September 14, 2015

APS board recall effort over before it even began

Protesters at Albuquerque Public Schools. Photo Credit: Joey Peters

An effort to recall an Albuquerque Public Schools board member ended not with a bang, but a whimper.

Protests outside of Albuquerque Public Schools ahead of Valentino's resignation. Photo: Joey Peters

Protests outside of Albuquerque Public Schools ahead of Valentino’s resignation. Photo: Joey Peters

ABQ Free Press reported Monday that the parent behind the effort to remove Peggy Muller-Aragon from the board will withdraw his petition on Tuesday afternoon. The parent, Jacob Gil, cited a lack of legal representation ahead of a hearing where a judge would determine if a recall effort could move forward.

Gil did say that if he receives legal counsel, he will refile.

From ABQ Free Press:

With a hearing in the case scheduled for Sept. 17, and with no lawyers to help him, Gil said he asked the Robles firm to delay the hearing for two weeks so he could find another lawyer. He said the firm refused his request.

“On Thursday, I was notified by the firm that was going to be helping us that they now had a conflict of interest and had to withdraw,” Gil said. “And that left us without legal counsel. So tomorrow at 1 p.m. we will withdraw the recall petition. We will refile it when we have legal counsel.”

Gil initially sought to recall six of the seven members of the APS board. He then pared this down to just one when he found out if the board was left without a quorum, the Public Education Department secretary would be able to choose replacements.

Valentino resignation

Gil was upset over how the school board handled the resignation of former APS superintendent Luis Valentino. Valentino resigned after a series of controversies, including the hire of Jason Martinez as deputy superintendent.

Martinez never completed a background check. A day after Martinez resigned, New Mexico Political Report reported that Martinez was facing trial for sexual assault of a child in Colorado. Martinez also faces domestic violence charges in Colorado.

Muller-Aragon refused to go into an executive session to discuss the personnel matter in multiple meetings of the school board. She said she wanted the process to be more transparent. State law allows public entities to go into an executive session to discuss personnel matters.

The board ultimately agreed to a $100,000 buyout for Valentino, just two months after he started on the job.

“Malfeasance or misfeasance” required

The state constitution says that school board officials can be subject to recall elections.

Those seeking to recall school board officials must prove “malfeasance or misfeasance in office or violation of the oath of office” by the board member according to the state constitution.

A district court judge decides if there is “malfeasance or misfeasance” when members of the public want to recall a county official or school board member. These are the only officials who are subject to recalls according to the state constitution, although municipalities create their own laws when it comes to municipal elected officials.

Gil has argued that Muller-Aragon is too close to the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez and her PED secretary, Hanna Skandera.

Valentino is the second superintendent to resign before completing his contract. Winston Brooks also resigned and received a buyout.