County manager says he hopes to name jail administrator by middle of week

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

County Manager Lance Pyle said he hopes to name a detention administrator by the middle of this week, to be selected from three finalists.

The candidates — the current interim jail administrator, a retired warden and a penitentiary program coordinator — have completed interviews with a panel that included Pyle, the county’s finance director, IT director and two commissioners.

Interviews were completed Friday, and Pyle said he and the panel would score the applicants, and he would work towards making a selection.

The position has been vacant since Lois Bean was fired in September. It has been the recent subject of controversy centered on whether an administrator should be hired or Sheriff Matt Murray should run the jail.

Thursday, Murray announced he was relinquishing command of the jail to the county and Interim Administrator Kirk Roberts, effective Tuesday.

Roberts has been managing the facility since Feb. 21, when then-Interim Administrator Carlos Ortiz and several members of his command staff walked off the job following an escape attempt.

In his letter relinquishing command, Murray said during his command, shared with Roberts, the hiring process for jail staff was enhanced; staff received training; a lower cost, higher quality food contract was obtained; overtime decreased; and a new digital management system was implemented.

Pyle provided candidates’ resumes to the Clovis News Journal:

Roberts has almost 15 years experience in law enforcement with the Department of Public Safety, Bernallio County Sheriff’s Department, Texico and, as recently as 2006, the Clovis Police Department, according to his resume.

Prior to being hired at the jail he was working as a compliance and safety officer for Stephens Construction and Ready Mix.

Repeated attempts to reach Roberts Friday and Saturday were unsuccessful.

Another candidate is Keith Norwood, who retired in December from the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

In his most recent position with the state, Norwood, a Belen resident, worked as deputy chief of internal audits, standards and compliance, according to his resume.

Prior to that, he served as deputy warden of the New Mexico Penitentiary in Santa Fe and has 25 years experience with DoC, eight of which he served as warden.

Efforts to locate Norwood for comment Friday and Saturday were unsuccessful.

Candidate David Wortham said he interviewed for the position Friday.

An Oklahoma resident working as the Faith and Character Community Program Coordinator in the Oklahoma State Reformatory, Wortham said he has 19 years of corrections experience including managing a housing unit, serving as a correctional officer, case manager, programs and procedures officer.

Wortham said he learned of Curry County’s position recently while visiting his wife’s family in Portales.

He said he has been researching the county jail and while, “it is a challenge, of course,” he said, “These are no different issues than every correctional facility faces.”

Wortham said structured policy and procedures are how he believes most of the problems can be corrected.

Wortham said he does have concerns about the position, namely the political climate surrounding the jail and its management, referring to the most recent rift between Murray and the county.

“It’s a lot of politics involved,” he said. “(I would be) leaving a 19-year job to go somewhere where there’s a political battle.”

Wortham said he likes the area and believes he can do a good job.