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Residency requirement may derail Albuquerque labor board nomination

11 June 2011 Written by:

© Veritas New Mexico

Updated — Sunday 10 a.m.

After months of contentious debate over selection of a third member for Albuquerque’s  labor board, the management and labor representatives finally appointed longtime labor attorney Tom Griego as the panel’s “neutral” chairman, Friday morning.

The city council must still confirm Griego’s appointment at their June 20 meeting.

But his nomination to the board may not survive until then, Griego conceded after learning a city ordinance requires members of “any public board, commission or committee shall normally be a resident of the city.”

Veritas New Mexico learned Griego lives in Cedar Crest — outside Albuquerque city limits — during a review of  his resume, which was presented to the board. Multiple copies were also made available to members of the public who attended the morning meeting.

Asked about the requirement Friday afternoon, Griego said he would seek advice from board attorney Doris Duhigg, but that he is prepared to withdraw his nomination if the ordinance applies to the labor board.

“Assuming that it does, the best thing to do is to withdraw from consideration and let them appoint someone else,” Griego said.

Griego has lived in the East Mountains for several years, he said — and lived there when he first served as the board’s chairman during Mayor Jim Baca’s administration in 1999.

Griego said no one ever questioned his residency at that time.

On Sunday morning, a former police union president and local photographer, who publishes labor board information on his website The Blue Flyer, said Griego’s residency will not be a factor in his confirmation.

Griego’s selection was made by labor board members Jason Lesky and Barbara Stephenson, after they had vetted two other candidates, Patrick Halter, a former labor board chairman himself in 2005, and former NM Supreme Court Chief Justice William Riordan.

Neither Lesky, who represents labor on the board, nor Stephenson, Mayor Richard Berry’s pick to represent management, asked Griego where he lives. Instead most of the questioning focused on potential conflicts and determining if chair candidates had time in their professional schedules to commit to new responsibilities on the board.

Before voting on Griego, Stephenson voted to appoint Riordan to the board, but Lesky dissented.

They then quickly agreed on Griego, and rejected advice from Duhigg to cast a vote on Halter, saying they had already settled on Griego.

Attorney Robert Scott, also listed on the agenda for consideration, did not attend Friday’s meeting.

Griego owns Labor Relations Systems LLC and works part-time representing social security and disability clients at Bill Gordon and Associates. He has been serving on the Rio Rancho Teachers Labor/Management Relations Board since 2003.

Before Friday’s vote, he agreed to withdraw as a consulting attorney on a Title 7 case involving the city.

Huge backlog awaits labor board

Once a board chairman is confirmed by the city council, Stephenson and Lesky have indicated they will meet for six hours a month to hear hundreds of prohibited practice complaints. Cases became backlogged during the 18-month search for board members labor and the mayor’s office could agree upon.

Griego immediately began serving as board chairman following Friday’s vote, but New Mexico Transportation Union Attorney Paul Livingston objected, telling the panel that the mayor had to formally submit Griego’s name to the city council for confirmation.

While Livingston could not cite the precise ordinance language at the meeting, he later sent the board and their city attorney a memo citing a section that stipulates, “an appointment is not effective until Council approves it.”

Duhigg told Veritas NM there appears to be a conflict between the city’s general Boards, Commissions, and Committee ordinance, and its labor board ordinance, but that she would ask the city council to consider Griego’s name at their next meeting.

In 2010, the mayor sent executive communications to notify the council of Lesky and Stephenson’s appointments. Both were unanimously approved by the council–Lesky in March and Stephenson in October (see source documents below).

Councilors will have to determine if they can exempt Griego from the residency requirement before confirming him.

To contact this reporter send an email to Peter@VeritasNM.com

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