BY CORTNI NUCKLOS
Dear Los Alamos County Council and Manager Steven Lynne,
I’d like to address some false statements and suggestions that were made by Ms. Laurent and Mr. Styron under the Manager’s Report at the June 14 Los Alamos County Council meeting.
I would further like to renew my objections to the County merely slipping a presentation on this matter into the meeting without any mention on the agenda, not allowing those who wish to be heard on the matter to be heard. The interactions of those present showed that notice had clearly been given to the council and staff, but not to the public all such individuals represent.
I. The County’s Concessions
Despite calling my piece “misinformation,” Ms. Laurent repeatedly conceded to points raised by me.
- Ms. Laurent conceded that the County placed vendors that didn’t have permits on the map and with higher priority than Sirphey, which did have a permit, stating, “there was a mistake made as just referenced with Yoga with Jacci. The other is what was also discussed with JPZ.”
- Ms. Laurent conceded that vendors that communicated they would not be taking part in the June 3rd concert were placed on the map. “They were placed on the map issued on a week that they didn’t sign up to vend.”
And yet, the County has not apologized to Sirphey for violating its own protocols in a way that greatly harmed Sirphey.
II. Concerts #1 & #2 & Attempts at Deflection
Ms. Laurent directly credits Sirphey not being present at Concerts #1 and #2 with its treatment at the June 3 concert: “The difference between how staff accommodated other vendors versus Sirphey for the June 3rd concert is specifically stemming from. . . their absence from the first two concert series.”
The Community Services Department (CSD) inappropriately placed Sirphey on the map of the first two concerts after not following its own protocol of contacting vendors about attendance, each week. As Ms. Laurent described to you, “there is a weekly call by staff to confirm attendance.” Had they followed their own protocols, they would have been informed that we could not serve those concerts for reasons out of our control.
Ms. Laurent also claimed “there’s a lot of times if we can’t get hold of somebody, we give them the benefit of the doubt. We did for Sirphey, the first two events.” This is a false, damaging statement that glosses over violations of protocol. Ms. Laurent suggested that they couldn’t reach us. Our contact information is conveniently printed on our application (Figure 1), but no effort was made to contact us in drawing up either of those concert maps, and Sirphey has never failed to respond to any email about the maps. These are facts, not suggestions, and I’m happy to submit an Inspection of Public Records request for those contact attempts to prove they didn’t occur. I’m surprised the Manager’s investigation didn’t look into this, given the conclusions it so confidently drew.
Further, JPZ #2 (Zia Tacos) didn’t operate on June 3 despite being on the map. They weren’t prevented from operating on June 10. This shows that the notion of punishing a vendor that is not present after being placed on a map — even when it is the result of the County failures — is really only applied to Sirphey. I’m surprised, given the amount of time Ms. Laurent and Councilor Israelevitz dedicated to attendance, that the attendance of others was not considered and addressed.
It is worrying that Ms. Laurent has put forth the County’s failure to follow protocol in Concerts #1 and #2 as rather odd justification for their misconduct in Concert #3.
It is worrying that Ms. Laurent’s statements only highlight disparate treatment between Sirphey and another vendor that on information and belief employs a Community Services official’s daughter (addressed below).
And it is most worrying of all that Ms. Laurent suggested falsely that Sirphey had not responded to County communication rather than that the County made no contact for Concerts #1 and #2, making false claims about Sirphey’s conduct in the process.
III. “Trailer, Per Space”
“It is accurate that vendors locations are referred to in the application as one 10×10 ft space, which is the standard tent size you see, or a trailer. Staff processes food truck applications as a trailer. It is the closest to a similar type unit we could call it. One mobile unit that comes in and takes up some space. Trailers and food trucks are equivalent to one 10×10 space, regardless of size, meaning that even though the fee is the same, they might actually physically take up more space than the 10ft x 10 ft tent.” – Ms. Laurent
This is a false statement that glosses over violations of protocol. Councilors referred to the vendor application form after Ms. Laurent’s comments. I’d like to ask you to do so, again. You’ll see that the option for food vendors states: “Sales, Food or High Risk: One 10×10 space or trailer, per space” Trailer, per space. (Figure 2)
Figure 2 – Fee Schedule on Vendor Application Form. Circle Added by Author
Ms. Laurent and Mr. Styron’s comments before this Council that the policy is to charge tents per space and trailers per trailer are simply false. You can read it in plain text on the County’s own paperwork that every vendor signs. That the County hasn’t followed its policy for the large, mostly non-local vendors is evidence of disparate treatment, not that the policy doesn’t exist.
