Auditor has no Authority to do Criminal Justice Audit
State Law Gives Authority Only for Financial Audits
On December 1, 2017 Republican Governor Susana Martinez appointed Republican Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson as the New Mexico State Auditor to replace Democrat Tim Keller who was elected Mayor of Albuquerque.
Wayne Johnson ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Albuquerque, came in fifth and did not make the run off against Tim Keller.
Wayne Johnson, who is now running for election to keep his job as State Auditor, has announced his office will do a “special audit” to look into possible “gaps” within the Second Judicial District in an effort to combat crime in the Albuquerque metro area.
Johnson got exactly what he really wanted which was nothing more than media coverage and a front page headline in the Albuquerque Journal.
According to Johnson, his “special audit” focuses on seven state agencies: the District Court, Metro Court, the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Metropolitan Detention Center, the Public Defender’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office.
In other words, the target of Johnson’s special audit is the entire Bernalillo County criminal justice system.
In announcing the audit, Johnson said:
“As auditors, we can look at each piece of the system and how those pieces mesh together. … We can help mend the cracks that lead to horrible crimes … When judges and prosecutors don’t have all the facts because the systems aren’t communicating, criminals … fall through the cracks. The consequences are devastating for people’s lives and for the City of Albuquerque as a whole. We can do better.”
According to his office, the district attorney pursued detention in 16 percent of all felony cases filed and indicted in 2017 but judges denied those requests about half the time.
Johnson argued that those released by judges then commit other crimes and he pointed to one suspect accused of raping a 57-year-old in her home after his release on auto burglary charges.
In response to Wayne Johnson’s call for the audit, the State District Court spokesperson Sidney Hill said:
“As a trusted and good steward of public resources, the (court) will continue to act in a financially and operationally responsible and prudent manner and will cooperatively work with the Office of the State Auditor. … The Court hopes this process will clear up the Auditor’s apparent misunderstanding of the criminal justice system, which is reflected in his use of statistics and scenarios we do not believe have a basis in fact.”
Wayne Johnson should do better understanding the duties, responsibilities and functions of his office.
FUNCTIONS OF STATE AUDITORS DEPARTMENT
What is so very disappointing and typical is no one in the media challenged or questioned if Johnson has the authority or is empowered by law to do his audit that is not financial dealing with the expenditure of taxpayer money.
The New Mexico State Auditor is a statewide elected official that eligible to serve up to two four-year terms.
In accordance with the New Mexico Audit Act, §§ 12-6-1 to 12-6-14, NMSA 1978, the Office has two statutory purposes:
“(1) to ensure that the financial affairs of every agency shall be thoroughly examined and audited each year by the state auditor, personnel of the state auditor’s office designated by the state auditor or independent auditors approved by the state auditor
(2) cause the financial affairs and transactions of an agency to be audited in whole or in part. (Section 12-6-3, NMSA 1978.)”
These two statutory purposes grant the State Auditor the authority to conduct both financial and special financial audits to identify financial irregularities, waste, fraud and abuse by the government entities.
The Office of the State Auditor conducts and oversees audits of approximately 1,000 government entities, from large state agencies to small political subdivisions.
The authority of the office is to review the financial affairs of government agencies, including contracts, purchases agreements and make sure that the government agencies are not engaged in fraud and abuse of government and taxpayer funds.
While the State Auditor performs mandatory audits each year of city, county and state agencies, due to the Office’s limited resources, a majority of the financial audits are conducted by independent public accounting firms (IPAs) whom partner with the Office.
The State Auditor requires the government agencies that are audited to foot the bill for the independent public auditing firms.
The State Auditor does not have any prosecutorial authority and when criminal wrong doing is found in an audit, it is turned over to the appropriate state or federal prosecuting agency.
JOHNSON CONTINUES TO VILIFY CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
When Wayne Johnson ran for Mayor last year, his speeches and commercials took to a whole new level pandering to upset voters and to appeal to their worst fears to get votes, especially when he said he would end Albuquerque’s sanctuary city status.
His efforts as a Bernalillo County Commissioner to end the county’s immigrant sanctuary status failed miserably.
The most disturbing part of Mr. Johnsons candidacy for Mayor was his intentional promotion of ignorance of our criminal justice system, our constitutional rights of due process of law and the presumption of innocence.