Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Dear Fellow Republican:
I would like to introduce myself to you. For the last four years I have served as a Republican member of the New Mexico House of Representatives serving northern Chaves, northern Lincoln and northern Otero counties. Redistricting which occurs every ten years following the U.S. Census now makes me a candidate for re-election to the House in the new District 66. This new district is comprised of eastern Chaves, southern Roosevelt and northern Lea counties. The Democrat judge who redrew the district lines placed my home in this new district. I am honored to be running in your district and will be proud to serve Lea and Roosevelt counties just as I have served those I now represent.
We have lived in southeastern New Mexico for 20 years this summer and have made this our home. My wife Carol and I have been married for 32 years and have three grown daughters and six grandchildren.
I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Ohio, and went to college at the University of Arizona. I was in Air Force ROTC in college and after graduating with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering, the Air Force sent me to the west coast to work in the military space program. Following four years of active duty, I went to work in private industry.
In 1982, I left engineering behind and became a Special Agent in the FBI. I spent the next 24 years serving in offices in Los Angeles, Orlando, Florida, and Washington, D.C. In 1992 came to work in the FBI office in Roswell. This office covers all of Southeastern New Mexico from Jal to Cannon AFB, from the Texas line to the Mescalero Reservation. I worked with law enforcement in your community for many years, most of the time I worked drug cases.
In 2007, I retired from the FBI and returned to my engineering roots. I worked in the oil patch as a pumper in the Loco Hills area. I gave up that career to run for public office and in 2008 was elected to your House of Representatives and re-elected in 2010 without opposition. In the fall of 2010, I briefly served as the Chief of Police in Roswell while the city government went through some transitions.
Now because the district lines have been redrawn, I am seeking to serve you and those in your community as your State Representative. During my time in Santa Fe I have been a constant advocate for our conservative values. I was among the first to strive to bring greater openness and transparency to the Roundhouse through the internet. I have spoken out and challenged the unwarranted subsidies to the film industry. I have led the battle to make State Legislators more financially responsible for their own pensions. Finally, I have been in the forefront of the battle to prevent the unjustified listing of the Sand Dune Lizard as an “endangered species” which could threaten our oil and gas industry and our local economy.
You can learn more about me at my web site www.denniskintigh.com. I ask that you examine my record and feel free to ask me where I stand on the issues and how I can best serve our area. I would appreciate your vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday, June 5th, and I hope to meet you in person during this primary election.
Dennis J. Kintigh
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a law firm masquerading as a zoological research organization, has launched a new salvo of scare tactics to force the listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act. Like Captain Ahab, they relentlessly purse this goal regardless of the lack of scientific evidence and the economic impact on New Mexico and West Texas. CBD continues to claim that the lizard cannot survive in areas that produce oil and gas. This week, they published a press release citing a report titled “Fueling Extinction: How Dirty Energy Drives Wildlife to the Brink.” In this release CBD defines the report as a study of “how wildlife suffers displacement, loss of habitat and the threat of extinction from the evelopment, storage and transportation of fossil fuels.”
While the rest of New Mexico remains mired in the “great recession” small businesses in southeast New Mexico are advertising for workers on the radio. However, those at CBD are not concerned about the workers who will be put out of work should their reckless efforts succeed. They are not concerned about the families that will suffer. They are concerned with collecting their legal fees from the American taxpayer and pushing their radical agenda. That is bad enough, but groups like CBD are pushing for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the lizard without accurate science.
The studies cited by FWS are inconclusive and vague, but they also illustrate the practice of drive-by studies and incomplete fact checking.Destroying an industry based on faulty science is ludicrous, and the people of New Mexico and West Texas are justifiably outraged. I was honored to be part of a scientific roundtable composed of experts and scientists to do a detailed examination of the case to list the lizard.
The proposed rule in the Federal Register makes outlandish assertions that have been proven to be unsupported by the very scientific studies they cite. One example is the claim that pipelines are a “significant threat” to the lizard. However, the very scientific study referenced states areas “with pipeline cuts had more [lizards] than [areas] without pipeline cuts.”Furthermore, “This suggests that pipeline cuts and sand roads serve as preferred habitat where they represent artificial blowouts, new habitat and possible dispersal corridors.”
The flagship scientific study which the CDB law firm used in its original petitions recognizes that even though there has been oil field activity in the lizards habitat for decades the lizard is “still easy to find and abundant”
In addition the Bureau of Land Management, a sister agency of the USFWS submitted on May 6, 2011 that , “The BLM asserts that the listing of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard is not warranted because of the conservation tools in place to ameliorate threats to the species.” Once again, it is plainly obvious that the CBD law firm cares nothing about what real scientific data proves.
Moreover, a 2011 study conducted by New Mexico State’s Range Improvement Task Force determined that much of the data used as evidence for a listing of the lizard is “not scientifically defensible.” Another study by Texas Tech stated that uncertainties related to the effects of oil and gas exploration on the lizard’s population “preclude an accurate assessment of risks, and therefore prevent management decisions that could optimize both species protection and economic production.” The list of serious scientific criticisms goes on and on.
This science based examination of the rule has surprised and upset the extreme special interest groups like CBD. However, the USFWS was forced to acknowledge the validity of this work. They attempted to placate the radicals by delaying the decision for 6 months. Obviously they did not succeed.
Having lost the scientific battle, the CDB law firm is trying to win the emotional fight. They want to force the USFWS to ignore science and bow to political pressure. That would be a tragic mistake. The negative impact the listing will have on jobs is frightening. The effect on New Mexico’s economy and the ability of the state to fund education and health care for the poor
would be devastating.
The very fact that after years of reviewing data USFWS cannot make a case, which withstands critical review, to list the lizard proves there is not a scientific basis to proceed with listing. The USFWS needs to acknowledge the facts and reject the CDB baseless rhetoric.
The simple fact is that the lizard and the oil patch have co-existed for half a century. The sky is not falling no matter what “chicken little” says.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
It has been with tremendous sadness that I have followed the recent developments regarding certain members of the New Mexico State Judiciary in various parts of the state. There have been incidents and allegations that have diminished and tarnished the reputation and standing of this branch of government.
Generally, people understand and expect the legislature to be a partisan and contentious institution. I don’t believe that is a bad thing. Policy concepts that cannot survive the crucible of vigorous debate are probably not valid or worthy of implementation. Sometimes it takes years for policy to be implemented. During that time each of us in the legislature will critically examine the concept, and without hesitation challenge those we feel are invalid. It keeps all of us “on our toes.”
Similarly, the executive branch is constantly criticized and held accountable primarily, but not exclusively, by the opposition party. Again, this is as it should be. This cycle of confrontation and partisanship serves us well and is expected in these two branches.
The judiciary is somehow expected to be above all this, however, and therefore, immune to this contentiousness associated with the failings and shortcomings of mortal man.
