NM Road Crew Absolved of Breaking Anti-Donation Law

Sat June 12, 2004 - West Edition

LA MESA, NM (AP) A Dona Ana County road crew who resurfaced the dirt parking lot of a La Mesa restaurant did nothing illegal, but the action did bring up some weaknesses in keeping track of road materials, the county manager said.

The work at Severo’s Restaurant and Lounge in early May did not violate the state constitution’s anti-donation clause because a gentleman’s agreement was in place, the investigation found. The anti-donation clause prohibits giving public property to private individuals.

County Manager Brian Haines said the investigation discovered weaknesses in control systems that track material used by county road crews and convinced him the county shouldn’t enter into gentleman’s agreements.

A visit to the restaurant’s lot on May 4 revealed three large areas where tire tracks from large industrial vehicles within fresh dirt that had been dumped there. Two road maintenance vehicles were parked in the lot, one labeled a county vehicle.

The investigation found county crews had filled in several ruts and potholes in the parking lot, Haines said.

Crews have parked construction vehicles in the lot for years when doing road work in the area. A crew that finished a job May 4 had leftover dirt, and since the crew had created some of the ruts in the lot, it made sense to them to fill in the holes, Haines said.

Although the 1 ton of dirt was only worth about $7, some county practices will be changed. For example, the county will no longer park construction vehicles on private property. It also will develop a better system of accounting for road material taken from the county’s storage area.