Rumors Plaguing Community Regarding Sheriff’s Residency, Resignation Untrue
By Carlos Padilla
Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca spoke to The Herald late last week and again on Labor Day – Monday, Sept. 1 – to address a number of questions regarding the local sheriff’s department and the sheriff himself. Baca confirmed a number of questions brought to this newspaper, and dispelled others as rumor.
Regarding the question of Sheriff Baca’s residency, Baca emphatically denied that there is any truth to the rumor that he has moved to Doña Ana County.
“I even had someone call my landlord yesterday to ask if I still lived there,” Baca told The Herald last week. “When my landlord told them that, yes, I do still live in the home I am renting, the caller hung up.”
An editorial recently published in the Sierra County Sentinel and penned by Publisher Frances Luna – an outspoken political foe of Baca’s and a Sierra County Commissioner – claimed that Baca had moved to the Las Cruces area.
This reporter received multiple messages prior to that editorial being published two weeks ago, regarding this very question of Sheriff Baca’s current residency. When contacted last week, Sheriff Baca contacted this newspaper within hours to set the record straight, stating that a health issue in his family has required him to travel back and forth to Las Cruces.
Baca also attended the New Mexico Sheriff’s Conference recently held in Las Cruces this year for outgoing sheriffs.
Sheriff Baca confirmed that he has disbanded the reserve deputy program. This development has been met with much criticism from residents living in rural areas of the county who have expressed concern that fewer deputies equates to less coverage, and the rural areas are the first to feel to effects.
Baca told The Herald that he was forced to disband the reserve deputy program after new rules went into effect requiring more training for reserve deputies. Baca stated that the reserve deputies were refusing to go to training.
Baca also stated that he was concerned that commission cards would still be out there once he was no longer sheriff.
“The new sheriff, whoever that may be, can reinitiate the program,” Baca said, providing that the reserve deputies attend training.
Regarding the recent drop in personnel at the sheriff’s department, Baca confirmed that his department has lost a number of people recently, including his administrative assistant, who publicly stated in support of Baca that her departure was due to the “childish games some people play.”
His undersheriff recently accepted a job with the Hatch Police Department, and he had to let a deputy go. When asked on what grounds, Sheriff Baca stated that it was a personnel issue involving a probationary employee who had not yet attended the Law Enforcement Academy.
Most recently, this reporter received calls on Monday from residents stating that they had heard information broadcast on Friday that Sheriff Baca had announced his resignation. When contacted, Baca – who was leaving the scene of a violent rollover on Monday – stated that claim was ridiculous, and that he fully intended on finishing out his term as sheriff.
Sheriff Baca even took to Facebook to dispel the rumor, sharing a link from The Herald’s Facebook page. Sentinel Reporter Etta Pettijohn denied that the rumor came from KCHS radio in Truth or Consequences, and launched into a tirade against this newspaper, and used the opportunity to launch several questions at the sheriff, stating that he has refused to return any of her phone calls.
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