Commission: Judge not out on clean slate

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

Retired Portales Municipal Court Judge Fred Arnold didn’t leave the bench on June 30 with a clean slate, according to the Judicial Standards Commission of New Mexico.

Arnold announced his retirement in June as part of an agreement with the state JSC that also bans him from ever holding a judgeship again. The commission, however, stopped short of plans to issue a public censure of Arnold.

The agreement is the result of charges that Arnold falsely altered a time card in July 2012 for a court clerk, paying her five hours of overtime that she wasn’t entitled to receive, court documents show. The once-secret documents containing the charges and the agreement were ordered unsealed June 28 by the state Supreme Court.

Arnold, who had served as Portales Municipal Court judge since 1997 when he was appointed by the Portales City Council, did not return a request for comment Monday night. But according to city officials, Arnold announced plans for retirement prior to the incident.

The state Judicial Standards Commission filed its petition for Arnold to accept permanent retirement from judicial office and consent to discipline in October 2012.

Court documents show that Arnold admitted to altering a time card for the court clerk on or about July 23, 2012, to reflect that she worked 40 regular hours the week of July 16-20, 2012, when she had only worked 35 regular hours.

The clerk took five hours of vacation on July 17, 2012, and worked five hours on July 20, 2012, for which she believed she would be paid overtime, court records show.

The clerk noted on her time card that she had not been approved for payment of the five hours she worked on July 20 and approached Arnold about the discrepancy.

Court records show Arnold whited out the annotation on the time card to reflect that she did not take five hours of vacation as was originally documented, but altered the time card to read that the clerk worked her regularly scheduled hours on July 17.

According to Randy Roybal, director of the commission, Arnold violated judicial code and constituted willful misconduct in office by altering the time card.

As part of his acceptance of his disciplinary action, Arnold agrees to never hold or exercise any judicial authority in New Mexico.

Court documents show that Arnold agreed to permanently retire on June 3.

Portales City Council replaced Arnold with former Roosevelt County Probate Judge Barbara George. George’s first day was July 1.

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