New Mexico

Dona Ana County Jail Administrator resigns, awaiting trial on misdemeanor marijuana charge

Do-a Ana County jail director resigns...

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Dona Ana County Jail Administrator Christopher Barela resigned, ABC-7's New Mexico Mobile Newsroom has learned.

"It was under the imminent threat of termination, so I had no choice," Barela said. He told ABC-7 he worked in the county detention center for 17 years.

The resignation comes after undercover agents charged Barela with four counts of "possession of marijuana over one ounce, but less than eight ounces."

In a resignation letter ABC-7 obtained via an open records request, Barela states, "I am reluctantly submitting my resignation  ... under duress and as a result of the 'Letter of Intent to Terminate' my employment based on the petty misdemeanor charges I am facing now."

His resignation shocked at least one Doña Ana County Commissioner. 

“I was surprised when i learned of the resignation of Mr. Barela, our jailman, Mr. Barela," said Commissioner Isabella Solis, who represents district four. "I recently heard this information - the matter just came to pass not too long ago - and I feel like the county needs to move forward and that’s all we can do at this point.”

Dona Ana County Spokesperson Jess Williams told ABC-7 Barela had been placed in indefinite administrative leave with pay.

"The county would determine benefits upon resignation," Williams said. "Upon separation, then any county-associated benefits would terminate."

Court documents obtained by ABC-7 state two narcotic agents met with an informant on April 24, 2017. The informant told the agents Barela was allegedly involved in the purchase of marijuana.

The informant told the agents Barela has been buying marijuana in increments of $40 dollars, and sometimes in increments of $100, "approximately five to ten days apart on a consistent basis for approximately the past two years," the document states.

The agents obtained Facebook messenger data "consistent with the information provided by the confidential source ... and were able to determine the public name on the account identified in Facebook messenger was Kris Barela and had an associated profile picture of a person identified as Christopher Barela," the document further states.

Documents reveal Barela allegedly used code words like "Hatch Green Chili" for marijuana.

Investigators set up a surveillance operation and allegedly witnessed Barela purchasing marijuana from the informant on May 31, 2017 and June 14, 2017.

On both occasions, Barela allegedly bought 30 grams of marijuana for $40, documents state.

Barela says following his resignation, he is now on the job hunt.

"It’s just one chapter closing and another chapter opening, and I’ll look and see where else i can fit in," Barela said.

BELOW IS THE ENTIRE RESIGNATION LETTER:

Good morning all, 

Well, unfortunately the decision of the Disciplinary Hearing (DH) officer was not in my favor.  However, I expected this end.   Even though I hoped it would be different.

To the County Manager;

I am reluctantly submitting my resignation as the Director of the Dona Ana County Detention Center Director.  I submit this resignation under duress and as a result of the 'Letter of Intent to Terminate' my employment based on the petty misdemeanor charges I am facing now.  Although at my hearing I presented solid evidence that suggests I should still be given an opportunity to continue to defend myself as a number of current officers are doing now... The DH officer has decided to the contrary.  Therefore I submit this resignation effective today at 4:00 p.m.

I will miss working at the County and with all the people in it.  I can honestly say that I have not had many bad days working at Dona Ana County prior to the year 2016.  It has been my pleasure to serve the best I could during my entire time.  The County is full of good people, and despite the political decision made here by the DH Officer and the Interim County Manager, I hold no personal malice... and wish the County the very best into the future.

I also strongly recommend that the County Consider Captain Bryan Baker as the future permanent Director of the Dona Ana County Jail.  His performance over the last 17 years plus his dedication to get himself educated and commitment to the vision of that place is absolutely in the facility best interest.

I will miss all the people of the County but mostly the people at the detention center.  I wish you all the best and the pleasure of working there has been mine.  God bless you all.

Sincerely,
Chris Barela