August saw the Albuquerque Public Schools scandal and crisis go from nothing to a resignation and saw Secretary of State Dianna Duran be charged with more than 60-counts by the Attorney General. In other words, it was a more-than busy month (incidentally, it was also the top traffic month of the year for NM Political Report).
Duran’s legal troubles began after Attorney General Hector Balderas filed 64 charges against her related to the spending of campaign cash. Democrats vowed to impeach Duran if she did not resign (she would not resign until October).
But it was the APS scandal that dominated news for the month.
The story of the APS scandal went from an errant text message from Luis Valentino to Don Moya to Valentino’s resignation in just three weeks. The initial story was the text where Valentino tried to text Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera and instead texted Moya that he wanted “to go after” Moya. Moya was placed on leave, while Valentino confirmed he sent the text.
This invited more scrutiny of APS, including Moya’s clashes with Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez. Martinez pitched a possible contract to a former co-worker who was fired for involvement in a kickback scheme. Valentino called the whole flap—to that point—a “personnel issue forced into the headlines.”
Still, this was the least of Martinez’s worries.
Martinez was handpicked by Luis Valentino, but slowly his effort to, apparently, hide out in Albuquerque began to unravel, first with reports that he did not undergo a required background check.
But it was NM Political Report finding out that Martinez was facing criminal charges of sexual contact with a minor in Denver that turned the scandal to another level. He also faced domestic violence charges in Denver.
Martinez had already resigned, and Valentino said it was “a bad hire,” in the understatement of the year. The revelation eventually led to Valentino’s resignation (but not before multiple meetings by the APD Board of Education).
Meanwhile, a suit by Moya said that Skandera and Gov. Susana Martinez influenced the hire of Jason Martinez (no relation). And Jason Martinez then found himself in jail in Colorado—it turns out he wasn’t supposed to leave the state.
Lost in the shuffle was the question if another hire by APS was a case of nepotism.
The rest of the news from the month
After NM Political Report spoke to two witnesses of the Los Altos Skate Park shooting that left Jaquise Lewis dead, the Albuquerque Police Department also weighed in.
Meanwhile, PED made changes to its teacher evaluation program on how some teachers evaluations were calculated. This came after a two-part series by NM Political Report that looked at how some teachers were being graded based on students and subjects they did not teach.
Meanwhile, school districts were still looking for teachers even as the school year was slated to start.
The Four Corners area was rocked by the Animas River spill. We ran down six things to know about the spill. It also prompted questions if it would spur mining law reform. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency showed up to survey the scene and some called for federal funds for the cleanup.
NM Political Report also spoke to two reporters who were on the ground at sites impacted by the spill and were reporting on stories deeper than just the wire stories of what happened.
The Albuquerque Police Department faced a lawsuit over a case where police stormed a house, shot the family dog with a beanbag gun and arrested a brother and sister. And it was all at the wrong house.
Google, which bought a Moriarty drone company to much fanfare, moved the business and jobs to California, prompting calls for the public money put into the project to be sent back to state coffers. The state argued it came out ahead despite the loss of jobs.
The state wasn’t doing such a good job of keeping track of its finances. A report found that the state couldn’t account for $100 million in funds, making an opinion by an independent auditor impossible.
- NM Political Report followed up on the uncertain fate of New Mexico AIDS Services.
- The mystery of why Jim Lane resigned from his position at the Game and Fish Department was solved when the Albuquerque Journal found inappropriate texts; it led to his resignation from the State Land Commissioner’s office as well.
- The troubled PRC continued to earn that adjective when the commission’s chief of staff resigned following the accidental release of contracts to the Santa Fe New Mexican and a later decision to sue the paper.
- The State Supreme Court ruled that a ban on city of Albuquerque employees serving in the state legislature was legal.
- Valerie Plame-Wilson, a well known Democrat in the state, said Donald Trump wanted her endorsement.