The man who wanted Todd Hathorne to step down from his position on the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission seems to be stepping down himself.
If silence is an indication, then it appears that County Manager Juan Vigil is going to let the issue rest. Vigil declined requests from the Observer to comment on the story.
County Commissioner David Bency said Vigil has not spoken to him about the Hathorne issue but is glad to hear about him no longer pursuing the issue.
“I wouldn’t doubt it; it’s the smart thing to do. There’s no precedent for it,” Bency said. “It’s much ado about nothing. People on the commission (must have) told Juan he was barking up the wrong tree.”
After a County Commission meeting in March, Vigil requested Hathorne to step down from his Planning and Zoning Commission seat. Vigil argued because Hathorne was running for Bency’s seat while sitting on the planning and zoning commission, he posed a potential conflict of interest and exposed the county to an “unacceptable” risk of litigation.
Hathorne, who said he was blindsided by the request, disputed Vigil’s claims. When Vigil tried to plan a meeting with Hathorne, Hathorne refused unless Vigil further explained why Vigil wanted him to step down.
Hathorne said he has not spoken to Vigil since and because the county has not taken any action, the issue, he said, seems to be over.
But Hathorne said he does not think Vigil was acting on his own. He said he senses the pressure was coming from members of the commission.
“I think (Commission Chairman Orlando Lucero) must have some concerns of some sort,” Hathorne said. “I like Orlando but (he) has not contacted me to ask about the circumstance. Plenty of people on both sides of the aisle are calling this a partisan push. I don’t know who prompted the statements from Juan in the first place.”
Hathorne said he has received “regular” calls of support from constituents.
“It’s been overwhelming support,” he said. “Talking to campaign supporters, they don’t want the commission to be partisan but I think Orlando and Juan did exactly that.”
Lucero said he did not talk to Vigil about removing Hathorne from the commission but said he agrees stepping down is the right move for Hathorne.
Lucero said he first learned of the issue from newspapers.
“I personally feel, whether it’s Todd or any other employee running for commission (that it’s best) to resign or take a leave of absence,” he said.
Lucero said that’s what he did when he ran for county commissioner. When he decided to run, he stepped down from the Bernalillo Planning and Zoning Commission.
“No one asked me to resign,” he said. “I didn’t want to put the county or city in litigation or be put in the position of conflict of interest.”
But there is a precedent of sitting planning and zoning commissioners who ran for public office and were not asked to step down.
In 2002, Terry Kopcak ran against Bency for the Sandoval County District 3 seat while sitting on the planning and zoning commission. Kopcak was not asked to step down. Vigil was not county manager at the time.
“Todd is a great guy, great candidate, however it would be easy for an issue to come up,” said Lucero. “By taking a leave or resigning, he protects himself. When I ran for commission, I didn’t want to find myself in a conflict of interest: some guy gives you a donation and wants you to vote on his project.”
Hathorne said the way to avoid conflicts of interest is to recuse yourself from county business where there is a personal stake.
Bency has endorsed Hathorne to replace him on the commission. Hathorne faces fellow Republican Don Chapman in the June primary. Former Rio Rancho City Councilman Larry Naranjo is the only Democrat running for the position.