Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Man Carried Out of County Meeting by Deputies

Placitas resident wouldn’t leave for causing a disruption


A Placitas man was forcefully removed from the Aug. 23 Sandoval County Commission meeting for causing a disruption. Gary Miles, who has been an outspoken opponent of the wild horse-feeding and critic of county administration’s handling of the newly adopted ordinance at other public meetings, was literally carried out of the meeting by Sheriff’s deputies after refusing to leave on his own.

Miles had made it through the two minutes he was allowed to speak during the public forum period of the meeting, though his comments concluded with him surrounded by at least four deputies ready to take him away.

It wasn’t until a little later in the meeting when the commission was hearing a presentation on a resolution that would authorize Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funding to go to a manufacturing plant in Algodones so they could expand that Miles received the police escort.

Immediately prior to his removal, Miles can be seen on the county’s video feed of the meeting talking to someone off camera and, apparently, taking their picture.

During public forum, Miles told the commission that LEDA funding is unconstitutional because it provides public money to a for-profit private business. He told County Manager Wayne Johnson he should resign “for hiring a $130,000 thug to rule over Placitas in a very dictatorship manner.”

Miles was referring to Deputy County Manager John Garcia, who has led the county’s outreach efforts regarding the controversial ban on feeding wild horses that went into effect Sept. 1.

Garcia has clashed with Miles and other opponents of the ban while holding meetings in Placitas to provide information about the ordinance and gather public input.

It was Commission Jay Block, whose seat at the end of the dias was only feet away from where Miles was sitting, who ultimately asked for Miles’ removal. Block said he was having trouble hearing the speaker because of Miles.

“He needs to go,” Block said.

Commission Chairman David Heil paused the presentation and asked Miles to leave.

“You can get up and leave or we can carry you out,” he said.

Miles chose the latter, and two deputies carried him out, each holding one arm, while Miles lifted his feet behind him.

Miles was not arrested, nor were charges filed.

The county’s rules of procedures for public forum posted on its website says, “It is unlawful to disturb any meeting of the Commission or any of its Committees or to behave in a disorderly manner at any such meeting. Disruptive public outbursts or disruptions that impede the orderly progress of a meeting will not be tolerated.”

The policy also says the commission chairman has the right to stop any speaker who doesn’t follow the rules, uses profane language or makes inappropriate comments.”

Police Escort

Heil had threatened to have Miles removed during public forum over an interaction that was contentious from the start.

“I’ve got a few questions for the chairman,” Miles said after stepping to the podium.

After a pause, Heil responded, “Well, the chairman isn’t going to answer your questions. If you’d like to speak and tell us what you want to say, we’d be glad to hear.”

Miles repeated that he had some questions to ask.

“No. We’re here to listen. We’re not here to have a dialogue,” Heil said, adding that his allotted time was ticking away. “You want to talk, talk. Otherwise, sit down.”

“You shut up and let me speak, Miles said, pointing his finger at Heil. “It’s my time.”

Heil then ordered deputies to “Take this guy out of here.”

Miles dropped to his knees and put his hands behind his back as if to be cuffed. Instead, the deputies ordered him to stand up.

“I have my time to speak,” Miles protested.

“Well, hurry up and finish speaking,” Heil relented. “You have one minute and 12 seconds.”

That’s when Miles began speaking about the LEDA funding and told Johnson, and Heil, that they should resign.

He also accused Heil of being “hateful” and not paying attention to people speaking during public forums.

“As a matter of fact, I am. I’m even taking notes,” Heil responded.

Earlier, during public forum, a woman urged the board to respond to speakers’ questions. She suggested an item be placed on the agenda of each meeting to do just that.

At the end of the meeting, under a regular agenda item titled “Commissioner Discussion,” Heil explained that the purpose of public forum is for commissioners to hear from constituents, “and this period is the time in which the commission can respond to those comments. That’s sort of what I’m doing, and I tend to do that when I see things that I can actually do something about.”

Heil then reported that Deputy County Manager Garcia was working with groups to assure that the wild horses that roam open space near Placitas – and sometimes roads, causing a safety hazard that was the impetus for the ordinance – have an adequate food supply.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a resolution on that soon,” he said.


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