Editorial: Time for DA to retire

Posted 10/5/18

Donald Gallegos needs to retire. The 8th Judicial District Attorney is tired. He’s said as much both in words and in actions.

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Editorial: Time for DA to retire

Posted

Donald Gallegos needs to retire.

The 8th Judicial District Attorney is tired. He’s said as much both in words and in actions.

Gallegos deserves to rest. He’s halfway through his fifth term in a tough, often thankless job. By his own estimation, Gallegos has missed a lot of time with family because he has spent countless hours, days and nights serving the public who elected him to put away criminals and ensure justice across Taos, Colfax and Union counties.

Now he can best serve the public by leaving office.

It’s an office Gallegos is rarely at lately, again by his own admission. He says he is spending more time at home and elsewhere, managing his budget and his staff from afar. He says he trusts his team of attorneys and doesn’t need to micromanage them. He says for a period of time he had to be in Union County because he couldn’t find a prosecutor to run the office there.

While the lack of meddling and trust in his team is admirable, it’s costly. The public didn’t elect Gallegos to hang out at home. It elected him to do his job, be in the office and available, handle the big cases and coach his team until the work is done.

Gallegos should have handled the recent high-profile case of five adults arrested on child abuse charges and 11 children taken into protective custody from a derelict compound near Amalia. He says he consulted with the two prosecutors he assigned to the case, but his oversight fell short considering how the case was bungled.

It was a case with major implications. It needed his experience and know-how, upfront and center in the courtroom. At the very least, Gallegos should have been in the courtroom while they prosecuted the cases.

Instead, the prosecutors missed a crucial deadline, the cases were dismissed, the five suspects were released and the only reason they ended up back behind bars is because the U.S Attorney and a federal grand jury filed new charges. Gallegos admits he “dropped the ball” on the case.

It’s not the first time he’s been criticized for not managing his staff properly. In 2016, the New Mexico Supreme Court reprimanded Gallegos for failing to supervise one of his prosecutors, Emilio Chavez, who is now a district judge. The two were sanctioned for issuing more than 90 subpoenas without following judicial protocol.

A few months later in 2016, Gallegos beat his primary challenger, Paul Sanchez, then his deputy DA, by a mere 18 votes. Unopposed in the general election, Gallegos won his fifth term to the office.

His support from Taos County voters has declined by more than 1,000 votes since 2008 when he won his third term to the office. It might have declined more except Gallegos didn’t have challengers.

The district attorney position is not for the fainthearted or preoccupied or lazy. It is a job with a major impact on communities in three counties.

Donald, it is time to bow out. It is OK to say you’re done. You’ve served your time and can leave. 

What’s not OK is to expect taxpayers to believe you are earning your paycheck when you aren’t in the office and botched your biggest case in years.

Donald, you can quit. Really.

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