Commissioners name Knudson temporary attorney

By Karl Terry

Roosevelt County once again has a county attorney — at least temporarily.

County commissioners Tuesday voted 4-1 to hire Portales attorney Randy Knudson as temporary attorney for the county and in the same motion ratified payments for his services they had already approved previously.

At their Oct. 18 meeting commissioners discovered that Knudson’s contract as the county attorney had expired in July. At that time Knudson had completed two years as county attorney.

County Administrator Charlene Hardin said during that meeting that commissioners could have voted to extend Knudson’s contract for one year had they done so before it expired. However, since that didn’t happen, the county will be forced to put out a request for proposal for the service, which could take until some time in December.

The motion approved Tuesday provided for 90 days of temporary service from Knudson. The motion provided for the same contract scope as Knudson had previously received from the county. Commissioner Tom Clark was the only dissenting vote.

Clark questioned Knudson before the vote asking the attorney what his position would be as far as any illegal transaction of any kind by the commission.

Knudson replied that he couldn’t respond to such a vague hypothetical question.

“I took an oath as an attorney to uphold the law and the constitution,” said Knudson.

Clark continued, asking him if he would knowingly allow commissioners to circumvent state law.

“You’ve asked me a question that you’ve painted with such a broad brush, I couldn’t answer,” said Knudson.

“Would you think it would be appropriate for the commissioners to allow someone to obstruct a roadway,” questioned Clark.

Knudson answered that Clark’s question still lacked the details he would need to answer. He commented that he could go back in history and find numerous bad decisions that weren’t legal.

“I’m not going to participate in something that is contrary to law,” said Knudson.

In other business:

• Commission chairman Gene Creighton questioned Sgt. Rick Short of the sheriff’s department on the staffing levels for his department and the lack of night patrols.
Short said the staff was 11, including him and the sheriff, with one position open, one at law academy and two deployed in Iraq on National Guard duty. Short said that made the department unable to do night patrols at this time.
“So you have all these people on night hours,” said Creighton.
Short said the state police and Portales police are helping to cover the evening hours.
“It’s going to be either or?” queried Creighton.
“I’d say more goes on during the day time than at night,” said Short, citing the need to transport prisoners and also have backup officers available.

• Commissioners approved payment of bills and payroll on a 4-1 vote, with Clark voting no.

• Commissioners unanimously approved a joint project agreement, including funding of $4,128, between the sheriff’s office and the New Mexico Department of Transportation for increased DWI patrols.
• Voted 4-0 with Clark abstaining because of relation to the property owner, to pursue purchase of real property located at 205 S. Main. The property would be used to house district attorney’s offices. The vote followed a brief executive session at which all five commissioners were present.