Recent events and recent history have shown us that is an unreal expectation. We have seen a state district court judge removed for mishandling a courtroom disruption and grossly violating the rights of scores of people. A recently elected appellate court judge resigned after an egregious drunk driving incident. Another district court judge was found to be cavorting with a prostitute. Finally, we have the distressing, troubling, and sad saga of the district court judges in Las Cruces.
The unproven allegations of misconduct in that case are chilling. Statements that are reportedly recorded display an appalling and gross contempt for the rule of law and proper decorum. These allegations must have a full, fair and open hearing. But sadly, these recent events are not isolated.
Just a few years ago, the chief judge in the largest judicial district was caught possessing cocaine. The question of who provided that cocaine to a sitting judge and what this individual received in payment was never openly asked or answered. A former chief justice of the State Supreme Court attended a “going away party” for a disgraced political figure who had looted the public treasury and had betrayed the public trust. This act appeared to only disturb and dismay those who are NOT licensed to practice law in the state of New Mexico.
I believe that now is the time for a serious review of how the judiciary and legal profession as a whole is held accountable. At this point, everything ultimately rests in the hands of five Supreme Court justices who are immune to, and independent of, meaningful outside accountability (when was the last time a justice lost a retention election?). I believe it is time to re-examine that approach. This is not a suggestion made lightly. The potential for any review of the current system degenerating into a partisan witch hunt is real and must be avoided.
The vast majority of judges I have known have been true noble servants of the people. I have gotten to know the chief justice on a personal level and have found him to be gracious and congenial. I like and respect him.
However, history has demonstrated over and over again that power and accountability exclusively held by a small group leads to catastrophe. The judiciary and the legal profession are too crucial to the success of our state for us to fail to have a system in which independent and outside individuals are the final arbitrators of misconduct.
Many are familiar with James Madison’s observation that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” but few realize the phrase continues with, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” While the judiciary in many ways governs society, sadly, like the rest of government, it is not populated with angels. External controls are absolutely vital.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
America’s citizens should be able to assume that Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings are based on “best science”, as determined by an altruistic scientist—an honest arbiter. Sadly, this ideal model isn’t how it works in real life.
My background is engineering and law enforcement. When the proposed ESA listing of the Sand Dune Lizard threatened my community’s well-being, I got involved. It was my first in depth involvement with the ESA process. It was interesting and enlightening. More importantly it was disturbing.
Over the last several months I worked with a group of scientists to conduct a detailed review of the proposal to designate the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as an “endangered species.” On August 15th we presented a 20 page critique of this proposal to Congressman Pearce. The report can be found at the Artesia Chamber of Commerce website: www.artesiachamber.com.
In the criminal justice system science is critical. Because of its importance, it is getting increased scrutiny. Likewise, the concept of the “wise man” scientist decision-maker, isolated from politics or outside influences, has to be questioned. This is what we did with the proposed listing for the Sand Dune Lizard.
The US Supreme Court has set the standard for examining assertions and claims by scientists. In the case of Melendez-Diaz v Massachusetts the courts established the need for scientists to be subject to confrontation. The court concluded “…Nor is it evident that…’neutral scientific testing’ is as neutral or as reliable as respondent suggests. Forensic evidence is not uniquely immune from the risk of manipulation [emphasis added]” and “…there is little reason to believe that confrontation will be useless in testing analysts’ honesty, proficiency, and methodology.”
This is not to imply that the researchers working on endangered species issues are not to be trusted. For again the court nailed the point when they put in a footnote that “… we would reach the same conclusion if all analysts always possessed the scientific acumen of Mme. Curie and the veracity of Mother Teresa….[this] refute[s] the suggestion that this category of evidence is uniquely reliable and that cross-examination of the analysts would be an empty formalism.[emphasis added]”.
Confrontation brings clarity, and confrontation is missing in the existing system.
Currently when there is a proposition to designate a species as “endangered” the case is presented in a “proposed rule” prepared by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff. “Proposed rule” is an interesting term because it is in fact an advocacy document much like an affidavit. However, unlike an affidavit no one stands in front of a judge, raises their hand and swears that everything is true. Nor is the author subject to confrontation to explain the basis for their claims and assertions.
In my law enforcement days, I have written many affidavits for search warrants, arrest warrants, and wire taps. I knew I would probably be sitting in a chair answering all kinds of questions. I assure you it is not a pleasant experience but one which ensured accuracy in my statements. We need something like this in the ESA process.
Furthermore, the confrontations must occur before a truly independent decision-maker. It makes no sense for the head of the organization (in this case the Director of the USFWS) which prepares the advocacy document to be the evaluator of the criticisms of that position or its basic validity. The analogy would be, if while I was the Roswell Chief of Police, my detectives had written an affidavit for an arrest warrant and then I, as chief, conducted the preliminary hearing. The inherent conflict is glaring.
Confrontation before an independent decision-maker is at the heart of the American justice system. It is ominously missing from the ESA process and that needs to be corrected because that is how we truly get “best science.”
When decisions are being made that have potentialy grave consequences to communities and the industries that support them, as is the case of the Sand Dune Lizard listing, the science behind the proposal must be held to the highest possible standards. As our review of the Sand Dune Lizard proposed rule discovered, neither best science nor high standards have been met.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Policy and Directives Management
4401 N. Fairfax Drive Suite 222
Arlington, VA 22203.
Re: Sand Dune Lizard (sceloporus arenicolus) Listing as an Endangered Species; FWS-R2-ES-2010-0041
To Whom It May Concern:
In May of 2002 the Center for Biological Diversity and the Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance submitted a petition to have the sand dune lizard listed as a threatened or endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Act.
The petition is based upon studies done by the University of New Mexico (UNM) Department Of Biology in the mid 1990’s. The petition asserts that “the sand dune lizard is at immediate risk of extinction” (petition, summary page). The petition further contends “carefully executed studies found sharp population declines in response to habitat alteration related to vegetation removal and oil and gas development (Snell et al. 1997, Sias and Snell 1998)” (petition, page 6, section V). The petition also claims “given its perilous status and ongoing threats, the sand dune lizard requires immediate protection” (petition, page 14).
The “carefully executed studies” referred to in the petition are summarized in the 1998 report titled The Sand Dune Lizard (sceloporus arenicolus) and Oil and Gas Development in Southeastern New Mexico. Final Report of Field Studies 1995-1997 by Don Sias and Howard L. Snell of the UNM Department of Biology.
The actual studies upon which this petition is based consisted of only 79 days of field work by a mere three observers in 1996, and only 31 days of field work by just four observers in 1997 (Final Report, page 2, line 22). This limited effort fifteen years ago is the sole scientific basis for the petition.
