Former Region II Narcotic Taskforce director's personnel file shines

Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The personnel file of the former director of the Region II Narcotics Task Force contains only positive feedback, according to a review of the documents conducted by The Daily Times.

Neil Haws served as director of the task force for nearly six years until San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen demoted him earlier this month.

Haws signed a waiver to allow The Daily Times access to his personnel file.

The file dates back to when Haws became a full-time deputy with the sheriff's office in 1998. The documents detail that since then Haws has received 12 raises, four promotions, $200 in Outback Steakhouse gift cards and two lapel pins for taking no sick leave during four separate years, six commendations, an exceptional service medal and 13 evaluations. The evaluations rate his performance from 1998 to 2004 as "very good" and from 2005 to 2010 as "excellent."

In 2007, former Sheriff Bob Melton wrote in Haws' evaluation, "I cannot imagine not having you here. I enjoy working with you. You're a good man."

Haws was also involved in operation Brown ICE, a multi-agency sting that charged 29 people with trafficking methamphetamine.

No documents in his file indicate he has ever been disciplined.

"I think the only thing I've ever been talked to about is I slept in for work when I was a deputy one day," Haws said.

Christesen on Thursday evening declined to comment for this article, saying he was still gathering materials for his response.

County policy states supervisors should evaluate their employees annually near the anniversary of their hiring. If supervisors fail to evaluate their employees, the county's Human Resources Department must notify the county executive officer, who is Kim Carpenter.

Christesen has been Haws' supervisor since the sheriff took office in 2010, but he has completed no evaluations of Haws since then, according to Haws' personnel file. Haws confirmed this.

County Chief Human Resources Officer Charlene Scott has not notified Carpenter of this, Carpenter said.

Scott referred questions to the county's legal department.

County Deputy Attorney Doug Echols said he himself hasn't been evaluated in at least four years, and neither have many other employees, because the county does not have enough money to provide raises.

Echols couldn't say why Christesen hasn't evaluated Haws, and he said nothing can be done if Christesen does not evaluate him.

"The CEO or the commission cannot make him do anything," he said. "He reports to the people. That's his boss."

Carpenter said Haws was Region II's director for longer than most other directors, and directors come and go. Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe also said the position is transitory.

The Region II task force investigates drug-related crimes in the county. It includes agents from the three police departments in the county, Homeland Security and the sheriff's office.

Former and current police chiefs in the area say Haws' leadership was exceptional and his performance was superb.

In the past year, under Haws' leadership, Region II seized about 12 pounds of meth, conducted 202 investigations that led to 120 arrests, filed 42 search warrants and confiscated roughly $205,000 in currency, cars, guns, surveillance cameras, grow lights and other evidence, according to the task force's acting director Phil Goodwin.

Goodwin, who is a Farmington Police Department sergeant and worked under Haws for four years, said the task force's activity has been average for the past three years.

He declined to answer questions about Haws' demotion.

"While I was chief, Neil did a great job at Region II," said Kyle Westall, Farmington's police chief from 2011 to 2013. He would not comment further.

Aztec Police Chief Mike Heal said Haws was responsive, took care of issues in Aztec and often secured grants for Region II. When asked if Haws' demotion was unusual, he said he learned of it from an article published on Sunday in The Daily Times.

"I had no prior knowledge that they were planning on taking him out and removing him," he said, adding he does not know why Haws was demoted.

Hebbe said Haws developed his crew well. He would not comment on why Haws was removed, saying he has only been chief for four months and the matter is an internal sheriff's office issue.

"I think people get moved," he said. "And in this case, he got moved."

Mike Kovacs, who recently retired as police chief in Bloomfield, said Christesen demoted Haws because Haws supported Kovacs — not Christesen — in the recent primary election. Another reason he cited is Neil Haws' wife, Lisa Haws, and three other sheriff's office employees filed a lawsuit against Christesen and other defendants alleging unjust demotions, work-place harassment and demands to support Christesen's re-election campaign.

Kovacs said Christesen's actions against Haws are retaliation.

"Like I said, it's just unbelievable that this kind of move was made," he said.

Haws, who previously worked at the Region II headquarters, was reassigned on Tuesday to the sheriff's office. He says he has not been told what his new responsibilities will be. Meanwhile, he said, he's writing a manual.

"I don't have any duties or assignments just yet," he said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.