Commissioner calls out county assessor for hiring cousin

New Mexico

A Sandoval County commissioner is demanding the resignation of the assessor’s new right-hand man, who happens to be the assessor’s cousin.

Commissioner Jay Block urged County Assessor Linda Gallegos at a commission meeting in March to instead fill the new position with a non-relative.

“I think it looks like nepotism and there could be some serious conflicts of interest, in my opinion, in that office,” Block stated at the March 7 meeting.

Gallegos defended her decision to hire her cousin, Richard Shanks, by referring to a favorite show.

“I’ve watched enough Law and Order in my life to know that I never ask a question I don’t know the answer to, so before bringing it to our legal staff, I already had the legal opinion and the advice that this is a permissible hire,” Gallegos explained. 

In an emailed statement, the county attorney said Gallegos can appoint her cousin because although Sandoval County’s rules on nepotism ban the hiring of “near relatives,”‘ including first cousins, a more lenient state statute allows it.

Block said that undermines the county’s law.

“I think we need to go back at the county and take a look at some of these ordinances and see where there’s conflict. I mean, what’s the point of having these rules if the state has them?” Block asked.

Gallegos maintains there won’t be any conflicts of interest in her office and is urging people to trust her judgment.

“This appointment has and will continue to meet expectations,” she said over the phone on Tuesday.

KRQE News 13 asked Gallegos about Shanks’ work history to see if he’s qualified for the job. She did not provide a resume but said he has 18 years of experience in education, along with experience in construction and property management.

Gallegos was elected as county assessor in November. She takes the place of Tom Garcia, whose questionable work ethic was the subject of a News 13 investigation.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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