A controversial mayor has come under fire again. This time the Mayor of Tijeras was handing out checks to village employees that she wasn’t authorized to write, including a big check to herself.
KRQE New 13 was there Tuesday as investigators from the State Auditor’s office moved in and the mayor’s office tried to turn them away.
It was a tense scene in the Tijeras mayor’s office as auditors were stopped at the front desk.
“I can leave a message for them but as far as right now they are unavailable,” the receptionist said.
Tuesday, State Auditor Wayne Johnson launched an investigation into actions taken by Mayor Gloria Chavez.
The State Auditor says Chavez wrote 13 checks to village employees, including an $8,700 check to herself and a $10,000 check to Deputy Clerk Diane Klaus.
“At this point it doesn’t look like she signed her own check, however, and this is a big point, she did authorize this disbursement which she didn’t have the authority to do,” Johnson said.
Johnson says Chavez handed out $64,000 combined. The mayor and clerk received 30 percent of the total payout.
The checks are supposedly a reimbursement for “overpayments” of retirement contributions going back more than a decade.
Councilman Jake Bruton says the issue was never discussed in village council, which Johnson says is a red flag.
“No one knew about it until I received one and I of course, like I said, thought it was quite strange,” Bruton said.
Johnson says Mayor Chavez may have violated the Governmental Conduct Act. Since payroll taxes weren’t withheld, there could also be tax consequences for employees who received those checks..
KRQE News 13 did reach out the the mayor’s office for a comment on the investigation, but they declined to comment.
Johnson’s office says the $64,000 paid out came out of the village’s general fund. They say that is about 5 percent of the budget.
Mayor Chavez has been in caught up in a couple of controversies over the past few years. Most notably when she banned a pair of elderly women from the village’s senior center, claiming they were thieves because they took a scrapbook they made at the center.
The village settled a lawsuit over the scrapbook ordeal for $55,000.