By Kathleen Sloan
Truth or Consequences Mayor John Mulcahy said he was “confused” by the petition circulating the town to recall him, but admitted it definitely had to do with his stance on how to fill the vacant city commission seat. The seat has been empty for more than two months, since Commissioner Freddie Torres’ unexpected death from a heart attack.
Mulcahy said the recall effort would not change his position, however. He again quoted state law, which states the seat may be filled by any candidate that gets a majority vote among commissioners.
Mulcahy again pointed out that choosing a candidate by the most votes in the last election did not reflect that candidates ran against other candidates. “It was not an at-large election. People jumped in line to run against another candidate and it doesn’t make sense.”
Mulcahy had at first taken up Mayor Pro-tem Sandra Whitehead’s suggestion that names be chosen by “drawing of lots,” which City Manager Juan Fuentes said is mentioned in State Statute 3-8-60 to break a tie among candidates with equal votes in an election.
Mulcahy said, however, that “my constituents said ‘you better not.’”
During the agenda item, it was never made clear whose names would be among those chosen by lottery if this method were to be used.
Mulcahy said he felt the question should be settled by the people, and a special election held.
City Commissioner Steve Green again said it had been agreed that would be a waste of about $6,000. He again reiterated the fairest method was by the greatest number of votes gained in the March election. He nominated Mike Kertesz again and the same tie between Green/Whitehead, voting aye and Mulcahy/Commissioner Richter, voting nay, occurred, as it did the last two city commission meetings.
No other candidates were put forward, but Mulcahy made a motion to have a special election. That too met with a tie, this time the ayes and nays reversed.
The time schedule for a special election was discussed.
City Clerk Mary Penner said a special election probably couldn’t be held until March because a special election cannot be held 42 days before a general election. She said the statewide general election is followed by a school board election in February.
However, State Statue 3-8-9 states, “A municipal election may be held concurrently with but not 42 days prior to or 30 days after a statewide special, general or primary election or any regular school district election.” Therefore the city’s special election could be held Nov. 6, along with the statewide general election.
It was determined that Sept. 24 was 42 days before the statewide general election. However, an election resolution must be passed and published for four consecutive weeks between 50 and 60 days before the special election, according to State Law 3-8-35. Therefore the first election notice would have to be advertised by mid-September, in order for the city to hold a special election with the statewide general election – very unlikely.
Mulcahy took time to list accomplishments since taking office in early March.
He listed the solid waste collection center, which ironically is facing another petition that seeks to stop it.
Second, he listed the Williamsburg area electrical upgrade, which lost about $100,000 in funding from the last grant application.
Third, he listed the tear down of the Buckhorn Saloon and Youth Center.
Fourth he listed the acquisition of billboards along Interstate 25, near Socorro and Las Cruces.
Fifth, he listed the “preservation of the hot springs.”
Sixth, he listed the “approved swimming pool bubble design,” which has not been approved. What was approved was another $31,000 in engineering fees to redesign the design.
Finally, he listed the airport improvements of the fuel farm, shortening the runways and redoing a taxiway. Again, ironically, none of these projects went before the people, neglecting the ordinance and hearing processes, yet expending public monies with no input.
City Commissioner Steve Green pointed out the accomplishments were not Mulcahy’s alone. Mulcahy took the lead on passing an ordinance to stop drilling in the hot springs aquifer and in getting New Mexico Tech to do a very reasonably priced engineering study for $52,000. Green commended Mulcahy for that project, but said the others were all begun in the prior administration.