Belen Police Chief resigns amidst audit findings

New Mexico

In the small town of Belen, people are talking about their police chief, and what was uncovered in the department’s annual audit. 

“This year they did discover a number of issues related to the police department as well as the police chief,” said Mayor of Belen Jerah Cordova. 

He said there were three major findings about Chief Scott Conner. He has worked for law enforcement agencies around the state, including the Roswell Police department and the De Baca County Sheriff’s Office. He’s been Belen’s chief since 2016. 

There were no reported problems until the return of the routine audit, which the mayor says uncovered he used his police vehicle to get to and from Albuquerque where he was taking classes to get a master’s degree.

 It also shows he was paying officers for time off they had not earned. Then there was his unusual addition to the office.

“We had another one related to a vending machine that was placed within the police department that was owned and operated and profited from by the chief,” said Cordova.  

Every time an employee bought a candy bar or snack, the chief made money. Administrators say they had no idea until the audit uncovered it. The news is shocking to people in town. 

“Wow… I didn’t know that’s what was found actually,” said Timothy Zabicki of Belen.  

Cordova says Conner cost the city around $5,000, mainly from employees being paid for not working. 

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a thousand dollars or a hundred thousand dollars, we’re gonna be concerned about it,” said the Mayor. 

In the chief’s resignation letter, he makes no mention of the findings but says he accepted the police chief position in Mountain Home Idaho. He then says he believes the opportunity will provide him challenges to further his career, and even thanks the mayor and the city. 

The Belen City Council will meet Monday night to discuss the issue and decide if they want to take any action against Connor.  The Mayor said they are looking into ways to get back the money that was lost. 

KRQE News 13 did reach out to Conner and he replied with the following statement: 

“To be clear, there is no audit of the Police Department.  The audit was a routine financial audit of the City of Belen.  There were a number of audit findings throughout the city.  To my knowledge there are two, of approximately 10 city wide, that were at the Police Department.  The two findings are opined by the auditor to be violations of the anti-donation clause.  The first finding involves the use of a city vehicle to travel to and from the university to attend classes in public administration and the second involves administrative time off.  I am a student at UNM, pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration.  I often drove my city issued unit to and from the university.  This is permitted in my employment agreement.  An example of administrative time off would be allowing someone to go home early after a job well done without charging these hours to annual leave. As far as my resignation, I have submitted my retirement with PERA and accepted a position elsewhere. “

KRQE News 13 also reached out to the city of Mountain Home, Idaho, where Conner has accepted the police chief position, They say they heard about the allegations and are waiting to hear what the city determines. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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