However, even this “final report” contains important data that challenges the assertions of the petition. Among the results not noted in the petition is the fact that the study “found sceloporus arenicolus throughout oil fields at all well densities” (Final Report, page 8, line 11).
The most striking indictment of the flawed petition is found on page 11 of the UNM Report, line 9 through 14, which reads as follows:
More S. arenicolus occurred in well absent areas than in well present areas. In 1996 transects of well absence (n=29) had mean S. arenicolus counts = 10.3 compared to transects of well presence (n=58) with mean S. arenicolus counts = 4.9 (ANOVA on Ln(SaT+2), p = .0002). In 1997 transects of well absence (n = 12) had mean S. arenicolus counts=16.6 compared to transects of well presence (n = 53) with mean S. arenicolus counts =11.6 (Mann Whitney, p - .0350).
The studies plainly show that in a one year time period, the population of the lizard in areas where wells were present increased by a factor of 2.4, a rate that exceeded the increase in the population in areas where wells were absent(a factor of 1.6). This clearly contradicts the claim that oil field operations pose an immediate threat to the continued existence of this species.
The proposition of the Sand Dune Lizard’s imminent demise is contradicted in multiple places in the UNM document, apparently to the consternation of the authors and ignorance of the petitioners. The UNM Biology Department 1998 report states that populations of the lizard continue to exist in the oil field (Final Report, summary page 1, line 36). The report does concede that the lizard continues to occur in areas where there have been oil fields for in excess of 40 years at the time of the report (Final Report, summary page 2, line 29). Again on page 21 of the report, it is recognized that over four decades (now five) of oil field operations had not eliminated the lizard. The report states, “In all of these well dense regions S. arenicolus were still easy to find and abundant in the years we visited these sites (1994-97)[emphasis added]. In some form, these oil fields have existed for several decades. We are therefore left with the impression that, at least in the short term, these populations of lizards are tolerating oil field development, albeit at a reduced level.”
The petition for endangered species listing relies exclusively upon the UNM studies from the mid 1990’s, yet as quoted above, it is clear that the final report on these studies does not in fact support the conclusion that this lizard is at imminent risk of extinction. It has co-existed for over half a century with oil field operations. There is no scientific basis for this listing, and this petition must be rejected.
Dennis J. Kintigh
Friday, March 4, 2011
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The new session of the New Mexico State Legislature has reached the halfway point. What a difference two years and an election make. The House of Representatives is almost evenly divided, and we have a new Governor. This really gives us a chance to move New Mexico in a positive direction.
You have been talking to me about ideas for bills and I got a number of them prepared before the session started. There is a procedure called pre-filing that allows legislators to get the bills prepared, proofread, and submitted. This helps to speed up the legislative process. Among the bills I pre-filed were a constitutional amendment to term limit state legislators (HJM2), increasing the penalty for second degree murder from 15 to 25 years (HB20) and a bill to eliminate the costly film industry subsidy(HB19). All of these were tabled in the first committee, however, there are many other bills that I have introduced. These can all be reviewed at the legislative web site, www.nmlegis.gov.
This letter is being sent out now to encourage as many as possible to visit the legislature while we are still in session. It is critically important for citizens to watch their elected representatives in action. It also gives you an opportunity to visit legislators in their offices and in the hallways. We are accountable to you and you need to know what it is we do.
If you come to Santa Fe, you can sit in the committee rooms as bills are presented. The committee chairman will ask if there is anyone in the audience who wishes to speak in favor or in opposition to the bill being heard. That would be your chance to stand up, state your name, where you are from, whom you represent (if anyone other than yourself), and say a few words pro or con. You can find out about these committees on line at the above web site.
There are many reasonably priced motels that are simple in nature and affiliated with national chains in Santa Fe. My evangelical friends might consider staying at the Glorieta Conference Center, which is only about 15 miles from the Capitol. If you do not wish to spend the night, it is possible to drive up to Santa Fe and back in one day and still have time at the legislature. I have done that myself.
To save costs, I am using up old stationary with last sessions committee assignments. I am also only sending this to a limited number of households. However, it will be available on my website, www.denniskintigh.com where you can also see a presentation that explains how to get around www.nmlegis.gov. Please feel free to share this information with anyone you think might be interested.
While I am in Santa Fe I can be contacted at my office at 505-986-4453. I hope to see you during this session.
Monday, January 3, 2011
When I last posted a blog on this website, I was excited about the pending elections. I wanted to keep everyone informed about the House Republican candidates whom I had met and gotten to know. I started off boldly with information about Melinda Russ. My friend Melinda came close but did not win, so perhaps it is a good thing I didn’t write about any of the other Republicans.
By now, you all know Republicans were very successful in changing the make up of the House of Representatives. We went from 25 to 33 out of a total of 70, a huge improvement. I wish I could say I played a significant role in helping that come to pass, but that would not be true.
This past election season, and continuing through the holidays, I have been serving as the Chief of Police of the Roswell Police Department. This development happened suddenly and completely unexpectedly. My appointment came about because of the former chief’s sudden retirement at the same time the Deputy Chief was scheduled to retire. To further complicate matters, the City of Roswell had a new mayor elected in March and was in the process of finding a new city manager. It was a time of significant transitions for the City of Roswell, and I felt led to raise my hand and offer my services. The enthusiasm with which I was welcomed to my new position was startling.
Fortunately, I had no opposition in either the primary or general election and the City leadership graciously allowed me time to fulfill my duties on Interim Committees. However, I really could not engage in political activity like I had hoped.
This experience has been incredible. It has truly been a privilege and honor to lead the Roswell Police Department. I made it a priority to reach out and listen to all aspects of the community. I had to confront some difficult challenges but chose to meet them head-on if at all possible and not leave them for my successor to resolve.
On a daily basis I am awed and impressed with what we expect of our young police officers and how they rise to the occasion. My joke is that I have suits that are older than some of these officers. Many were not yet in school when I first put on a badge.
At the end of every shift sergeants prepare a brief overview called the "Sargeant's Log." This consists of statistics on arrests, citations and calls for service. The log also includes a very brief narrative of the more significant incidents on the shift. Every morning I get up and check my email to see the sergeant’s log for swing shift which is usually completed around 2:30 a.m. Later on before I leave for the office, I read the log for the midnight shift. In strikingly concise and colorless prose, these first line supervisors matter-of-factly describe events that would strain the limits of civilians.
There was an incident in which a young officer beat the ambulance to a call for an infant who had stopped breathing. He performed CPR on a three-week old child until the paramedics arrived. This same officer had experienced a similar tragedy in his own family very recently.
On another occasion a new officer heard the call for a drive-by shooting, spotted and stopped a suspicious vehicle (with four occupants). He controlled the situation until back-up arrived, recovered guns and made arrests. I could go on and on but won’t.
