LAS CRUCES — The City of Las Cruces is one step closer to filling a position that’s been empty for more than three and a half years.
During a Las Cruces City Council work session July 11, City Attorney Jennifer Vega said the municipality is ready to post the job opening for an inspector general.
The IG position was created in November 2018, when the city council passed the Accountability in Government Ordinance, though it’s never been filled.
The ordinance requires the city to employ a “full-time” IG in its legal department. The ordinance also sets the IG’s minimum qualifications, authority and responsibilities and limitations on their power.
The Sun-News asked the city attorney and City Manager Ifo Pili about the delay in filling the position in January. The number of work hours required, the position’s salary and the IG’s required independence from city administration were all reasons given for delaying the job being posted.
The inspector general can investigate city employees, elected and appointed officials, municipal agencies, contractors or any other party doing business with the city or receiving city funds. The IG cannot investigate matters under police or fire department internal affairs. The IG can begin an investigation independently or in response to a complaint.
The IG has the power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, require the production of records in line with the rules of civil procedure and refer suspicions of criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors or law enforcement. In most cases, the city manager or city attorney are disallowed from limiting the scope of an IG investigation.
During Monday’s presentation about the Accountability in Government Ordinance and the city’s Oversight Committee, Mayor Pro Tempore Kasandra Gandara — participating in the meeting telephonically — asked for an update about the hiring of an IG.
Vega told the council she approved the requisition for the position Monday morning and that it was “ready for posting.” The city attorney again cited the position’s previously low salary and the creation of an adequate job description for the role as things that have elongated the hiring process.
“It’s taken some time because that is a new position, so we had to come up with a complete job description,” Vega said. “Originally there was a job description that didn’t quite match the city ordinance.”
In January, Vega told the Sun-News the job description for the IG had been submitted to the human resources department and expected a new salary range recommendation that made the position more attractive. The salary range for the IG job is now between $85,975 and $124,803 a year. It’s unknown how soon the job could be filled.
The Oversight Committee, also created through the Accountability in Government Ordinance, consists of five members — three voting and two non-voting members — evaluates city audit reports, hotline complaints and investigative reports before they are distributed to the city council and can offer comments on what they review. The committee, which first formed and began to meet in fall 2020, is currently chaired by Jack Eakman, a former Las Cruces city councilor with a hospital administration background.
Vega has previously said the Internal Audit Division and external firms have been fulfilling many of the IG’s responsibilities in the interim.
Eakman told the council the Oversight Committee is currently limited by the city’s lack of an IG.
“Right now, our audit team is finally up to (full) staff. But if they get called away to do what an inspector general could do, that bumps every other audit that we wanted to happen,” Eakman said. “We will have more information available to us if we have an inspector general working with the city manager, working with whoever, to find out what we can do to help improve.”
By ordinance, the committee may recommend “priorities and potential areas for investigations and audits” to the IG or city auditor and advise them on technical issues but cannot direct investigations or audits. Similarly, the committee cannot prevent the IG or city auditor from conducting an audit, review or investigation.
The Accountability in Government Ordinance isn’t the only source of the call for an inspector general. The McHard Firm included the recommendation to hire an IG in its scathing 2020 report on its investigation of Visit Las Cruces.
Note: This article was updated at 5:10 pm July 11 to include the salary range for the inspector general position.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: City attorney says Las Cruces ‘ready’ to post inspector general job
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