Thursday, March 28: It’s a warm, spring day in the eastern New Mexico town of Logan, and David Babb gathers his fishing gear for an afternoon at nearby Ute Lake. Babb is not just any angler with a fancy boat. Around Logan, everyone knows him as ‘Hizzoner,’ Logan’s duly elected mayor.
But behind the scenes, there’s something wrong in this rural community of 972, and the focus is on Logan’s elected leader. Mayor Babb’s troubles first surfaced in 2017.
The first time we met Mayor David Babb two years ago, he told us he “felt bad” about getting mixed up in a clever con game orchestrated by a drifter named John Harley.
John Harley showed up in eastern New Mexico a few years ago. He was friendly, well liked and often hung out at nearby Ute Lake. Harley was a handyman by trade. In Quay and Union County, John Harley was known as the ‘go-to guy’ for furnace repairs and installation.
John Harley peddled heating and air conditioning units all over eastern New Mexico. He installed expensive equipment in residential properties, businesses, churches, government buildings, as well as fraternal and civic organizations.
However, Harley was a fraud. Since he lacked qualifications to install gas equipment, his installations were shoddy, dangerous and illegal. He cheated one Logan homeowner out of $2,500. Another lost $4,200. A Roswell retired banker was bilked out of more than $6,000, and a San Jon businessman lost more than $15,000.
Besides bilking homeowners, Harley, who is a fugitive sex offender out of Tennessee, cheated area churches, the town of Logan, even the American Legion.
And John Harley did not act alone. He had an accomplice, Logan Mayor David Babb.
Documents show most of the furnaces installed by Harley were purchased from the manufacturer by Mayor Babb. At the time, David Babb was a licensed electrician, but he was not qualified to do gas installations. When the mayor bungled the installation of a gas furnace at a nearby Quay County ranch, he cheated the owners out of $1,700. And, when Logan’s city hall, fire department, senior center and medical clinic all ended up with illegal furnace installations, the mayor admitted he was involved.
Following a State Construction Industries Division investigation, John Harley was convicted on criminal charges but skipped town shortly after his conviction. Harley remains a fugitive today.
Logan’s mayor admitted making mistakes. “It was not a deliberate act. It wasn’t intended to hurt anybody,” Mayor Babb told News 13 in a 2017 interview.
Following KRQE News 13’s investigation two years ago, David Babb resigned as Logan’s mayor. In a 2017 settlement agreement with state construction regulators, Babb admitted he broke the law.
“There were significant code violations that constituted life safety issues,” said Acting Construction Industries Bureau Chief Martin Romero.
“(Babb) agreed that he was he was no longer going to engage in any type of unlicensed contracting,” Romero said.
“He could not present himself as a licensed contractor (and) he could not apply for any type of licensure within the state of New Mexico,” according to Martin Romero. Babb also agreed to pay a $10,000 penalty.
Even though David Babb’s electrical contractor’s license was permanently revoked, a KRQE News 13 investigation found that didn’t stop the then ex-mayor.
Just one week after signing the settlement agreement with the state, David Babb was back in the electrical contracting business. When the trash compactor at Logan’s Landfill broke down, Babb billed the town for its repair. He hit up the town of Logan for electrical repairs at the police department, the EMS office, the village hall, the maintenance building and the senior center.
Former Logan Town Administrator Trevor Thompson was aware that Babb was doing electrical work for the village but, he says he didn’t know the ex-mayor was unlicensed.
State Construction Industries Bureau Chief Romero says it is a crime to do electrical contracting work without a license. He says “It is very serious.”
One year after resigning as Logan’s mayor, David Babb changed his mind and ran for the office once again. Last year, Babb was re-elected mayor by a narrow margin.
Last month, KRQE News 13 caught up with Hizzoner just as he was heading out for an afternoon of fishing at Ute Lake. When asked about the electrical work he performed for the village, Mayor Babb said, “I did some maintenance work is all I did…I’m not doing it anymore.”
“It was stuff that needed to be done. (I was) trying to keep the village operating,” Mayor Babb said. Babb does admit doing some electrical work after his license was revoked. But he says, “The people of Logan appreciated what I did.”
The people of Logan might appreciate what he did, but New Mexico Construction Bureau regulators do not. Earlier this month, Mayor David Babb was slapped with a misdemeanor criminal charge of ‘Contracting Without A License.’ The case is pending.