In addition to this, there are countless calls of domestic violence, drunkenness and disorderliness, fights, alarms, and the “unknown trouble.” Dispatchers will call these out and the officers respond without hesitation. Many times, I hear an officer get on the radio and inform Dispatch that he is closer and takes it upon himself to deal with the issue. As I said, I am in awe of them.
One Saturday evening I got to present a Medal of Valor to a young officer. He was beginning his midnight shift. Other members of the command staff and I went to him rather than call him in at a time convenient for us. Some months earlier this officer had been in a violent shooting incident in which another officer was wounded. Our hero pulled his comrade from harm, ensured he would be “ok” and returned to the gun fight.
I also spent over two and a half hours listening to recordings of my officers dealing with a couple of arrogant and belligerent citizens—a citizens who should be a role models and leaders of our community, yet behaved so badly that I was embarrassed for Roswell. The officers were very professional but that did not stop the individuals from complaining constantly, both during the encounter and latter. It is amazing what officers have to deal with, yet can never lose their composure.
Shortly, I will be leaving this position and heading back to Santa Fe. I have no reservations about returning to the Legislature. I am confident that is the role I am meant to fulfill. Nonetheless, I will be forever thankful for this special opportunity to serve alongside some truly incredible young men and women. They called me “Chief” … how blessed am I.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Melinda Russ is the candidate running for Joe Campos’ old seat in District 63 (Santa Rosa, Vaughn, Ft Sumner, part of Clovis).
Some of you may know Melinda as Hoyt Pattison’s daughter. Hoyt served over twenty years in the House and was the Republican leader for many terms. He was a crucial part of the “cowboy coalition” back in the early 1980’s. Hoyt still comes to Santa Fe to help voice the concerns of New Mexico Agriculture. He is a real gentleman.
That said, Melinda is not resting on her pedigree. I like her focus on creating opportunity – feels like a breath of fresh air in an election cycle that’s mostly been about doom and gloom. “We are a nation of entrepreneurs, not employees,” Melinda told me. “Working for yourself is as much part of the American dream as homeownership. We need to make it less intimidating and less costly for anyone who has an idea and a work ethic to start a business. That's what New Mexico -- and America -- are all about.”
Check out Melinda’s website and photo-rich campaign blog at www.MelindaRuss.com.
This is an important race but a tough one. I’m supporting her and I encourage you to do the same.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Urban legend: An apocryphal, secondhand story told as true and just plausible enough to be believed, about some horrific, embarrassing, ironic, or exasperating series of events that supposedly happened to a real person.
It is interesting, and a little troubling, how certain misconceptions get a grip on the public’s mind. One glaring example of this is the widely repeated claim that the state prisons are full of people who have been convicted of simply possessing drugs.
As someone who spent 24 years carrying a gun and a badge, most of that time working drug cases, including 14 years in Southeast New Mexico, I have known this was completely false. People don’t go to the pen for simply holding some dope.
In New Mexico simple possession of up to a half pound of marijuana is only a misdemeanor which does not allow for a prison sentence, only time in the county jail, if that.
One of the most recent manifestations of this myth was in September 2009 when a New Mexico “think tank” published a report damning the State’s drug laws because 853 people were supposedly sitting in prison for only a drug possession conviction. That report motivated me to write a letter to the Corrections Department because the Department was the source of that statistic. The written response I received showed that the 853 number was for inmates who had a Drug Possession Conviction plus other criminal convictions. In fact the number of people incarcerated for simple drug possession was 92. That is 92 out of almost 6,000 inmates.
However, even the 92 number is misleading. The Corrections Department sent me the names of the 92 inmates. Through the internet I was able to review the cases for these individuals. Randomly checking their cases revealed what I already knew. Even though they were listed as convicted of a simple drug possession they were, in fact, in prison because of probation revocation or for being a Habitual Offender.
What is a Habitual Offender, you might ask? Well that is someone who has already been convicted of at least one felony and is now convicted of another felony. The first subsequent conviction requires a mandatory one year sentence even if the sentence of the subsequent conviction is suspended. The second subsequent conviction results in a mandatory three year sentence. The third one requires an eight year mandatory sentence. All of these habitual offenders who are convicted of drug possession are in fact repeat offenders.
The individuals who are incarcerated because they have had their probation revoked had to work at getting into prison. In case after case judges have sentenced individuals to re-hab or drug court and they have failed to comply. Finally these persons are sent to prison because they have refused the second, third and sometimes even fourth chances offered to them.
One new thing I did learn is that some of these drug possession inmates are in the Corrections Department system because a judge has ordered a 60-day psychological evaluation at the facility in Las Vegas, NM. After the evaluation, they come back to the court for final disposition.
People just do not go to prison for simply having a bag of weed. Those who advocate for eliminating incarceration as an option fail, or refuse, to recognize that fact.
The effort required to turn drug lives around is huge. It requires a change of heart that must come from deep within. The threat of incarceration has been, for some, the crucial motivation necessary to start down the long and difficult road to recovery. Without that threat they would never begin the journey to true freedom. Instead, they remain a prisoner to their self destructive life style. Where is the compassion in that?
As I said we spent half a day discussing this Non-problem. At the end I made the public request of ALL the supporters of this issue to provide the names and case numbers of ten (10) inmates in the Corrections Department (out of over 6000) who were serving time simply for drug possesion, not probation violation, not habitual offender not psychological evaluation, just possesion. I still have not received any names. I am waiting....
Sunday, July 4, 2010
The Fourth of July is a great day to overcome inertia. If you have not read the Declaration of Independence (there are certain phrases we seem to know by heart), it is worth your time to read it completely. One portion jumps out at me today.
…to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
We are in an election year, and this is our opportunity to alter the government (note I did NOT say abolish).
It was powerfully pointed out to me this morning by a young student pastor (out of the mouth of babes…) that the Declaration did not make us free. It was a simple statement of principle. Inspiring, but without the focused efforts of men and women, powerless. It is important to remember that concepts, principles, and beliefs have no impact of and by themselves. We must act.
If you, as I, feel the State of New Mexico has been misgoverned, then I urge you to join me in the effort to revise, revamp and reform the State. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the candidates running for office on the Republican ticket. I will endeavor to introduce as many as possible to you. I urge you to examine them and, if you feel led, to support them in as many ways as possible.
The road ahead is long and difficult, but I can think of no better day to begin than July 4th.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
The Second Special Session
The recently completed four day special session was notable in my mind for the sudden changes in intensity. We would have periods of idleness, suddenly interrupted with prolonged acrimonious debates on the floor of the House. These changes came with little warning. The periods of idleness grated on many of us on the Republican side. We felt that the taxpayer’s money and our time were being wasted. These lulls were caused by the Democrat caucuses or committee meetings with which most of us were not directly involved.
