October 20, 2015

PED employee denies signing faked license documents

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A consultant with the state Public Education Department is denying reports that she signed off on a top administrator’s fraudulent transcript to obtain an administrative state license.

Erasing

In a statement to media released this afternoon, Michelle Lewis said she never took part in “what appears [to be a] a scheme to assist in something that could compromise my integrity.”

Related Story: A second employee stepped forward to corroborate Lewis’ statement.

“I state unequivocally that I did not sign, nor did I lend my signature to any of the documents relative to the licenses in question,” Lewis said.

Lewis also said she warned her supervisors and PED’s ethics bureau about discrepancies in Trujillo’s license “well over a year ago.”

Her name appeared over the weekend in an explosive Las Vegas Optic investigation that revealed Charles E. Trujillo, the superintendent of Mora Independent Schools District, faked his educator credentials in order to qualify for his current job.

In 2013, Trujillo worked at PED in charge of the proper issuance of very things he faked documents to receive—state educator licenses. The Optic story, which took five months of research, revealed that Trujillo forged his New Mexico Highlands University transcript to show that he had a Master’s Degree and exaggerated his teaching and administrative experience to qualify for his administrative license.

One part of the story mentions that Lewis sent for and vouched for Trujillo’s Highlands University transcripts to the Mora district when he was in the running for the superintendent position.

But Lewis denies ever signing or sending this letter to Mora.

“If someone forged or otherwise attached my signature to any documents related to this matter, I fully expect them to be appropriately dealt with under the law,” she said.

She added that the controversy surrounding Trujillo’s forged license “appears to be a scheme to assist in something that could compromise my integrity and professional licensure as an educator.”

New Mexico Political Report reached out on Tuesday afternoon to PED spokesman Robert McEntyre for a comment on Lewis’ statement. We’ll update this post once he responds.

Lewis’ relationship with her employer has been sometimes rocky in the past. In the summer of 2011, she was one of the 33 employees laid off in a controversial downsizing at the education department.

At the time, Lewis was president of Communications Workers of America Local 7076, a union which has been critical of PED Secretary Hanna Skandera’s policies. She was later offered another job at lower pay.

“Those who know me personally are aware that it has been my practice as a public employee to speak truth to power, despite having been retaliated in the past,” she said.

Lewis added that any future public comments she makes on the Trujillo controversy “will be to law enforcement.”

Read Lewis’ full statement:

I have seen my name bandied about in a few newspaper articles this weekend and today, regarding what appears to be an effort to conceal an inappropriate, if not illegal, issuance of a license or licenses for a former New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) employee, who happens to have been my boss. I want ot make it very clear that I have never assented to that issuance of these reported licenses nor have I communicated with the chairman of the school board regarding copies/official transcripts belonging to Mr. Charles Trujillo. I did not participate as a public employee of the state of New Mexico or as a private individual in what appears to be a scheme to assist in something that could compromise my integrity and personal licensure as an educator. Those who know me personally are aware that it has been my practice as a public employee to speak truth to power, despite having been retaliated against in the past. In this particular instance, I informed my supervisors as well as the ethics bureau within the PED well over a year ago that something was wrong with the issuance of the licenses that are now mentioned in newspaper reports. I state unequivocally that I did not sign, nor did I lend my signature to any of the documents relative to the licenses in question nor did I have any communications with the Mora Independent Schools Board. Any further statements I make will be to law enforcement individuals. I fully expect, and have been assured by PED officials, that law enforcement is abreast of this situation and will investigate this matter. I hope reporters will correct the misleading reports made over the last few days. And again, I state clearly here and now that I did not sign, nor was I involved with, the issuance of the licenses of with the correspondence about which they have been writing about. If someone forged or otherwise attached my signature to any documents related to this matter, I fully expect them to be appropriately dealt with under the law.

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