Marshals See Corruption|in a Small Town

     LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CN) – Two town marshals were fired when their investigation of misuse of federal grant money implicated the mayor, the men say in separate lawsuits.
     Tom Austin and Nick Hervol and sued the Town of Mesilla and its Mayor Nora Barraza on Wednesday, on similar whistleblower complaints in Doña Ana County Court.
     Mesilla, pop. 1,900, is north of El Paso.
     Town Marshal Austin says he was told there were budgetary concerns about the amount of overtime being paid to marshal’s personnel, so he and Deputy Marshal Hervol investigated.
     Austin and Hervol say they found misuse of federal grants known as Stonegarden funds, which were intended to be used for only certain types of officer overtime pay, but had been used for all types of overtime.
     Austin says he took his findings to Mayor Barraza and the town clerk, asking for explanations. When he couldn’t get satisfactory answers, Austin says, he and Hervol reported their findings to the FBI, and Austin sent a memorandum about the investigation to the town’s Board of Trustees.
     Ten days after the marshals reported their findings to the Town Board, and three days after Barraza was re-elected mayor, she fired Austin, the former marshal says. Less than a month she fired Austin, Barazza came to the marshal’s office and demanded that Hervol and another officer give her access to storage areas where documents and other evidence in the case were stored, Hervol claims.
     He says the mayor took documents away with her without signing them out of inventory. When Hervol reported the mayor’s actions, he too was fired.
     Both men seek lost wages and damages for wrongful firing, breach of contract, and whistleblower violations.
     They are represented by Joleen Youngers with Almanzar & Youngers of Las Cruces.

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