August 25, 2015

Gov orders review of school background checks after APS debacle

As Albuquerque Public Schools remains in the thick of scandal, Gov. Susana Martinez is ordering a review of background check policies in all New Mexico school districts.

Susana MartinezSusana Martinez announced Tuesday that the state Public Safety Department and Public Education Department will conduct a “thorough compliance review” to make sure each district is performing “timely” background checks of its employees.

The order follows New Mexico Political Report’s revelation last week that now former APS Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez was arrested in 2013 in Denver on charges of sexual assault of a child. Jason Martinez, who was also arrested earlier this year on two violent assault charges, is facing trial in Denver this October.

A warrant is currently out for Jason Martinez’ arrest for breaking pretrial conditions that bar him from leaving Colorado without court approval.

“Jason Martinez should have never been hired at Albuquerque Public Schools; he has no business being around children,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “APS dropped the ball, and it’s completely unacceptable.”

The governor’s action follows Attorney General Hector Balderas’ announcement that his office will conduct a security assessment of APS’ “safety breach” in hiring someone with pending criminal charges.

Susana Martinez’ news release says her order will make sure all state school district and charter school background checks comply with state law.

“Parents need to know our schools are following the law when it comes to keeping child predators out of contact with our kids,” Department of Public Safety Secretary Greg Fouratt said in a statement. “A recent failure to follow policy has prompted this immediate and necessary review.”

The announcement comes just a day after Susana Martinez was implicated in a whistleblower lawsuit for intervening in the deputy superintendent position. APS Chief Financial Officer Don Moya, who is currently on leave after clashing with Jason Martinez, says that he was offered the job before Susana Martinez and Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera intervened with APS superintendent Luis Valentino and recommended Jason Martinez instead.

Jason Martinez ultimately got the $160,000 a year job.