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Lawrence Rael should be fired

By Dan Klein

-- Lawrence Rael’s failure to obey the city rules, which he enforces upon other city employees, is a purposeful indiscretion that cannot be ignored.

-- Lawrence Rael should resign from the city. If he won’t resign, Mayor Tim Keller should dress in disguise and meet him at Coronado Park and fire him (just the way he fired Mike Geier).

-- City rules don't apply to Keller's cronies.

"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."--Tim Keller’s PIO Ava Montoya responding to questions about Lawrence Rael’s accident.

The City of Albuquerque’s rules for employees involved in an accident:

“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.”

City employees have always known the ugly truth, and that is that city rules only apply to them, not to political appointees. Now everyone in Albuquerque knows that the rules never apply to Mayor Tim Keller’s inner circle. If they did, Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael would have been terminated for failing to have police investigate his accident in a city vehicle. Rael is the number three person at City Hall, only behind Keller and CAO Sarita Nair. If we truly hold those in power to high standards, then Rael should be removed from his position for failing to abide by the same rules that he enforces on city employees.

(Photo: It's time for Mayor Keller to call Lawrence Rael to a park and fire him.)

The statement from PIO Montoya is complete bullshit. There is no other way to say it. There has never been a city order instructing city employees, who are in accidents, to just exchange information and file a report with Risk Management. Furthermore, Rael didn’t file his report immediately with Risk Management, it was two weeks later.

Rael’s purposeful failure to follow the city rules now has another victim: Ava Montoya and her reputation. Either Montoya is just a talking head who repeats what she is told without thinking, or she purposely has lied to the citizens of Albuquerque. Either way, her reputation is in the toilet, No one can, or should, believe anything she says in the future. Her statement about Rael’s crash is a lie.

Why does the city require police officers to investigate city vehicles that are involved in an accident? Because the city is self-insured. This policy has been in place for decades and it protects taxpayer funds from being abused. When a police officer investigates, he can determine who was at fault, if drivers are drunk or high, and issue citations. This protects the city from paying out fraudulent claims, and it exposes employees who are either bad drivers or impaired. Ava, that’s why the city requires a police officer to investigate.

Why would someone in Rael’s position, who was CAO for 12 years and who has been COO for the last four years, intentionally not notify the police (as required by city rules, rules he has enforced upon others for 16 years)? An APD officer had this to say, “A person doesn’t notify the cops when they don’t want the cops to know what they were doing at the time of the accident.” Here are some reasons why people in accidents don’t want to call the police:

· The driver believes they were at fault and don’t want to get a ticket.

· The driver doesn’t want their insurance company notified.

· The driver is driving on a suspension or revocation or has warrants.

· The driver may be impaired with drugs or alcohol.

· The driver has someone with him/her that they don’t want others to know about.

· The driver was texting or talking on their phone, and they don’t want their conversation exposed.

These are the only reasons that, in my 20 years of law enforcement experience, explain why a driver doesn’t want the cops called. I am not accusing COO Rael of any of these actions, only explaining what I have witnessed with other people who did not want police notified. Unless Rael makes a public statement explaining his decision to violate city rules, this will be a cloud over his head for the rest of his political career.

Because a police officer was not called to investigate Rael’s accident, we can only use his, and the other driver’s, statement to Risk Management to determine what happened. This points out glaring issues with Rael writing his own report and not having a police officer do it. Rael’s report is inaccurate at best and a lie at worse. Here are the problems:

· Rael’s report, written two weeks after the incident, inaccurately identifies the other driver as Elosia Victoria with no phone number or license plate. (Ava, how did Rael miss this if he exchanged information?)

· The driver, on her Risk Management form dated October 5, 2021, is identified at Victoria Gachaz. At least Rael got her first name correct.

· Victoria says the accident happened on September 15, 2021 at 9:30 am. Rael says the accident took place on September 14, 2021 at 9:45 a.m. The time isn’t a big deal, but missing the accident date by an entire day is a huge issue. How do you lose a day? It happens when you don’t file the report immediately and your memory fails you.

· Rael says he had a green light, when he turned from eastbound Tijeras to northbound 5th Street. Victoria says she had a green light (traveling northbound on 5th Street) when Rael hit her truck. And Victoria says she can produce a witness to confirm her account.

Lawrence Rael earns a taxpayer funded salary of $194,376 a year plus benefits (like a take home car). He is one of the highest paid employees at City Hall. All city employees are required to follow all city rules, but people in Rael’s position (chief operating officer) must be held to an even higher standard. When a person in Rael’s position knowingly violates the rules, it creates a lack of confidence in the entire Keller administration. If Rael unknowingly violated the rules, it shows he should not be in the position to begin with. Either way, he shouldn’t be COO.

Rael’s failure to obey the city rules, which he enforces upon other city employees, is a purposeful indiscretion that cannot be ignored. Rael’s actions have caused city employees and this taxpayer to lose confidence in his ability to act as COO. It calls into question his judgement and character. If Rael can’t get the little things (like reporting a car accident to police) right, how can any of us trust him with the big things, like running the City of Albuquerque. He can’t.

Lawrence Rael should resign from the city. If he won’t resign, Mayor Tim Keller should dress in disguise and meet him at Coronado Park and fire him (just the way he fired Mike Geier). Either way, Rael’s bad actions should cost him his taxpayer-funded job. It’s called living to a higher standard, accountability and respecting the taxpayers and employees you serve. Rael failed, he must go.


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