D.A.’s office forms Public Integrity Unit

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By Carol A. Clark

First Judicial District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco took office Jan. 1 and promptly arranged for an assistant district attorney to spend time in long-ignored Los Alamos County on a weekly basis.

Other changes she’s made in her first five months include weeding out a number of attorneys left over from predecessor Henry Valdez’ administration and now creating a Public Integrity Unit.

Pacheco attended a course discussing the new unit presented by her senior trial attorney JoHanna Cox at Fire Station 3 in White Rock Thursday.

The audience was filled with investigators from federal, state and local agencies such as state and Santa Fe police and state auditor, environment and public education departments, as well as Task Force agents, Los Alamos National Laboratory personnel and Los Alamos police.

“This training underscores our commitment to developing interagency cooperation,” Los Alamos Police Det. Doug Johnson said. “We are joined by 10 agencies from around the state who’ve come together to learn about the district attorney’s new Public Integrity Unit. We anticipate this new unit, headed by JoHanna Cox, will have a significant impact on the prosecution of criminal cases against public and governmental employees. We already enjoy an excellent working relationship with Laboratory investigators and welcome our district attorney’s expanding attention in this critical area.”  

Cox said the Public Integrity Unit will investigate and prosecute wrongdoing related to state and local governments.

“This includes misuse of state property, theft, misapplication or contract fraud, falsification of documents, election code violations, finance reporting violations and ethics violations that are criminal in nature,” she said.

Some possible crimes within the penal code include fraud, forgery, embezzlement misconduct of officials and bribery.

Possible crimes outside the penal code could involve elections, the legislature and public officials. 

Cox discussed tools for conducting criminal investigations in these areas. She also discussed case law updates for these crimes.

The sensitive nature of investigations launched against public officials and individuals running for office was touched on during the afternoon presentation.

“You have a job to do, you must act professionally but you still have a job to do and you must act on it,” Pacheco said.

The D.A.’s office has authority to investigate any agency that receives public money from the governor’s office down to the smallest entity.

The State of New Mexico is comprised of 33 counties, each of which is presided over by one of 13 districts. The First District serves Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her blog at www.newsextras.wordpress.com.