ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque's former police chief accepted perks and consulting work from Taser International before and after he helped the company land a lucrative no-bid contract to supply officers with body cameras, the New Mexico state auditor said Thursday.
Ray Schultz committed "very substantial violations" of numerous city and state ethics laws in his dealings with Taser and prosecutors should determine whether to bring criminal charges, State Auditor Tim Keller said.
A yearlong review of the city's handling of its $1.95 million contract with Taser in 2013 found "rampant disregard for all of those things that protect our taxpayer dollars," Keller said.
"You want the police chief of the Albuquerque Police Department to be this sort of shining star in public office. In this case, it points to the opposite direction," Keller said at a news conference.
Schultz, now assistant police chief in Memorial Villages, Texas, didn't return messages seeking comment. He didn't cooperate with the auditor's review, Keller said.
Schultz and his subordinates gave Taser an unfair advantage for the 2013 contract, which was then one of the largest municipal purchases of body cameras, Keller wrote. Schultz himself sent a Taser salesman an email saying the process was "greased."
Keller said flaws in city purchasing processes and weak oversight improperly allowed Taser to win the award without competition. He said it was also inappropriate for Schultz and other department employees to accept trips, meals and a party at a San Diego nightclub that were paid for by Taser.
The findings are a blow for Scottsdale, Arizona-based Taser, which has become a leader in the fast-growing market for cameras that officers wear on their uniforms.
Taser's relationships with police administrators have come under scrutiny, with rivals complaining they have given Taser an advantage. The company has covered airfare, hotels and meals for chiefs and associates who attend its training and networking events and hired Schultz and two other chiefs as consultants shortly after they retired.
Taser has defended the relationships as standard and proper, but offered no immediate comment Thursday.
Keller said he found violations of city ethics and purchasing codes and the state's Governmental Conduct Act. District Attorney Kari Brandenburg and Attorney General Hector Balderas said they were reviewing the matter.
Schultz began early retirement Sept. 7, 2013, but remained on Albuquerque's payroll through Jan. 1, 2014. Taser offered him a consulting contract Sept. 17, 2013. City officials approved the body-camera contract weeks later.
Schultz began his Taser work as he was still getting his city salary, Keller said.
Schultz may have violated ordinances that ban employees from influencing purchasing decisions while negotiating employment with vendors and that require ex-employees to wait one year before representing certain companies. Whether Schultz committed wrongdoing may depend on whether his consulting amounted to "employment" and "representation," Keller wrote.
Also, as the department was considering body cameras in 2012, Schultz and a deputy were guests at a Taser-sponsored party at Stingaree Night Club in San Diego during a national conference. Other employees traveled on an all-expenses paid trip to Taser's headquarters to learn how to use its Evidence.com storage software. Accepting those benefits likely violated city ordinances, Keller said.
Albuquerque's first major purchase of body cameras, in March 2013, avoided competitive bidding by improperly relying on an earlier contract for other Taser equipment, Keller said. City officials justified the subsequent $1.95 million contract by saying a pilot program determined Taser's cameras performed the best but auditors didn't find documentation that other models were tested.
Foley reported from Iowa City, Iowa.