County files cease-and-desist order against sheriff

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County asks court to stop sheriff from performing all law enforcement activities

By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos County filed a temporary cease-and-desist order Thursday against Sheriff Marco Lucero in the First Judicial District Court, asking the court to order him to stop all law enforcement activities.

The county is accusing the sheriff of violating the state constitution by carrying out the duties reserved for the police department.

“The Respondent persists in his belief that he has a legal duty to engage in law enforcement activities and therefore the Respondent is likely to continue to engage in law enforcement activities” county attorneys said in the order.

The county accuses Lucero of “making arrests, filing criminal complaints and conducting criminal investigations.”

The county’s cease-and-desist order was filed in response to a motion Lucero filed in the same court Aug. 29, a motion requesting the court to order the Los Alamos County Council to restore the duties of the sheriff’s office.

On May 24, 2016, council moved all process-serving responsibilities from the sheriff’s office to the Los Alamos Police Department, after Lucero expressed concerns for his deputies’ safety. The question of whether to retain a sheriff also stems from that issue.

On Nov. 8, 2016, voters in a countywide referendum voted for council to restore the office and its budget.

It was expected that the sheriff’s department would eventually be abolished at a later time. At the time, the council said it was trying to help the county cut down on duplicating services.

A January referendum decided by Los Alamos County voters however ordered the county to restore the office to its original configuration.

The county has not yet restored the sheriff’s duties or staff. 

Giving his personal opinion and not that of the county or the council, County Council Chair David Izraelevitz said he thinks the courts will side with the county, since the state constitution grants powers to counties that are also cities the right to structure public services in the most efficient manner possible.

“The whole purpose of an incorporated county and why that is in the New Mexico Constitution is to give small counties  the abilities to consolidate services so we don’t duplicate them,” Izraelevitz said.

Lucero and his lawyer, A. Blair Dunn, want the courts to strictly abide by state statutes.

“This court should declare that the Los Alamos County Council does not have the authority to use its charter to override what the legislature has set forth in the state statute, namely the responsibilities of a county sheriff,” Lucero said Tuesday.

The only duty Lucero now has is the tracking and registering of sex offenders in Los Alamos County.
Lucero is running his office on a $15,510 budget – $6,000 of that is his salary. The rest, he said, will be used for training, administrative costs and other expenses. He has just one volunteer deputy, John Horne, Sr., the father of his former undersheriff, John Horne Jr., who unexpectedly died earlier this year.

“I don’t understand why they would not want another public safety figure that is trying to keep the community safe and working in cooperation with our local police and federal partners,” Lucero said. “I do not understand why they would not welcome another peace officer to try and keep the community safe.”