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City recorded APD reform monitor at least 12 times

Civilian and police officials in former Mayor Richard Berry's administration made at least 12 secret recordings of the independent monitor in the Albuquerque Police Department's reform case with the U.S. Department of Justice.

That's 11 more recordings than the administration told a federal court judge about when it first revealed last October that then-Assistant Police Chief Robert Huntsman had recorded the monitor, James Ginger, on his lapel camera in March of 2016.

(Photo: Secretive to the end. Former City Attorney Jessica Hernandez didn't even tell the DOJ that she had turned over additional secret recordings of the monitor to the federal court judge)

And Berry's administration, particularly then-City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, was secretive to the end about the recordings. Hernandez turned over audio files and transcripts of the recordings to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack on Nov. 22, 2017. But she never told the DOJ, nor the monitor, nor the Albuquerque Police Officers Association about the additional recordings or that she had filed them with the court.

The city revealed the existence of the 11 new recordings in a document filed Tuesday with U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack. The city's notice of compliance with Brack's Nov. 16, 2017 order that the city produce any additional recordings of the monitor said that three of the recordings, including the March 2016 recording of Ginger by Huntsman, were made out of concerns that Ginger was being too hard on the city, according to a letter from then-City Attorney Jessica Hernandez that was attached to the city's court filing.

Hernandez turned recordings and the transcripts over to Brack on Nov. 22, 2017, and her letter to the judge detailed why the recordings were made.

At least nine other recordings were made of Ginger by Bill Slauson, a civilian APD executive who was involved in the reform effort. Those recordings were made between May 10, 2016 and Feb. 27, 2017 “for the sole purpose of having an internal reference regarding direction received from the monitor,” Hernandez's letter said.

Someone also recorded a Sept. 30, 2016, telephone conference call between Ginger, Huntsman, then-APD Chief Gorden Eden and Slauson. The city gave Brack a transcript of the recording saying it could not find the actual tape.

“The purpose of the telephone conference was to discuss the chiefs' concerns with recent interactions between the City and the Monitor and how those were affecting the monitoring process,” Hernandez's letter to Brack said. “The city has searched for and not been able to locate an audio recording of this telephone call. The city believes that the audio recording was not kept once it was transcribed.”

On Nov. 15, 2016, someone recorded a meeting between Ginger, Hernandez and another person. “This meeting was recorded because of worries over how the Monitor would respond when the city directly raised its concerns about recent interactions with the Monitor and how those were affecting the monitoring process,” Hernandez's letter said. “Ms. Hernandez had not listened to or distributed this recording to anyone prior to searching for and copying this recording in order to produce to the Court.”

Hernandez's letter said that none of the recording were “made with the intention of making the recording public or using the recording in any manner to undermine the monitoring process.”

But undermining the reform process is exactly what Brack said the city did by recording Ginger in March of 2016 and using the recording in a motion to the court that alleged that Ginger was biased against the city.

The city's notice to Brack also slammed Hernandez for being secretive about the additional recordings. She disclosed the existence of the recordings to Brack in the Nov. 22, 2017 letter, but she didn't tell the DOJ, Ginger, or the union that represents APD officers, that she had filed the items with Brack.

“The former City Attorney did not provide copies of her letter or its enclosures to the United States, the APOA or the Monitor when she submitted them to the Court on November 22, 2017,” the city's filing said. “Nor did the former City Attorney otherwise alert the United States, the APOA or the Monitor of the existence of recordings involving the Monitor or this reform process other than the former APD Assistant Chief’s lapel camera recording discussed in the Court’s November 16, 2016 Order.

“In mid-December 2017, after Officials in the new Administration and the new Acting City Attorney learned about the former City Attorney’s letter and the existence of additional recordings discussed therein, the City promptly notified the United States, the APOA and the Monitor. Thereafter, the City provided the former City Attorney’s letter and its enclosures to the United States, APOA and the Monitor.

"This Notice is to inform the Court that any prior ex parte communications with the Court have been corrected by providing the November 22, 2-17 submission to all named Parties in this matter, as well as the Monitor.

“Additionally, this Notice is to inform the Court that the current City administration has terminated the practice and will not make any further recordings without the Parties’ knowledge or consent.”

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