August 24, 2015

Suit: Gov, PED secretary influenced APS deputy superintendent hire

Courtesy Don Moya

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The latest development in the ongoing Albuquerque Public Schools scandal says Gov. Susana Martinez and state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera had a hand in the hire of the disgraced former deputy superintendent of the school district.

Courtesy Don Moya

Courtesy Don Moya

The chief financial officer for Albuquerque Public Schools filed a lawsuit against his employer Monday afternoon, alleging a civil conspiracy against him and violations of his whistleblower rights.

A spokesman for Skandera denied the allegations, saying he “has an ax to grind.”

Don Moya’s lawsuit alleges that embattled APS Superintendent Luis Valentino originally offered Moya the position of deputy superintendent. Valentino rescinded the offer after a meeting with Susana Martinez and Skandera on June 12, according to the suit. Moya is the chief financial officer of APS.

The lawsuit also alleges that Valentino hired Jason Martinez as his deputy “at the urging of Skandera and Governor Susana Martinez.”

Jason Martinez never completed a required criminal background check and abruptly resigned from APS last week. New Mexico Political Report later uncovered that Jason Martinez was facing child sexual assault charges in Colorado from 2013. He faces a trial in October in Denver district court.

Jason Martinez also faces domestic assault charges from earlier this year.

Moya, who is now on paid administrative leave, is seeking damages and attorney’s fees in the lawsuit, maintaining he’s experienced “emotional distress” throughout the entire process.

The suit names the APS board, Valentino and Skandera as defendants in the suit.

Skandera denied the allegations through state Public Education Department spokesman Robert McEntyre.

“These are false and unsubstantiated claims being peddled by a disgruntled APS employee who served under Bill Richardson and clearly has an ax to grind,” McEntyre wrote in a prepared statement. “As the Secretary has said before, Jason Martinez should have never been hired in the first place.”

Moya previously served as a deputy cabinet secretary in the state Public Education Department under former Gov. Richardson’s administration.

A spokesman for the governor’s office didn’t return New Mexico Political Report’s Monday afternoon call and email asking for a comment on the lawsuit.

APS spokesman Rigo Chavez wouldn’t comment on the allegations, stating that the school district doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits.

After the alleged meeting between Susana Martinez, Valentino and Skandera, the suit says, “Valentino called Mr. Moya and informed him that the Governor and Skandera believed Mr. Moya did not fully support the ‘Governor’s education agenda.'” The suit also alleges that both Susana Martinez and Skandera approved of and urged Valentino to hire Jason Martinez.

Dispute with Jason Martinez

The suit details Moya’s side of the now-public dispute with Jason Martinez over a potential APS contract that Moya opposed. Moya alleges that Jason Martinez wanted to give a contract to Advanced Network Management “for the benefit of himself and Bud Bullard in violation of the laws of New Mexico.”

Bullard, whom Jason Martinez previously worked with at Denver Public Schools, was busted at that job in 2013 for taking lavish kickbacks from school contractors.

Originally, Jason Martinez wanted to use an existing state price agreement to give work to Advanced Network Management. Moya claimed that the existing price agreement didn’t cover the scope of the work that Jason Martinez wanted done.

Moya also informed Valentino and his chief of staff, Toni Cordova, about Jason Martinez’ “nefarious activities” with taking kickbacks while at Denver Public Schools, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Jason Martinez and APS nevertheless began drafting a request for proposals for the work “as part of a blatant effort to circumvent the requirements of the New Mexico Procurement Code and guarantee that [Advanced Network Management] would get additional work and funds.”

Soon after, Valentino sent Moya the infamous mistaken text message that was apparently meant for Skandera. The text stated that Valentino was going after Moya in the next few weeks and asked her for “any ideas.”

Suit alleges retaliation

Moya was placed on administrative leave Aug. 7, seven hours after he received the text message, according to his attorney Kate Ferlic. This also came just days after the email exchange between Jason Martinez and Moya.

The lawsuit alleges this was retaliation from both Valentino and Skandera “in order to make it easier for Jason Martinez to provide additional work and funds to [Advanced Network Management].” It also alleges Valentino and Skandera “wished to punish [Moya] for reporting his good faith belief that Jason Martinez was committing or intended to commit unlawful or improper acts.”

Ferlic described the lawsuit as “a very strong Whistleblower Protection Act claim.”

“Don should be lauded as a hero in the district for bringing this to the [school] board’s attention and the superintendent’s attention,” she said. “When he did, the retaliation was clear and swift.”

  Don Moya whistleblower suit