There were moments when I was not even sure if a budget would be passed. This was particularly true of Monday evening when, in a meeting of the Tax and Revenue committee, two Democrat representatives bucked their leadership and voted against the cigarette tax increase bill. The tax committee meeting was abruptly recessed so that political pressure could be brought to bear on these two independent Democrats.
For much of the next day, we Republicans waited to see if the carefully crafted political deals arranged behind closed doors over the preceding weekend by the Democrat leaders would fall apart. Ultimately the wayward Democrats were brought back into line. With the subtlety of a medieval battering ram, the Democrat political machinery methodically began the process of forcing tax increases and a budget deal through the New Mexico Legislature.
There were skirmishes, debates, and amendments offered and tabled over the next few days. As Republicans we stood up and pointed out the flaws in the logic and plans of the Democrats to no avail. You would think that the Republicans would have become frustrated and despondent, but amazingly, I felt we were more together as a team than at any other time. We had opportunities to gather outside the Capitol Building and learn about each other as individuals. We are not all in lock step agreement on all issues, but as Republicans we have certain core concepts that we hold dear. We have learned to respect each other regardless of any minor differences on any particular issue. Republicans in the House are a hard-working group who take their responsibility of being Legislators seriously. In the end, our spirits remained high because we knew that, in spite of our defeats, we were shining the light of truth on the falsehoods and hypocrisy of the Democrat positions.
Elections matter, and the ones coming up will matter a great deal. If we work together as Republicans, we can change the tone of the House of Representatives and bring sound, frugal, and disciplined stewardship to the expenditure of the taxpayer’s dollars.
Monday, February 22, 2010
To use an oft repeated saying, “The session ended more with a whimper than with a bang."
Wednesday was the last full day, and we spent it going into committees, then floor session, then recess for more committees. We finally left the Roundhouse at 4:30 Thursday morning. We came back around 8 AM and finished at noon as required by the constitution. We passed some bills and some memorials, but we did not pass a budget for the fiscal year which starts July 1. We Republicans held firm and refused to support any tax increases. This unity, so far, has prevented the Democrats from imposing more taxes.
By now you will have heard that we are going back into special session on Wednesday, February 24th. We will see if Governor Richardson, Lt. Governor Denish and Speaker Lujan, together with their allies, have come up with a plan to really fix spending or if they just want to “increase revenue.”
The Republicans have said repeatedly we need to reduce spending. Efforts to raise more revenue through tax increases will cause more harm than good. States like Maryland and New Jersey have experienced drops in revenue after raising taxes. Some people just do not believe that. Not all of them are in Santa Fe.
During the session I received numerous e-mails. To give you an idea of the input we get, I want to share just a few:
No more cuts to public education and enough [sic] new revenues to fund the state budget. A balanced approach is needed. We already had $700 million dollars in cuts to the budget, now is the time to balance the budget with new revenue!
Put the food tax back on ALL food. We handled it before and we can do it again!
State agency employees provide the backbone of services and the economy of New Mexico, Historically, they have been underpaid in comparison to the private sector and over the last few years they have lost additional financial stability with mandated participation in union dues and work furloughs, increased PERA contributions and no pay raises, cost of living or otherwise.
Corporate combined reporting and a return to 2003 tax rates for the most wealthy are two measures that would contribute to a fairer resolution to increase state revenues that I am asking you to support. Increasing the state sales tax is also a means of fairly distributing the burden of the state's revenue shortfall.
I am a constituent from Ruidoso and am writing to urge you to support SB 207. I am also in favor of increasing the tax burden of the wealthiest citizens of this state instead of spreading their tax burden among those of us already paying their share.
I strongly recommend taxing the wealthy populations and big business to increase revenues instead of allowing the hardship on state employees and teachers through lay-offs and reduced salaries. The wealthy can take care of themselves; and in my opinion are in the position to shoulder the load. Their status in society requires the stronger helping the weak. They also are in position to contribute to the economy.
As you can see, the folks who want to increase your taxes are not bashful. They reach out to the Legislature. If you do not want to see an increase in your taxes, you need to speak up. Encourage your friends to do the same.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Dear friends & neighbors,
We have reached the half way point of this 30 day session and I want to report how we are progressing here at your legislature. I am mailing a limited number of letters to save money. I will also post this letter on my website www.denniskintigh.com. Please let your friends and family know they can find this on the web.
I introduced one bill, HB52 to repeal the Film Production Tax Credit. This bill would have eliminated a subsidy for the movie business, a subsidy that cost you, the taxpayer, over $80 million in FY2009. Film subsidies like these have been the subject of numerous studies. Some claim the public treasury gets $1.50 back for every $1 paid out. Other studies show a return of only 15 cents. To read some of these studies, both pro and con, go to my website www.denniskintigh.com and click on the “New Mexico Film Subsidy” icon. I have read and studied all of these reports. I don’t believe you are getting a fair return for your tax dollars.
A bill that came to the Health and Government Affairs Committee was HB73 “Taking of Certain Animal Species.” This bill deals with wildlife (deer, elk, antelope, etc.) that are eating crops of farmers, dairies, or ranchers. This bill aroused a lot of attention. I was concerned the sponsor was a representative from Albuquerque with no connection to agriculture or hunting. This bill was not scheduled to be heard by the House Agriculture Committee or the committee that routinely deals with wildlife issues, the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The bill would stop ranchers and farmers from being able to kill animals destroying their crops if the Department of Game and Fish fails to act promptly. Instead the state would pay for fencing or damages but fails to reimburse for installation.
Many things concerned me about the bill. One was cost. An increase in hunting license fees is supposed to cover the increased costs, but if they don’t then the department would “request” grant funds from the State Board of Finance. The cost did not seem well defined. The other major problem was how this bill was prepared and submitted. As I stated above, the sponsor is from the city and no committees associated with agriculture or wildlife were scheduled to hear this. We can and should do better. Those whose livelihood are at stake need to be included in this process. I have offered to work on a compromise. Unfortunately, I expect it to take more time than we have in this session.
I have also introduced a joint resolution to propose a constitutional amendment to term limit State Representatives and State Senators. The limits I have proposed are 12 years in each body. The arguments for and against have been out there for many years and I will not repeat them here. I will just say I believe it is the right thing to do.
Tax bills are moving slowly through the house. I have not seen any I can support. We must reduce the size of government and we are not doing that.
The pace of activity will grow more frantic as we approach the final few days. I have received many letters, e-mails, and phone calls/messages. I wish I had been able to respond. I have read them all. Please continue to contact me, I value your input and ideas. The best way is via e-mail at email@example.com.
Dennis J. Kintigh
Sunday, February 7, 2010
The Legislature has finished the second complete week of work here in Santa Fe. Friday, February 5, all of the intense private negotiations within the Democrat’s party burst out into the public. Friday was the day the house debated and voted on the budget for Fiscal Year 2011 (starting July 1, 2010) and a fistful of tax increases.
