Charter commission ecommends eliminating commissioner dual service

Kevin Wilson

The Clovis City Charter Commission plans to make one recommendation to the Clovis City Commission, but otherwise feels the best thing it can do is leave the city’s governing document untouched.

The advisory commission, by an 8-2 vote, will recommend to the city commission during its Dec. 1 meeting that the charter be altered to eliminate dual service on the Clovis City and Curry County commissions.

The charter commission’s decision isn’t final by any means. It must first go to the city commission, which creates its own recommendation. If the city approves any charter changes, voters will have the final say.

The commission discussed a pair of suggestions coming from Rube Render — the only citizen to attend any of the meetings. He requested the charter include provisions for runoff elections and eliminating dual commission service.

Member Ray Mondragon originally recommended the commission simply suggest no changes, based on the public’s lack of interest. But Chairman Fred Van Soelen felt the commission should at least discuss Render’s proposals.

There was plenty of support for eliminating dual commission service. The city commission currently has two commissioners — Bobby Sandoval and Dan Stoddard — also serving in the county commission. Under the measure, they would be allowed to keep those positions until their next city election.

Those arguing in favor of the ban noted potential conflicts.

Van Soelen said he was inclined to support the measure because he sees, “inherent conflict that can’t be ignored.”

Sandoval said he decided to run for both positions because he always saw the city and county butting heads, and he wanted to help foster cooperation. But he didn’t think being a commissioner meant being a sycophant for that governmental body.

“I think the good outweighs the bad in a situation like this,” Sandoval said. “If you vote for what you think is fair, you won’t have a conflict of interest.”

Tye Harmon said the notion of the city and county butting heads was the inherent conflict, and it exists no matter how ethically Sandoval acts on issues of the county jail housing city prisoners or city ambulance service for the county.

“I think it’s a conflict to vote for what the county wants to charge and what the city has to pay,” Harmon said.

Former Mayor David Lansford said it’s a tough issue that the voters deserve to weigh in on. Sandoval and Clay Bracken said the voters already weigh in every time there’s an election, but Lansford said that means only the candidate’s district makes the decision for the entire city.

“The voters are going to decide,” Lansford said, “but only a small portion of the voters.”

Brumfield, Van Soelen, Lansford, Harmon, Mondragon, Joe Munoz, John Montano and Ben McDaniel voted in favor of the ban. Sandoval and Bracken voted against the recommendation.

The runoff election was discussed, but never brought up for a vote. The recommendation would have required a runoff election if no candidate got 40 percent of the vote, and the second-place candidate was within 10 percentage points. The recommendation was based on Gallup’s charter. Las Cruces and Albuquerque are the only other New Mexico cities with runoff elections. Render’s suggestion did not include the 10- percent margin requirement.

Mayor Gayla Brumfield said five people talked to her about runoff elections, and none were in favor. She looked at previous city elections, and found that just two city commission elections failed to meet the “40-10” threshold. When she was elected mayor in 2008, Brumfield received 38 percent of the vote amongst six candidates, while Render received 22 percent.

Sandoval said he’s never had a problem with a close victory.

“If you got 25 and I got 24, we might count them again, but you got 25 and I got 24,” Sandoval said. “You win.”