ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A sheriff's office investigation of drugs and other contraband stored in the offices of the Santa Fe County jail administrators — a case that became intertwined with a house-cleaning at the jail in which three people were fired — has failed to turn up any criminal activity.
Sheriff Robert Garcia said, "We're talking about more of a protocol and policy and procedure issue" than anything criminal. He said the contraband should have been destroyed if it couldn't be tied to a particular inmate or employee or used as evidence for a criminal prosecution.
Garcia said information from the investigation that started in early May will still be turned over to the District Attorney's Office for review. But the sheriff said he believes prosecutors will agree no criminal acts took place.
The investigation was announced by the county administration concurrently with the May 1 firings of jail warden David Trujillo and deputy warden Ted Peperas. Their terminations followed the February firing of Annabelle Romero, who, as corrections chief, had been the county's top manager in charge of the jail since 2006.
On May 2, a county spokeswoman confirmed the firings of Trujillo and Peperas in a prepared statement. The statement also said, "Santa Fe County can confirm there is an ongoing internal investigation at the Adult Detention Facility concerning drugs and contraband being stored, sometimes for several years, in unsecure locations in jail administrative offices."
The May press release did not directly link the firings to the drug probe. But it did offer a statement from county public safety director Pablo Sedillo that said, "I am building a team that has the same vision of accountability and integrity that I have and who also want to make the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility a model facility in New Mexico."
This week, after the sheriff said the contraband-storage investigation at the jail hadn't turned up any criminal activity, county spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic provided a comment following up on her May news release that both confirmed the warden firings and disclosed the drug probe.
In her new email, Mihelcic said: "The information about the narcotics investigation was included on the (May 2) prepared statement in response to media inquiries about both topics. The statement inadvertently may have implied that the two topics were related, but this was not intentional."
Last month, in the hours after the May 2 press release was issued, fired warden Trujillo told the Journal that if Sedillo believes "there's drugs in my office, he's dreaming or has had two beers too many."
Neither Sedillo or County Manager Katherine Miller has ever said why Romero, Trujillo and Peperas were fired.
The items that were the subject of the sheriff's investigation - mainly drugs - were in a safe in Romero's office and in a disciplinary officer's office, Garcia said.
He said the contraband apparently had been found at the jail but couldn't be tied to anyone in particular for a criminal prosecution, or someone possibly had in fact been connected to the drugs but it was so long ago the items would no longer serve well as evidence.
The sheriff said the jail should have had a policy or protocol to destroy the drugs rather than keep them around for so long. Garcia said the investigation found no evidence jail personnel had stolen or misused any contraband.
He said the sheriff's office itself is in the process of getting a new incinerator for destroying drugs that are no longer needed as evidence. He said allowing the jail to use it in the future is "I'm sure something we can work on."
Sedillo, the county public safety director and a former jail warden himself, was hired into his newly created position last year to oversee the jail and fire department and serve as a liaison with the sheriff's office, whose administration is independent, because the sheriff is an elected official.