Sheriff's office continues to dodge scholarship fund questions

Posted at: 04/19/2013 8:41 PM
Updated at: 04/20/2013 1:41 PM
By: Gadi Schwartz, KOB 4 On Your Side

A Rio Arriba County couple said they felt like they were paying a bribe to the sheriff while trying to get their father out of a traffic ticket.

It's the latest development in a 4 On Your Side investigation so concerning that the FBI has also stepped in.

Drivers who were pulled over by deputies are being asked for $500 to go to a scholarship fund. And, in exchange, they're tickets are dropped.

"It seemed like a bribe, from the very beginning even when my dad told me over the phone before we even met with (Tommy) Rodella to me it was fishy and I let him know and he was like that doesn't sound right," the couple said.

The woman and her husband said late last year her father was pulled over and arrested. But a few weeks later Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella offered them a one-time deal: Pay $500 dollars to a charity and get off scot free.

But the couple said Rodella made it clear where he wanted the money to go.

“What did they say when it came to filling out the scholarship fund he just kind of told my dad you can pick any of these scholarship funds that you want, it doesn't really matter to us but of course we are going to ask for you to fund us so go ahead it's your choice,” the couple said. "It made it seem like well you have a choice but you don't – we’d appreciate it if you would do it to this one.”

We tried asking about the fund- and whether the sheriff had asked this couple and others for the money, but the sheriff and the department’s spokesperson declined to comment on the allegations.

It does not appear there has ever been a scholarship recipient of the fund since it was set up sometime in the last year.