Did COO Rael break the rules?
By Dan Klein
You must wonder why? Why for what seems like a small issue, like a traffic accident, do the people at the highest levels of Albuquerque city government act in a way that violates their own rules and regulations and clearly breeds suspicion into the minds of the citizens they serve. Why indeed.
ABQReport was notified by attorney, Thomas Grover, of a car accident that Albuquerque Chief Operations Officer, Lawrence Rael was involved in on September 14, 2021, while Rael was driving his city Tahoe. Grover had to tell us because APD has no record of this accident, or at least that is what the city is saying. That’s right, COO Lawrence Rael, who knows the rules and regulations for city employees never notified APD, as required, of his car accident involving an expensive piece of city property.
People get into accidents all the time, so why wouldn’t Rael call APD and have a police report done, as required? Why wouldn’t Rael call APD so that damages and injuries get documented by APD? Why wouldn’t Rael call APD so that they could verify the identity and drivers’ license of the other driver? Why wouldn’t Rael call APD, so they could check the drivers to make sure no one was impaired? Why?
This report is a City of Albuquerque Risk Management form, that is required to be filled out by the drivers’ supervisor (or designee) and submitted to Risk Management within 24 hours of the accident. This report stated Rael crashed his, taxpayer purchased, city vehicle on September 14, 2021, yet Risk Management didn’t sign it in until September 29, 2021. Why the delay?
More issues with this report include the fact that Rael is listed as the person filling out the form, not his supervisor or designee. Sources tell ABQReport that the damage was anything but “minor” as Rael writes in the report, and that Rael’s city vehicle was not drivable and had to be towed to the city yards. Furthermore, the other driver, Victoria Elosia, has no phone number as required by the Risk Management form. The license plate is also missing. A search of available databases doesn’t show anyone with the name Victoria Elosia (or Elosia Victoria) in the Albuquerque area.
Look, Rael knows he is not supposed to fill out this form. He also knows he was supposed to call APD and have them do an accident report (the bottom of the form is blank where APD Case number is supposed to be). Rael is the Chief Operations Officer for the city for Christ’s sake! If he doesn’t know these rules, then why are we, the taxpayers, paying him six figures?
Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention, Rael was Chief Administrative Officer of Albuquerque for 12 years! He knows the rules because as CAO he was the one enforcing them upon city workers for 12 years!
Rael works directly under Mayor Tim Keller, when did Keller know and what did he do about it? Does Keller have one set of rules for his immediate staff and another for all other city workers? Is this a cover up? Why didn’t Rael have APD investigate?
What would have happened had a regular city employee acted the way Rael acted after being in an accident in a city vehicle? If any other city employee got into an accident and acted the way Rael has acted, they would be facing major discipline and possibly termination. Rael’s actions in this incident must make the citizens of Albuquerque ask, “was he hiding something? Is that why APD was not called to investigate?”
Mayoral spokesman Ava Montoya emailed ABQReport this statement about Rael's crash:
"The City’s COO was involved in a minor traffic accident at a stop light on 5th Street. There was only minor damage and no injuries so Rael and the other driver exchanged contact information and insurance information. For minor accidents like this, APD recommends that drivers exchange information and address the situation through their insurance companies. Following City procedures, Rael went immediately to Risk Management to report the accident, where he was instructed to fill out a form, which he did. Risk Management then resolves these situations following normal protocols."
Here is Tom Grover’s statement to the ABQReport:
“My office was alerted to this matter in September and an IPRA request was promptly filed. The day following the submission of the IPRA request, goons from Keller's office went to the City's fleet yards to shake employees down to find out who "leaked" this information to my office. I'd like to remind the Keller Administration that there's a Whistleblower statute in this state (as well as a City Whistleblower ordinance) and while we know you don't like to follow rules and laws that apply to you, others will enforce them. Also, the balance of the public records my office requested will be past due if they are not produced by close of business on Thursday, October 14, 2021.”
Here are the rules that are supposed to apply to every city employee:
City of Albuquerque Operator Permit Policy
12. Responsibilities In Regards To The City Operator Permit Rule
E. All Operators Shall
10. In the event of an accident while on official city business, immediately inform their respective supervisor and the police department by telephone or other appropriate means; any verbal report should be followed by a written report within one work day of the event.
11. Cooperate with the city and law enforcement agencies in the investigation of any vehicular accident in with the driver is involved or is a witness.
18. Vehicle Accident Reporting Procedure
A. Vehicle Accident Reporting Procedure- All Drivers
1. Any driver involved in a motor vehicle accident, while operating a vehicle on official city business, shall immediately call the police and the drivers’ supervisor or his department investigator to the scene.
2. The driver shall not leave the scene until the police have completed their investigation. If the police do not investigate at the scene, the driver should make a report at the police station as directed by his supervisor.
3. The driver shall not discuss the accident with anyone except the police, the supervisor, legal counsel or an adjuster or other investigator assigned by Risk Management Division
4. The department investigator shall investigate the accident and report the findings to the Fleet Safety Officer or department accident review committee.
5. Department directors shall require that vehicle accident reports be promptly submitted to the Fleet Safety Officer.