County Assessor caught violating company vehicle policy, texting and driving

New Mexico

She’s only been in office for a few months, but an elected official in Sandoval County keeps ending up in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. 

The Sandoval County Assessor was accused of nepotism last month. She’s now in trouble for how she’s using her work vehicle.

“On April 5th, at approximately 10 a.m., I observed what appeared to be the assessor picking up children from the ASK Academy,” said a Rio Rancho resident.

During last week’s Sandoval County Commission meeting, a Rio Rancho resident brought up his concerns after he says he spotted County Assessor Linda Gallegos using her government-issued vehicle for what appeared to be personal reasons.

“We were in the horseshoe. I went around. I had already picked up my child. The vehicle proceeded to cut me off to get in front,” said the resident. His claimed didn’t stop there.

“She made that left on Northern and again, no turn signal. We finally get to the intersection of Northern and Loma Colorado, when I pulled up next to her I observed her texting on her phone,” he said.

County Manager Dianne Maes says Gallegos violated the county vehicle policy. “County vehicles [are to] be used for business only, and it also states that the county insurance policy does not cover family members or friends who ride in county vehicles,” said Maes.

It’s a policy that isn’t strictly enforced and has no teeth. This prompted Commissioner Jay Block to propose policy changes to make sure county employees and elected officials know the rules, and the public has a way to report violations.

“So if you have a sticker with a number, some type of ID number, that would be easy for citizens to take information down and then we can trace it,” said Block.

Gallegos refused to do an on-camera interview, but provided KRQE News 13 with this statement:

“As Sandoval County’s Assessor, I take my responsibilities as an Assessor, and as a mother, seriously. I regret that this learning experience has taken place in a public forum and diverted from the great work done at the County and especially in the Assessor’s Office. I want to address the accusations stated during the Thursday, April 25 commission meeting. 

On Friday, April 5, I was working in the field in a County vehicle, when I received a call that my daughter was ill and needed to be picked up. I was within a few miles from her school and as any parent can relate, I went directly to the school. As a resident in Rio Rancho for over 40 years, and a taxpayer that has not had any parking or speeding violations, I find it repulsive to hear the outlandish exaggeration from the Tea Party President (one of the gentlemen who gave public comment on this matter on April 25), and find it more alarming that someone was following me to take pictures of my underage daughter or accusing me of putting my child, or county residents, in any type of unsafe situation.   

I typically do not use a County vehicle for anything other than for work purposes. I had a family emergency and my motherly instinct took over. I will not apologize for any of the false accusations stated, such as speeding or erratic driving. I know that there are some people who are not use to having a County Assessor that comes to work every day, in stark contrast to the previous administration, but I would like to reassure the taxpayers that I am doing my job diligently and will continue to serve.”

The County Commission hopes to have a new work vehicle policy by next month. Under the current policy, the county has no power to discipline elected officials for violating the policy. Block also wants to change that.

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