For me, the day began about an hour before the 9AM floor session, and ended when I got home at 11PM after the House Judiciary committee adjourned. Of course, we get time and a half after 5pm. (That is a joke! As you know, we are the last volunteer legislature in the nation).
Although it was not voted on until 6PM, I would like to address the budget bill first. The bill can be found here. The sponsor was the Chairman of the House Appropriation Committee, Henry “Kiki” Saavedra. I disagree with Representative Saavedra on a number of issues, but he is one of the most respected members of the House of Representatives. He is a true gentleman.
The budget bill had way too much in the way of spending in spite of the best efforts of the Republicans on the House Appropriation Committee. The Republicans have an awesome team on this committee. They are Don Bratton, Jimmie Hall, Larry Larranaga, Kathy McCoy, and Jeanette Wallace. Ultimately, all the Republicans and many Democrats voted against the budget.
During the floor debate, Representative Larranaga put forward an amendment to cut spending, but we were voted down.
Earlier in the day, we fought to stop the Democrats from raising your taxes. Each bill has an analysis done which is documented in a report called the Fiscal Impact Report (FIR). The FIR is a handy and useful summary of the bill, and is prepared by the independent and non-partisan Legislative Finance Committee (LFC). The LFC staff is an incredible collection of public servants who do their best to give accurate and unbiased information to all legislators.
The first tax increase that we voted on was to raise the State gross receipts tax (GRT) rate from 5% to 5.5% (HB 119). Local communities have an additional gross receipts tax over and above that amount. The GRT is the same as a sales tax. As a result of this tax increase, the amount you pay at the store will go up. For example, the GRT in Ruidoso will go from 8.3% to 8.8%. The fiscal impact report (FIR) for this bill can be found here. The final vote on this bill was 34 to 32. New Mexico taxpayers will be paying an additional $239.8 million.
The second tax increase was to add an income tax surcharge on higher wage earners (HB 9). The FIR can be found here. The final vote on this bill was 36 to 32. The cost for this tax increase is $66.7 million.
The third tax increase involved changing the way businesses paid taxes (HB 120). The FIR can be found here. The final vote on this bill was 42 to 25. This will cost taxpayers $15.6 million.
The last tax bill would have changed the way deductions are treated on your State income tax (HB 270). The FIR on this bill is here. The final vote on this bill was 33 to 34. This was the one tax increase we were able to stop. This would have cost taxpayers $90.2 million.
The Democrat controlled House of Representatives has voted to increase the tax burden on the working people of New Mexico by almost $400 million. I am proud to say I voted against each and every one of these tax increases as well as the budget itself.
The fight over taxes and our budget moves to the Senate. While the Senate wrestles with these issues, we in the House will tackle some social issues put forward by the Governor.
Monday, February 1, 2010
As you noticed, our web site looks different. It has been revised and updated for this current session. I hope you like it. We are excited and pleased with it.
Back in Santa Fe
I am back in Santa Fe for the 30 day session of the Legislature. The weather here has been like that back home—cold and snowy. It is quite beautiful but it can make travel difficult. Fortunately we have a place to stay that is close enough to the Capitol for me to walk.
We are now one third of the way through the session, and I have yet to see a clear plan of how to deal with the budget problems facing our State. The majority party has had a number of private meetings (called caucuses) in which I assume they have tried to reach agreement on how their party will resolve the budget problems. I am fearful that the “solution” offered by the majority party will consist primarily of tax increases.
In a previous blog, I have provided links to web sites that give background information on how the budget process works in New Mexico. I am going to repeat those links here.
The Budget Glossary explains the terms you see in the news. A number of essays describe various parts of the New Mexico budget. The Fiscal Structure of New Mexico really gives a good overview.
To get background information on the budget process, I encourage you to visit these sites. Current information on the budget can be found here. I strongly encourage anyone interested in government spending and taxation become familiar with how state government works.
The Film Subsidy
Again this year, I introduced a bill to eliminate the New Mexico Film Subsidy. Just like last year, my bill was tabled in the first committee. Unlike last year, more and more people are starting to ask serious questions about the value of this “bail-out for Hollywood.” You may have noticed on the front page of this web site, the icon for “New Mexico Film Subsidy.” If you want to learn more about the economic realities of film subsidy programs here and in other states, please click on that icon. We have analyses both pro- and con- regarding this subsidy.
In spite of the fact that our State is facing grave economic problems and revenues to the State Treasury have dropped significantly, I believe there is a silver lining to this very dark cloud. Government has grown way out of control and out of proportion to the needs of the citizens of this State. Those of us in positions of responsibility are now being forced to carefully and soberly examine the size, responsibilities, and scope of government. I believe that is a good thing. We must become leaner and more efficient. There is much to be done, and I don’t wish to imply that success has been achieved. But we have begun to ask the right questions and to seek the right answers.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
CDR was the focus of attention when Gov. Bill Richardson’s nomination to be Secretary of Commerce was derailed. The governor’s name was withdrawn after it became known there was an ongoing federal probe into the relationship between CDR and the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA) and contributions to PACs controlled by Gov. Richardson.
That investigation was concluded in the late summer of 2009. U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt sent a private letter to attorneys representing individuals under investigation, stating no charges would be filed. The letter, which was leaked to the news media and for which Mr. Fouratt was criticized, contained the little noted clause that it was “limited solely to each party’s conduct in NMFA’s award of financial work to CDR in 2004.” In light of the indictments returned in the Southern District of New York, it appears the clause was underappreciated.
The entire CDR controversy is long, complex and, for many, just too hard to understand. That is unfortunate, as I believe it is a significant issue that could have tremendous impact on New Mexico. Previous news articles have focused on the activities of NMFA, GRIP Bonds, friends of the governor, and contributions to political funds controlled by Gov. Richardson.
At this time I would like to look closely at the actual indictment returned on Oct. 29 in the Southern District of New York (SDNY). An indictment is a formal, written accusation of wrongdoing.
The SDNY is a federal court that covers a portion of the State of New York. The SDNY includes Manhattan, the Bronx and other counties near New York City. Populous states like New York often have multiple federal court districts, but here in New Mexico we have one federal district for the entire state.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the SDNY has long been considered a flagship office for the prosecution of federal financial crimes. This makes sense as Manhattan is where Wall Street and many major financial corporations are located.
This CDR indictment alleges nine specific crimes (or counts) were committed by Rubin, Wolmark and Zarefsky. The indictment is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the IRS in which evidence was presented to a federal grand jury. That grand jury concluded there is “Probable Cause” to believe the named defendants committed the specified crimes.
In my 24 years in the FBI, I have never seen a “ham sandwich” indicted as is routinely alleged by those who wish to trivialize a federal grand jury indictment. This is very serious. Top officials in the Department of Justice signed off on this document.