Ms. Laurent also didn’t address that JPZ’s May 18 permit application is for multiple tent spaces, submitting a drawing to the county for a 10ft x 30ft tent (Figure 3) in addition to the excess space needed for their gas tanks, but only a $600 fee was charged. JPZ #1 uses 4+ spaces for its food equipment, keeping gas tanks and freezers in the fourth spot outside of the tent. The correct fee for JPZ #1 is $2400, not $600. It is one of many paying a fraction of the rate the local operations are paying.
Figure 3 – Diagram submitted to CDD by JPZ Concessions for JPZ #1. Circle Added By Author
How is it possible that a properly conducted investigation would come to a conclusion so without merit that it is disproven with a single glance at the permit application forms?
IV. Suggestions that Sirphey’s Language Wasn’t Clear on Concert Participation
According to Ms. Laurent’s comments,“the difference between how staff accommodated other vendors versus Sirphey for the June 3 concert is specifically stemming from Sirphey’s decision that week not to commit. . .”
The County did not provide any sort of standard by which CSD determines how clear a vendor is, but I personally find the communication quite clear, even telling county staff what appliances it would be bringing on June 3rd. Read for yourself:
- Pre-Season: Sirphey reserved “ALL” concerts on May 16, 2022.
- May 20 Concert: County made no effort to contact Sirphey about attendance.
- May 27 Concert: County made no effort to contact Sirphey about attendance.
- June 3 Concert: “At this time, I do not feel comfortable giving up any of the reserved dates we applied, were granted, and paid for, or being moved to a non-electric spot as we provide food.”
- June 3 Concert: “In order to be able to operate, I need to plug in 4 commercial items — a rice warmer, two steam tables, and a register.”
- June 10 Concert: “I have been planning to vend every week. That is why I bought the full season.”
- June 17 Concert: County made no effort to contact Sirphey about attendance.
What is inconsistent is not Sirphey’s language or Sirphey’s actions, but whether the County will bother to reach out about attendance and listen to the answer. For four of the five concerts, so far, the County has not followed this protocol.
V. Cord Covers:
“Uh, specifically with the incident on June 3, [Community Services Department] had, they had cords and the covers ready for that event. So if we know in advance that there’s an issue, we can accommodate small, small ones like that.” – Mr. Styron, Council Meeting on June 14
“I called Brendan about it, and it sounds like you can still run a cord to the outlet but will need cord covers.” – Lauren McDaniel, LACDC, June 3
“The County and or most vendors do not have proper cable covers to span that distance [between the outlet and Sirphey’s tent].” – Brendan Tuning to the Fire Marshall, June 3
Mr. Styron stated that the CSD had cord covers it could have provided Sirphey had they been requested. But when Prashant Jain reached out to the Fire Marshall about not having cord covers, she provided the information to Community Services, who responded that the County does not, in fact, have cord covers that would connect Sirphey to electricity. This aligns with statements from Lauren McDaniel about conversations she had with the same officials about Sirphey and the need for cord covers on June 3.
There are only two possible conclusions – Mr. Styron and Ms. Laurent provided false statements to the Council and public or Community Services provided false statements to the Fire Marshall and LACDC on the day of the concert. It is also clear that Mr. Styron made false statements that Community Services did not know that Sirphey would need cord covers.
VI. Does Staff Accommodate When “Feasible?”
Ms Laurent stated: “Staff does accommodate this, very important vendor changes when foreseeable and when feasible.” So, let’s examine what changes would have been necessary to give Sirphey the spot it reserved, paid for, and confirmed attendance for.
Six entities – JPZ #1, Zia Tacos (JPZ #2), Key Club, Hecho in Taos, Hippy Chique Henna, and Zero Waste (County) — were assigned paved spots with easy access to electricity.
- Neither JPZ #1 nor JPZ #2 even had permits to operate on June 3rd, so only assigning vendors with permits spaces would have freed up five spaces.
- JPZ #2 informed the CSD that they had a generator and would not use electricity, Likewise, the County’s own tent, Zero Waste, did not utilize any electricity. Only giving the electrical spots to those who request and need them would have freed up at least two spots.
- The Key Club asked to be placed on the grass, so even listening to vendors would have freed up that spot.
- And though I don’t agree that vendors that paid $400 for what they believed would be a paved, electrical spot should receive something less, Ms. Laurent has stated that priority for these spots goes to restaurants over other vendors. The County following this policy would have freed up even more spots.
Truly, it seems that if the County had actually followed its tiered protocols for June 3, only Sirphey and Hecho in Taos would have been operating in those spots. It is very difficult for me to see how each and every one of the above changes was deemed unfeasible by the County, forcing them to stop Sirphey from operating.
VII. Alarming Realities the Manager’s Report Should Have Uncovered
I do not have any more access to County records than the County does. If I can submit a few basic, relevant IPRA requests that turn up major concerns, the County should be no less able to find that same information in any proper investigation.
