Two staff members at the Taos County Housing Authority, including the nephew of county commissioner Nicklos Jaramillo, were “layed off” following the release of a report that found some employees had an “overly familiar” relationship with elected officials.

Concerns over nepotism were one of several issues detailed in the report, which was prepared by Eastern Regional Housing Authority.

Eastern Regional was hired as a consultant to review the Taos County Housing Authority in the wake of a federal investigation into alleged embezzlement by the agency’s former executive director, Carmella Martínez.

After the initial allegations late last year, Martínez, and the agency’s Section 8 coordinator resigned. The contract for the housing authority’s accountant was also terminated.

No indictments have yet come down against Martínez, or any other employee or official. Charges could be filed in the next few weeks, according to Chris Herbert of Eastern Regional Housing Authority.

Herbert addressed the Taos County Commission, Tuesday (Aug. 21) to explain his agency’s findings and offer suggestions on how to move forward.

In the four months that Eastern Regional oversaw the housing authority, Herbert said that he and his staff discovered many housing authority employees were unaware of the federal regulations covering their jobs.

Herbert told the commission that staff may have been intentionally left in the dark so that they would not catch on to the suspected embezzlement.

He called the structure of the Taos County Housing Authority (TCHA) an “odd hybrid” that created confusion as to who oversees housing authority operations.

At the moment, the housing authority is governed by a separate board appointed by the Taos County Commission. However, housing authority staff are under the supervision of the Taos County Manager.

“This produces a unique problem: The TCHA Board has taken responsibility for the governance of the TCHA, including signing off on HUD documents which indicate governance, yet they have no way to truly hold the staff of the Housing Authority accountable for following through with their directives,” the report reads.

The report also says long-standing members of the housing authority board are “unsure of their role with regards to governance of the housing authority.”

The report notes that the presence of the “non-voting member” of the county commission who sits in on housing authority meetings appears to be a violation of state law. Larry Sánchez is the current “non-voting member.”

The housing authority board includes Della Barrone, wife of Taos County Commission Dan Barrone. The position is not paid, and Dan Barrone says he nominated his wife for the position because she has experience with public housing.

Political connections

According to the report, the housing authority was in “chaos” when Eastern Regional arrived. Many employees were under-trained, and some showed indifference toward the presence of an outside reviewer.

“On numerous occasions [housing authority] staff has claimed to be connected to or know TCHA board members of members of the county commission personally,” the report reads. “They have further stated that they cannot be fired or disciplined due to their connections with the County political system. This may impart to the staff a perceived level of immunity to being accountable for their actions and job performance.”

The report later states that the housing authority should end “... Nepotism hiring and employment practices which in the best case scenario lead to the perception of wrongdoing and in the worst case scenario leads to wrongdoing.”

Following a request for public records, Taos County provided a copy of Eastern Regional’s final report. The county did not provide copies of individual employee performance reports, which are not subject to public disclosure.

On Friday, interim county manager Barbara Martínez said public housing manager Laura Sánchez and capital fund coordinator Patrick Jaramillo — the nephew of Taos County Commissioner Nicklos Jaramillo — had been “layed off.”

Herbert did not mention any names Tuesday, but he did say the Capital Fund Program was under review for the questionable way money may have been allocated for contracts.

The Taos News has previously reported that Nicklos Jaramillo’s brother, Armando Martínez, has been a Section 8 landlord for several years, creating a potential conflict of interest. Jaramillo has said he had no knowledge that his brother was a landlord.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Herbert strongly urged the county commission to make the housing authority a department of the county. He said doing so would improve oversight and clear up management ambiguities. Herbert said the county could later look into forming a regional housing authority with neighboring counties that could potentially increase low-income housing funding.

Herbert also stressed the importance of finding a competent and experienced director to restore stability to the housing authority. Such a director would help fulfill the housing authority’s fundamental goal of serving the low-income residents of the county.

Deputy county manager Richard Bellis told the commission the remaining staff at the housing authority were capable and could be trained.

Following Herbert’s presentation, the county commission directed county staff to prepare to make the housing authority a county department. Some commissioners have also expressed an urgent need to find a long-term director for the housing authority.

Commissioner Andrew Chávez appeared eager to hire someone for the position. “We’ve given the public the impression that we don’t know what’s going on over there and that we have no plan,” Chávez said. “We need to make some decisions and we need to make them fast.”

(6) comments

Sarah_V
Sarah_V

Would it be too much to ask to get the county (and town) to enact nepotism policies?

Krumholtz
Krumholtz

"Layed off" is a Taos concept and means they got to take a siesta. It carries less political liability in Taos county government than being "laid off."

concerned citizen
concerned citizen

The main reason Taos is a disaster is generational poverty and associated drug/alcohol abuse. But the second reason for Taos's inability to evolve into something less brutal and backwards is a situation like this. The hiring of obviously unqualified relatives (who are, of course, "from here") for important positions in government and the schools will continue to keep Taos from becoming all that it could be...a slightly prettier version of Espanola with art and organic food.

Linda Bence
Linda Bence

Sarah, could you please also add Kit Carson to your wish list?

OldPen79
OldPen79

What a shame Taos!!!!!! No integrity!!! We should give each "We need to Study they Bible with each person put into Goverment office in Taos and teach them about integrity. I does not seem that this people do not have any inclination what integrity means. This people are payed a salery to do their job and they want more. Our society has gone to the dumps raising this people to be blood sucking worms. Please quit wasting our "TAX" dollars and be responsible. Bring in new people from out of state that do not have any connections with people in this Town and let them do the hiring of quailified workers. They need to get rid of this "MAFIA" out of TAOS. I was raised in this county and am glad I moved out of here where the schools are better and the elected officials do there job for the better of community. TAOS on the other hand as I stated before is going down the down into a "HOLE". Wake up TAOS and make this county a place of "Integrity".

Recess1
Recess1

The Beaver has been hit hard by the flood and it is taking your dam down, floating away.

On a seriouse note, it's good to hire local people to run the government, but you have to be selective and hire the right people. When hiring local, remember training, education and the ability to learn the job. Not everyone is born into knowing their job when you get it, but if you can learn it and do it well, there is nothing wrong with getting the local boys and girls to do the work. Be honest, have integrity and treat everyone the same relatives or not.

In my career, I have been able to get people to do the alot of things others thought they would never do. Be honest, tell them exactly what you want, how you want it done, when you want it done, and let them do it, check on the progress, if you see something that needs adjustment let them know.

Most people can be tought to do almost anything, in any job. The highest educations is always good, but experience in always better.

I have been to some of the county commission meeting to see who is running the so called show. Some time I can believe what I hear. Some silly and ignorant comments from the leaders, discouraging and Im out the door.

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