GALLUP _ Despite the glowing reports to the contrary, there seems more than just a little discontent and trouble at Correctional Services Corporation, the company in charge of McKinley County's Adult Detention Facility. And all of the unhappiness isn't confined to the prisoners.
Meanwhile, it's also been confirmed that an immediate family member of McKinley County Commissioner Ben Shelly is an employee at the facility, which may be a violation of state law. It is also believed that that employment may be one of the reasons for calling a grand jury to probe the dentention facility.
Also confirmed by Montana prison officials is the fact that Bob Bass, facility administrator for the county jail, is interviewing for a warden's position in that state. The official said that the opening will be filled within the next few weeks, and that if Bass is hired "it will be at Bass's discretion as to when he starts."
Rumors about discontent and possible "conflict of interest" began to circulate in the aftermath of last week's announcement by a group of concerned citizens regarding the passing of a petition for signatures to order a grand jury investigation into the operations of CSC's management of the county jail.
The grand jury petition also calls for investigation into certain public officers or employees violating New Mexico law by "using the powers and resources of their public office to obtain personal benefits incompatible with the public interest."
The petition also states that "certain persons" may have violated the law by soliciting or giving anything of value with intent to influence public officials.
Whether the hiring of a family member constitutes an impropriety may be one of the items the grand jury will address. A CSC employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said that County Commissioner Shelly's high school age son, Michael, is employed at the facility.
Later, in a telephone interview, Shelly confirmed to the Independent that his son works at the CSC facility.
The question centers around the fact of whether a county official can vote on a contract awarded to a county vendor which employs a member of the official's family.
Under the New Mexico constitution, registered voters have the right to sign a petition calling for a grand jury investigation. The law requires 200 or 2 percent of the signatures of registered voters in the county, whichever is greater, for a grand jury to convene.
In McKinley County, that means 586 voters' signatures.
With the required signatures, a district court judge cannot deny a grand jury proceeding.
Other questions the grand jury will be asked to consider are: the possible awarding of a contract to CSC for the management of the juvenile detention facility; and, also the legality of Shelly's $2,500 in county mileage payments.