I did have to follow up multiple times on records that were not furnished in the initial response to receive this information, and the lack of transparency is alarming to me. If they had nothing to hide, they had nothing to hide.
A CSD official solicited a job for their child from a vendor who received improper treatment. Text messages between a CSD official and JPZ Concessions open with the owner of JPZ identifying himself, but the very next message is a county official stating on May 24 that “my daughter would like to work for you on Friday nights.” (Figure 4) One week later, in the lead-up to June 3, the vendor asked for a food tent for his wife. The official tells him that so long as he submits paperwork by Wednesday, “we can get her in,” a guarantee the official had no ability to make but confidently did. No paperwork was submitted by JPZ for their second tent, and yet, they were in fact given a tent on June 3. This is, of course, in addition to the 4-space JPZ #1 tent that was allowed to operate without a permit just one week after agreeing to employ the child of a CSD official.
Figure 4 – Text Messages Between CSD Official and JPZ Owner. Name Redacted by Author
A CDD official photocopied one application to submit as another without that vendor submitting correct paperwork or even signing the permit application. The photocopy does not match with the actual operation of that tent, nor was it properly handled, nor was it ever properly signed, though the County has presented it as a signed record.
Ms. Laurent, speaking of JPZ, said: “they did come in and submitted a second application and payment on May 31 for an additional space.” Except they didn’t. Having actually looked at the application in question, it is a photocopy of an entirely different application and set-up. A CDD official has used white out to block out a few things, but unless Zia Tacos is now 30 ft wide, selling funnel cakes, and reserving zero concert dates, this isn’t their paperwork. And miraculously, this paperwork that was generated on May 31 is signed on May 18.
I’m certain I can’t be the only person uncomfortable with CDD officials creating “signed” documents (Figure 5) with a photocopier and white-out. And I’m certain I’m not the only one uncomfortable with the extent of Ms. Laurent’s false statements to Council and the public on the matter. Did the Manager’s investigation choose to verify any of the information they shared with the public? And in promising more to come, I hope Ms. Laurent doesn’t mean more of the same.
Figure 5 – Photocopied signature on JPZ #2 permit generated by a County official 13 days after the signature.
VIII. What I’m Requesting:
I would like a public apology from the Manager’s Office and Community Services for the series of false and often damaging statements, below.
- Ms. Laurent’s statements that Sirphey was expected to tell CSD it would not be able to attend two concerts in contravention of CSD policy
- Ms. Laurent’s statements that Sirphey could not be contacted despite providing contact information and despite no attempted contact from LAC
- Ms. Laurent’s statements that a trailer of any size is equivalent to a 10 x 10 tent in the County’s application and fee structure
- Ms. Laurent’s statements that JPZ submitted paperwork for Zia Tacos on May 3
- Ms. Laurent’s statements that JPZ is only an outlier in that it applied for a 2nd tent rather than that its first tent uses four 10ft x 10ft spaces for the price of one
- Mr. Styron’s comment that cord covers were available to Sirphey or CSD’s June 3 comments that they weren’t.
- Mr. Styron’s comments that CSD was not made aware that Sirphey needed cord covers
I would like Council to consider the concerning failures of the Manager’s investigation and report, below, and insist upon a proper investigation.
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to even read the application form, policy, and fee structure for vendors to the point of providing false information to the Council and public
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to investigate and include LAC’s approach to vendors other than Sirphey missing a concert
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to investigate whether the distance between Sirphey and electricity could even be spanned by available cord covers before including it in the report.
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to check whether Sirphey’s need for cord covers was conveyed to CSD before including it in the report
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to address the vendors given higher priority on the map that had informed CSD that they did not need electricity (JPZ #2) or that they would like to be on the grass (Key Club).
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to address why the many possible and suggested (see Fire Marshall’s communication with CSD) changes that would have allowed everyone to operate were unfeasible, as Ms. Laurent mentioned.
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to address major concerns and deficiencies in the application for JPZ #2’s permit before referencing it in the report and promising even more to come.
- The failure of the Manager’s investigation to address that a CSD official wrote “my daughter would like to work for you on Friday nights,” to a vendor that is now known to be paying a small fraction of the appropriate rate and that was allowed to operate without a permit.
I would like the Council and/or Manager’s Office to call for the following:
- Issuing a refund to every operation that was forced to pay the full rate while large, outside entities have paid a fraction of that rate to vend
- Force entities that have been allowed to operate at a lower rate to pay the full rate in accordance with the paperwork they signed in order to be placed on the same map as the rest of us
- Issue a public apology for not following the fee schedule and protocol as explicitly laid out, creating an unconscionable level of disparate treatment.