Judge to decide on sheriff’s recall

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

A push to oust the De Baca County sheriff will come to a head in May when a 9th judicial district judge will determine if allegations against Gary Graves warrant a recall election.

A group of De Baca County residents — the De Baca County Concerned Citizens — will argue at the hearing that Graves has committed malfeasance, misfeasance and has not upheld the oath of office.

The hearing is set for May 16-18 in De Baca County.

Complaints against Graves include allegations that he transported prisoners at speeds upward of 100 mph, failed to maintain proper financial records and improperly used public money for his own use.

“Right now we are just waiting for the hearing to come about,” said Allen Sparks of Fort Sumner, who is one of six members of the citizens group pushing for the recall.

Sparks said he feels confident in the case against Graves. However, he worries that Graves and his attorney, Bill Robins, will try to drag the case out as long as possible. According to state law, the recall election must occur more than six months before the general election is held in 2006.

“I don’t think a recall has ever been accomplished in New Mexico, but we just think that this needs to be done against this individual,” Sparks said.

Graves said Wednesday the allegations of misconduct are “baseless” and “rank,” and he is willing fight them all the way to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

“I just got nothing to hide,” Graves said, “I’m going to stay here and be the best sheriff I can be.”

If District Judge Joe Parker determines a recall election should occur, the concerned citizens will have to produce a petition with about 300 signatures of those who voted when Graves was elected.

If that can be accomplished — Sparks believes it can — the De Baca County clerk would then hold a special recall vote for the county. Sparks said as long as the hearing happens on schedule in May, there should be enough time to hold the recall vote.

Graves said the push to have him removed will have big financial consequences for the county.

“It’s never a cheap issue when a county does this,” said Graves. “They (the concerned citizens) talk in their complaints about how I’ve damaged the county. This is going to cost the county more.”

Graves also spoke about how the recall process has affected his physical and emotion well being, adding, “This is not easy for any man to go through.”

Officials with the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association have said sheriffs statewide are closely watching the De Baca recall issue, which began last summer.