The CDR Indictment
The actual indictment is 39 pages long. The beginning has a very useful background section that explains the role of “brokers” in the issuance of municipal bonds.
Towns, school districts, housing authorities, and other government agencies, referred to as “issuers,” raise money for specific projects by selling bonds. These bonds are loans the agency will pay off over time. The money raised by selling these bonds is spent over time. The “issuers” will routinely invest the unneeded proceeds to earn money.
Think of it like getting a home improvement loan to cover numerous repairs, and you put the money in a savings account until you need to move it to your checking account. These “savings account” investments are done with financial institutions like banks and insurance companies, who are called “providers.” The individuals who represent these “providers” are called “marketers.”
“Brokers” like CDR are supposed to get the best deal for the “issuers” by getting multiple offers from numerous “providers” as bids submitted by “marketers.” In a perfect world a number of “marketers” send in sealed bids promising specific returns on investments to the “broker.” The “broker” then opens the bids and picks the “provider” offering the best deal.
The federal grand jury indictment charges CDR (the “broker”) rigged the bids with corrupt “providers” through crooked “marketers.” “Issuers” were cheated out of a fair return on the taxpayer’s money, while CDR and their cronies got kickbacks, the indictment alleges.
It is claimed in the indictment this scheme started back in 1998 and was ongoing until at least November 2006. The first count listed in the indictment is “restraint of interstate trade and commerce,” which addresses the bid-rigging allegation.
Counts 2 and 3 are conspiracy. “Conspiracy” is an agreement to commit an illegal act. That agreement is a crime in itself if some action occurred to fulfill the agreement, an “overt act.” Because it is an ongoing criminal enterprise, events which occur outside the statute of limitations can be presented at trial. The government must prove the agreement existed and that an “overt act” was committed (unless it’s a drug crime).
Count 2 alleges an agreement between CDR and a company only identified as “Provider A.” The overt acts allegedly involve CDR executives and “Marketer A,” the indictment says. Phone calls and events that occurred in late October 2003 are listed in the indictment.
Count 3 alleges a similar scheme involving “Provider B,” Marketers B-1 and B-2 and a “state housing agency.” This count identifies a phone call from New Mexico on May 20, 2004, as an overt act. Although reference is made to a “state housing agency” together with a call from New Mexico, there is nothing in the indictment that links this call to the ongoing Region III Housing Authority investigation and the indictment of former State Rep. Vincent “Smiley” Gallegos.
Marketer A, B-1 and B-2 are not identified, and this is usual because they are probably cooperators who have cut a deal. The identity of Marketer A, B-1, B-2 and Provider A and B will be known prior to trial. The identities of the victim “issuers” also are not revealed because that could lead to figuring out who is cooperating.
Counts 4, 5 and 6 are “Wire Fraud,” which means money allegedly was transferred electronically across state lines to further this criminal plan.
Count 7 alleges “false statements” by Evan Zarefsky to the FBI in November 2006. Two points here are:
• Never lie to the FBI. It’s a crime, even if you’re not under oath.
• This was a criminal act committed in late November 2006, which places the conspiracy well within the five-year statute of limitations and allows the prosecutors to bring in all of the criminal acts that occurred six, seven or more years ago.
Count 8 alleges interfering with administration of internal revenue laws. One of the acts presented in this count refers to a “state housing agency” and a phone call on May 19, 2004.
Finally, Count 9 alleges “Fraudulent Bank Transactions” in which the kickbacks to the CDR executives were concealed.
This criminal indictment paints a picture of a sophisticated criminal enterprise which operated in many states, including New Mexico.
While CDR’s involvement with NMFA was not addressed, these charges from New York suggest the existence of a pattern of criminal activity that was occurring at the same time as CDR involvement in New Mexico. So what did happen in New Mexico? Perhaps we will learn much about the inner workings of CDR as the New York case unfolds.
Significantly, Mr. Fouratt’s letter also did not “preclude the United States or the grand jury from reinstituting such an investigation without notification.”
David Rubin, Zevi Wolmark and Evan Zarefsky will be under tremendous pressure to reach a deal with federal prosecutors. As is always the case, the individuals who come forward first with the most useful testimony will get the best deal. Their attorneys know this.
These charges, together with the recent guilty plea by Saul Meyer in a case by the New York attorney general’s office, plus the Region III Housing Authority case by the New Mexico attorney general, promise to keep allegations of corruption in the forefront of the news.
The next year could be very interesting for New Mexico politicians.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
As we are embroiled in a serious budget crisis, it is important for voters to have a clear understanding of the State budget process. Informed voters are effective advocates and the taxpayers of New Mexico must become both informed and effective.
Some very helpful information sheets have been prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), a permanent agency of the legislature. The LFC is comprised of professional economists and analysts who work with the executive branch agencies to prepare the State budget each year. These information sheets include a Budget Glossary, “the Fiscal Structure of New Mexico”, and a collection of essays called “Finance Facts”.
The fiscal year for the State of New Mexico goes from July 1 to June 30. The fiscal year is the year in which June 30th falls. We are in FY2010. FY2009 ended on June 30, 2009, FY2008 on June 30, 2008, etc.
The terms “recurring dollars” and “one-time” dollars are used a lot. An example of a “recurring” dollar as an expense would be the salary and benefits of a state employee. A “recurring” dollar as income would be revenue from the state’s royalty from an oil well on state land. A “one-time” dollar would be the money spent or not-spent (saved) on repairing a highway. The concern is that we are using “one-time” dollars (saved by not fixing the road) to cover “recurring” expenses (the state employee salary). Eventually we run out of these “one-time” funds and we still have the “recurring” expenses.
A little background is appropriate at this point. In FY2004 when the first budget was passed under Governor Bill Richardson/Lt Gov Diane Denish, the State spent $ 4.127 Billion. By FY 2008, the last year before revenue began to drop, New Mexico was spending $5.994 Billion, an increase of 45 percent.
Then the economy started to collapse. Estimates of the amount of revenue the State could expect to collect began to fall. The estimate for FY 2010 dropped by $286 million between last October and December when in was projected that FY2010 would produce $5.733 Billion. The collapse in expected revenue continued and accelerated: February - $ 5.484 Billion; August - $ 5.052 Billion; this October - $ 4.833 Billion.
To put it bluntly our State tax revenue has cratered. We have gone from about $6 Billion to about $4.8 Billion, a drop of $1.2 Billion or around 20 percent in just over sixteen months. We are now expected to have the same income as we did in FY 2006 if things don’t continue to worsen.
During this Special Session the legislature was to address two primary issues. The first was to transfer funds from the reserve accounts the State maintains to cover unexpected (by some) shortfalls for FY 2009. The final audited numbers for FY 2009 are not in yet, but it is estimated that the State needs to take about $210 million out of the reserves (think of it as a savings account) to cover operating expenses (think of this as the checking account).
