New Mexico

Dona Ana Commissioners vote to terminate county manager's contract

Dona Ana Commissioners vote to...
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Dona Ana County commissioners Tuesday voted 4-1 to terminate County Manager Julia Brown's contract seven months after it was renewed.
 
Commissioner Billy Garrett is the only one who voted against the move.
 
"I would call this retaliation. I would call this discrimination, and I would call it politics at its worst," Brown told ABC-7 moments after the vote.

After coming out of closed session, newly-elected commissioner John Vasquez made a motion to terminate County Manager Julia Brown's contract. Commissioner Ramon Gonzalez seconded the motion. Dozens of county employees and constituents expressed their concern.

"This is political corruption at its finest," Sandy Hunter, a sheriff's employee told commissioners. "I hope you are proud of yourself."

Others told the commission they felt betrayed and embarrassed that they would even consider terminating Brown. Some called the motion a "blatant disregard for public interest."

"I really didn't think you would try to do this. It's insanity," Lynn Ellins said.

District 4 City Representative Isabella Solis did not explain the reasoning behind the vote, only saying the county is moving in a different direction.

The vote to fire Brown came after Vasquez allegedly said he wanted to get rid of Brown.
 
Captain Justin Porter, with the Dona Ana County Detention Center, claimed in a complaint against Commissioner Vasquez, that he threatened to get rid of Brown and Jail Director Chris Barela.
 
A source familiar with the allegation told the ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom the county manager's office heard about Porter's complaint and asked him to put it in writing last week.
 
Porter claimed Vasquez approached him and three other government employees at a Santa Fe hotel. The complaint also said Porter told Vasquez he worked at the detention center.
 
Vasquez allegedly answered,"that place is horrible" and "he needed to get rid of Chris," referring to Chris Barela.
 
Porter alleged Vasquez followed him to a hotel room where a group of deputies and law enforcement employees were meeting.  Porter claimed Vasquez told him, "when we fire Chris, who will be in charge?"
 
He alleged Vasquez also mentioned Julia Brown and said, "the county will be better when he (Vasquez) gets rid of both of them." 
 
ABC-7 asked Vasquez about the conversation he had with Porter, but Vasquez said he did not recall.
 
Vasquez was also asked about the complaint filed by Porter and Vasquez said he had not seen it.
 
ABC-7 showed Vasquez the document and allowed to take photos of it, promising a response at a later date, but Vasquez has not responded.
 
In September, Brown's contract was renewed three additional years. Her contract was brought up during a commissioners meeting in February once again, but no action was taken.

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