline to just 15 days suspension without pay, and return lost wages since her firing nine months ago.

Brinkley was making $89,000 a year with Animal Welfare, so the city will owe her almost $70,000.

The city has 30 days to appeal the personnel board’s decision in District Court.

City Spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn sent the following statement to KRQE News 13: “Our legal team is reviewing the decision by the Personnel Board and weighing the City’s options to move forward.”

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