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Albuquerque releases internal audit of Taser contract

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque Police Department personnel bypassed purchasing rules and compromised the integrity of the city’s procurement process when buying body cameras from Taser International in 2013, city auditors said.

The audit’s findings released Tuesday follow and are similar to a scathing New Mexico state auditor’s review last week that uncovered a cozy relationship involving a former police chief and Taser.

The city report says the former chief’s work for Taser may have violated city law. Ray Schultz is now assistant police chief in Memorial Villages, Texas. His attorney, Luis Robles, has said that the city budget office led the procurement process and Schultz’s successor made the final decision to award the contract.

State Auditor Tim Keller’s yearlong review found a disregard and circumvention of the city’s process for competitive contracts in the nearly $2 million deal for body cameras and video-storage software awarded to Arizona-based Taser. The contract was not put out for competitive bidding.

Schultz committed substantial violations of city and state ethics laws in his dealings with Taser, and prosecutors should determine whether to bring criminal charges, Keller has said.

Among other questionable practices, the city’s Office of Internal Audit found that:

— The police department’s pilot purchase of Taser cameras did not comply with city’s competitive procurement process, and then itself was used as a basis for justifying the full $1.9 million non-competitive purchase in 2013.

— Five standard clauses that limit risk to the city and allow independent contract oversight are absent from the contract.

— The acceptance of gratuities by police department personnel from Taser violated multiple city rules. Taser picked up a $1,350 tab for fine dining in Albuquerque in October 2013 for department staff and guests, which may have included spouses, and company representatives.

— Schultz became a contractor for Taser in October 2013 while still technically a city employee. He received $1,000 per day plus expenses — according to the company — as a consultant for promoting its products. By July 2014, Schultz had given a dozen presentations in the U.S. and places around the globe.

Neither Schultz nor the two employees, who the report says knowingly circumvented the city’s purchasing regulations, are named in the report. Debra Yoshimura, director of the Office of Internal Audit, said that’s because its intent is to improve city operations, not call out specific employees.

The senior buyer, who resigned in November 2014, worked under an unclear management structure that may have created unnecessary pressure to perform as a department employee rather than to enforce purchasing regulations, the report said.

While laying out Schultz’s activities on behalf of Taser, the report does not say he circumvented the city’s procurement regulations. It does, however raise questions about his contractual relationship with Taser.

Schultz did not meet with auditors. His attorney told them that he had directed him not discuss his Taser contract pending the state auditor’s investigation, the report said.

It appears the police department committed to getting Taser’s body cameras for a majority of its officers before the pilot test of 75 cameras, which were purchased earlier in 2013, according to the document.

According to Albuquerque Police Department personnel, Schultz “wanted to be on top of the ‘next big thing in law enforcement,’ ” the report said.

The document includes auditor recommendations and responses to them from the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Robert Perry. One of the auditor’s recommendations include calling for the city to revise retirement documents to include information explaining prohibitions against representing a person or business in connection with a matter in which a former employee performed an official act, unless Perry consents.

Perry disagreed, saying the finding was based on an “ambiguous interpretation of the term ‘early retirement.’ ” In early retirement, Schultz was “entirely relieved of any responsibility, duty, or assignment,” he said. He will direct human resources department to clarify the meaning of the term early retirement, Perry said.

He also agreed to developing citywide policies for testing products and conducting pilot programs to ensure the city buys the best items at the best prices.

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