The second issue was to reduce expenditures for the current fiscal year, FY2010, because tax revenue flowing into the State Treasury has failed to meet projections. This problem was not unexpected. In fact, in March 2009 ALL of the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted AGAINST the FY2010 budget. We knew then that it did not deal with the problems this State was facing.
Spending for FY 2010 was cut, but only enough to cover about a third of the shortfall in revenue. The rest is to come from “one-time” dollars. Like many others, I believe we have simply delayed dealing with the real problem, and as a result, it will get worse.
Regarding the FY 2009 shortfall, the Richardson/Denish administration wanted what amounted to a blank check to pull funds out of reserves for both FY 2009 AND FY2010. That passed, but without a two-thirds majority. Therefore, the money cannot be moved for ninety days, and many of us believe that the funds cannot be taken legally from the restricted reserves. All of the Republicans voted against this transfer. This battle did not get the attention it deserved and could be the cause of some lawsuits and/or another special session.
In January we are to prepare a budget for FY2011. Many of us fear the problems will continue to get worse. Taxes are not expected to be back to FY2008 levels until FY2015 or later. Also in FY2011 the Federal stimulus money ends. This administration has been using these dollars to cover shortfalls.
To my “Tea Party” friends, you need to make sure your voices are heard in Santa Fe before and during the thirty day session. I guarantee you that the folks who want to raise taxes are speaking often and loudly.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
This event went unnoticed by most individuals except for those who were directly impacted by that horrible act.
In December of 1988 I was assigned to the criminal/reactive squad of the Washington field office of the FBI. At the time we were located in a ratty office building in a depressed part of Washington D.C. Squads were arranged in open bays with shoulder height partitions separating one squad from another. There was not a lot of rhyme or reason for the location of the squads and my squad was located next to one of the terrorism squads.
Pan Am 103 went down on December 21st carrying people home-bound for the Christmas holiday. Initially it was treated as a simple air disaster. Something routinely handled by the NTSB. Within a week it became obvious it was not mechanical failure that doomed those people, but rather a horrid act of terrorism and thus the responsibility of the FBI. Washington field office was designated as the “office of origin” for this investigation.
It was between Christmas and New Years, and I, unlike most of my colleagues, was working in the office. I had a minor case that had some court hearings scheduled. I remember the Supervisor of the terrorism squad stepping out of his office, looking around, seeing me and calling my name. That was how I was selected for the task force working Pan Am 103 - The case we knew as “Scotbomb”.
Over twenty years have passed and memories can fade, but some images never leave you. These events that would not make a good movie. There were no high speed chases or kicking in doors but there was drama… of the heart and soul.
I can recall sitting around the office that first Saturday, together with a couple of other agents, crafting a massive teletype to the field offices where victim’s homes were located. Within days a command post was established and a team of agents pulled together from various squads.
The plane went down in Lockerbie which is served by the Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary. This department is the smallest of the eleven law enforcement agencies covering Scotland. Scottish authorities put together a task force drawing officers from all of these departments.
A team of four or five detectives from Scotland came to Washington D.C. and were part of our command post across the hall from the SAC’s office.
I remember the Scots had at the time a very advanced data base system which was constantly updated by one detective. We, the FBI agents, were “cutting edge” in that we had all teletypes uploaded into a text searching program.
My job in those days before DNA testing was to coordinate the activities of FBI agents who went to victim’s homes to try and collect latent fingerprints which could be used to identify bodies. Eventually the officials in Scotland dispatched to the U.S. a special team of detectives lead by the commander of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary Their purpose was to personally tell the families of nine or so American families that they were not going to get their loved one’s complete body back. They would only get a portion. It was a “class act” and one that still impresses me today. My job was to arrange to have an FBI agent accompany each detective. While that process was going on, clearance was received to approach another ten or so families and tell them they would get nothing back.
Years later, I ran into one of the FBI agents who went out on one of those visits. He shared with me that they called one family ahead of time, told them they were coming, and when they got there, found two chairs waiting for them in the living room. Fifteen or so family members faced the agent and detective seeking answers to questions these law enforcement officers simply could not provide.
Another responsibility for me was to spend a week at the Pan Am reservation center in Northern Virginia. Every day a Pan Am employee and I went through reservation by reservation on the computer as I prepared a separate report detailing all the data for each of the reservations. Within a few years Pan Am would no longer exist as an airline, destroyed in part by trial lawyers hungry for spoils from this wounded institution of American aviation - a victim for a second time.
I recall our cramped little command post with no windows and tacky furniture was the scene of countless phone calls, meetings, and writing. On the wall was an 8 by 10 color glossy photo from the crash site of an empty shoe of a toddler. There are many other memories that all come crashing back in moments of quiet reflection.
I was released from the task force shortly after I completed the review of the reservation data. Tidbits from agents still working the case were relayed to me over the years. There was talk of a special trip to Malta and other breakthroughs.
In 1992 I transferred to the FBI office in Roswell and eight years later it looked like I might go to the Netherlands to testify in the Pan Am 103 trial. I was interviewed over the phone by a defense investigator, but I did not need to travel. One defendant, Megrahi, was convicted and another acquitted.
For me, the most compelling memory is of a conversation I had with the commander of the Dumfries & Galloway CID unit. I don’t recall if it was when he came to our home for supper one night or as we sat quietly in a bar with a cold drink, as cops often do.
The plane had crashed at night. Wreckage and bodies were strewn around the countryside. Eleven residents of Lockerbie were dead including one family completely wiped out. A local ice-skating rink was designated as a temporary morgue. The decision was made, and orders were issued, that the bodies were to be left untouched until daylight. However, the first half dozen or so bodies were all children brought in during the night. In spite of the orders to leave the corpses untouched until dawn, people would come across the body of a small child, and just could not leave them lying in the cold. They picked them up and carried them in their arms to the mortuary. I sat there frozen as this story was related to me, and it has haunted me for over twenty years.
There are good and noble people in Scotland. I have met some. Their honor has been soiled by the actions of a vile politician.
We constantly hear calls for pity, compassion, and forgiveness for criminals. These demands make a mockery of the pain and suffering of victims. Real justice demands the evil doer be held accountable. We must never forget that. Forgiveness is meant to be a personal act of release. Pity and compassion are to be reserved for the victims of misfortune. We have become uncomfortable with the task of holding people accountable for their actions. It is hard work plus we don’t want to be seen as “judgmental”.
In this day and age, we bestow compassion on the betrayers of public trust, and pity upon cold blooded killers. By doing so, we mock the grief and agony of the victims of crime. Some tell the victim to suffer in silence or just “let go”. That is wrong. The victim must be valued and vindicated if they, and the community, are to heal and know serenity or calm again. For as the saying goes “No justice, no peace”.