ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A book meant to document life in Albuquerque during the pandemic, is causing controversy. The City spent nearly $45,000 on the book. Now, some city councilors are calling for an investigation into the use of those funds.
“It’s absolutely inappropriate,” said Albuquerque City Councilor, Dan Lewis. “It’s absolutely a misuse of taxpayer dollars,” Lewis said.
Lewis is talking about the recently published book, City at the Crossroads: The Pandemic, Protests and Public Service in Albuquerque. The city’s Arts and Culture Department paid nearly $45,000, hiring former Albuquerque Journal reporter, Joline Guttierez Krueger, to write the book. The city says the book covers the city’s response to the pandemic, while also touching on social issues like the Black Lives Matter protests that broke out across the country, including here in the Duke City.
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Dr. Shelle Sanchez, the Director of the Arts and Culture Department, says her department is involved in a lot of book projects similar to this one. “We have many projects,” Dr. Sanchez said. “Nobody has ever published a book like this because we’ve never had such an exceptional time,” she explained. “We felt that we needed to document it,” Dr. Sanchez said.
But Councilor Lewis says the most recent book, is not at all like the others and says it was written with the intent of making Mayor Keller look like a hero. “You pay an Albuquerque Journal writer $45,000 to do a feel-good story about the Mayor, you’re not going to get the true story,” Lewis said. “You’re not going to have a book that writes about families losing their businesses,” he said.
Despite the criticism, Dr. Sanchez defended the department’s decision to fund the project. “We wanted to share with the community, something that was much more about storytelling, and not just a report,” said Dr. Sanchez. “I think the final product is good,” she said.
The author, Gutierrez Krueger was being paid by the city for more than a year to work on the book while she worked for the Albuquerque Journal which is a violation of Journal policy. The Journal’s editor told News 13 that the publication did not know about the book deal until the city sent out a news release last week. In an opinion piece, the editor of the Journal says there was outrage in the newsroom when they learned of the arrangement. Gutierrez Krueger retired from the Journal in May.
The city says part of the proceeds from the book will go to the One Albuquerque fund. There’s a book release scheduled for next Wednesday.