Warrant Served For Free Tickets

The Bernalillo County Sheriffs Department in New Mexico has opened a criminal investigation involving free tickets at Hard Rock Casino Albuquerque Presents The Pavilion.

A local TV news investigation recently uncovered that county politicians accepted more than $80,000 in free tickets acquired originally from facility operator Live Nation. Meanwhile, sheriffs deputies were paid $34 an hour to handle security at the shows, rather than a more common $47 an hour.

“It does appear that the billings to Live Nation were different and less than other people requesting the overtime of the sheriff’s department,” Sheriff Dan Houston told KRQE-TV.

Houston has not said who he is targeting, but investigators executed a search warrant June 24 on the county’s Public Information Department to get documents after it appeared county employees ignored an earlier request, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The county administration was not happy, claiming documents were available for months to anyone who asked.

“We are surprised and disappointed at the action the sheriff chose to take today,” interim County Manager Tom Zdunek said in a statement. “It was not necessary, and appears to indicate a level of distrust that is disheartening; however, we intend to cooperate fully with the investigation.”

Live Nation made an agreement to trade concert tickets for lower payments to deputies, according to KRQE. However, the tickets wound up in the hands of politicians and Houston is investigating if a sweetheart deal was cut at taxpayers’ expense.

The deal began as about a dozen tickets but in 2009 or 2010 increased, without an agreement in writing, to about 20 more tickets and a luxury box for the county manager’s office for every concert, according to the Journal.

“We will cooperate fully in any investigation but cannot comment at this time due to the pending investigation,” a Live Nation spokeswoman told Pollstar.