(This article was originally published on May 6, 2014)
Deputy County Manager Jarvis Middleton says he was “shocked and appalled.”
“I was basically amazed at the audacity of the employee,” the high-ranking Bernalillo County official told KRQE News 13.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes Bernalillo County Public Works Inspector Kenneth Sanchez. His job is to repair and maintain traffic signals along county roadways.
As a government employee, Ken Sanchez is a real stand out.
But it’s not what you think. You see, Sanchez may have been a very good county inspector, but that’s not what makes him noteworthy.
Sanchez has a hidden talent — as a magician of sorts. And when he performed his mysterious disappearing act, it was a virtuoso performance. Now you see him; now you don’t.
“I was just flabbergasted as to how someone could get away with this,” Middleton said. “It was just amazing to me.”
Sanchez’s little secret unraveled in January.
“We got a tip from a neighbor of Mr. Sanchez that he was basically coming home in the middle of the day and not going back to work,” Middleton said.
Sanchez’s government truck stuck out like a sore thumb sitting in the driveway of his North Valley home day in and day out. So the county’s top brass called in private investigators (Robert Caswell Investigations) to check it out. Armed with hidden cameras and GPS trackers, it only took the PIs a few days to come up with the evidence.
What they found was definitive proof: Ken Sanchez loafed on the job. And if there was an award for doing so, Sanchez would likely go to the head of the class.
News 13 obtained the PIs’ surveillance video through a public records request.
For example: on Jan. 14, at the same time Sanchez claimed to be inspecting a traffic signal in the South Valley, investigators documented his county truck sitting in his driveway across town.
Two days later, by 8:15 a.m., Sanchez was at the county yards. But at 10:50 a.m., he’s back home. Fifteen minutes later he heads to Tijeras to do some repair work for 45 minutes. Next stop? The grocery store. He’s there about 10 minutes and then heads home. Surveillance was called off at 2.30.
On Jan. 17, Sanchez took it easy around the house and didn’t leave for work until 9:30 a.m. But first he needed a bit of an energy boost, so it was time for a mid-morning snack at the Taco Cabana. He was there 25 minutes. At 11:25, he was spotted at a job site repairing a sign. At 12:13 p.m., Sanchez dropped in on a roadside sale for a little browsing. Next, more repair work at Barcelona and Hughes. At 1:24 p.m., he was at a job along Second Street. Twenty minutes later, he did a little shopping at the Pull and Pay on Broadway. He looked around for a half hour, then took a leisurely two-hour lunch at Papa Burgers. Sanchez ended his day at the barbershop just before 4:30 p.m.
For another few days, it went on just like that. The investigators had seen enough.
“I would like Mr. Sanchez to know that he’s done a disservice to all of the county employees of Bernalillo County,” Middleton said. “We don’t ask for a lot of praise. All we ask is that we get a fair shake. And when you do these types of things, you endanger that relationship with the public.”
Bernalillo County officials began an investigation. However, before it could be completed, Sanchez retired.
News 13 met with the former inspector. He declined to be interviewed, but said he had already planned to retire before all this happened. Sanchez said he had accumulated overtime hours to compensate for taking off during work. But, he admitted using poor judgment and said: It probably wasn’t right.”