By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online
A routine practice for dealing with delinquent water service payments took a unique turn in Santa Fe, NM, late last month when the local water supplier cut off the city’s mayor.
“Every week, employees in the city of Santa Fe’s Water Division shut off service to dozens of customers for nonpayment,” reported The Santa Fe New Mexican. “[Recently], they disconnected the water supply at the home of their boss: Mayor Javier Gonzales, who has a history of failing to pay his water bill on time, according to documents obtained … under an open-records request.”
Despite this history, the mayor claims that it was not his intention to skirt fiscal responsibility and he deferred questions about why the bills weren’t paid to his former roommate.
“Gonzales said he no longer lives at the home [where water was being supplied] and referred questions to his former partner, Brad Furry, saying Furry is the current resident,” the New Mexican reported. “Gonzales and Furry broke up recently after a yearslong relationship.”
Backing up the mayor’s claim that this was a misunderstanding, rather than an intentional attempt to get free water, is the promptness with which the issue was resolved.
“On Wednesday, the Water Division issued a disconnect work order for the mayor’s residence for nonpayment, and the water was disconnected,” according to WorldBry. “On Thursday … the [balance] of the account — $1,355.31 — was paid in full, and the town reconnected the water.”
In the final twist to this story, it appears that Mayor Gonzales was hoisted by his own petard. His own political action committee’s decision to dig up dirt on mayoral candidates and to file open-records requests with the city regarding their monthly water usage and payment histories led the New Mexican to the story and his long history of missed payments.
“The New Mexican discovered the requests and obtained the records, which showed that Gonzales at one point was $1,639 behind on his water bills,” the paper reported. “Records obtained by The New Mexican on Friday show that the water meter at the mayor’s home has been turned off for nonpayment six times between 2008 and 2012. In addition, four work orders were issued to turn the meter off between 2007 and 2009 but were canceled after the city received payment.”
To read more about how water systems communicate with delinquent ratepayers visit Water Online’s Consumer Outreach Solutions Center.
Image credit: "Santa Fe, New Mexico" Kent Kanouse © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/