LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Elmo Baca has always loved historic buildings. He was born in Las Vegas, a Wild West city that’s one of the most historic in New Mexico, home to more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. After he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Yale University, Baca moved home for the summer, unsure what to do next. An elderly artist who lived in a restored adobe house near the city plaza changed his life with a single sentence. “This town needs you,” she told him.
Public documents show the superintendent of a school district in Sandoval County worked for four months in 2015 on an expired state educator license. But that superintendent, Allan Tapia of Bernalillo Municipal Schools, blames the state Public Education Department for not processing his license on time. “If they didn’t process it on their end, I didn’t have control over that,” he said in an interview. The documents, obtained through public records requests to the state by NM Political Report, show a 115-day gap between the expiration of Tapia’s administrative license and its renewal by the state Public Education Department last year. They also show the state’s renewal of Tapia’s administrative license came nearly four months after his previous license expired.
A Mora superintendent who faked his educator license credentials officially resigned last Friday, a week and a half after surrendering his license to the state Public Education Department. The Board of Education for the Mora Independent School District released a statement on the same day criticizing Charles Trujillo, who was named superintendent just earlier this year. “We express our deep disappointment that Mr. Trujillo chose to use deception and counterfeit to ultimately obtain his employment with the School District by utilizing an elaborate hoax, and the Board (h)as now acted to bring these lies to a final conclusion,” the school board wrote, as reported by Las Vegas Optic. “The Board of Education shares your concerns and that of the New Mexico Department of Public Education (“PED”) with regard to the reprehensible conduct of Mr. Trujillo who while employed with PED falsely obtain(ed) licensure and regarding the subsequent use of public funds used to pay for his salary by school districts since the PED issued his unearned licenses.”
The newspaper called the board’s action a “major shift,” noting that the board president did not take the charges seriously when he was first notified about the discrepancies. When the Optic first informed George Trujillo that it would be publishing a story that Charles Trujillo had faked his credentials in order to obtain his administrative license, George Trujillo issued a statement supporting Charles Trujillo and chalking the Optic’s story up to “small town politics.” Trujillo’s fallout comes after a Las Vegas Optic investigation published last month that revealed his faulty credentials.
Mora Independent Schools must stop paying the superintendent who reportedly faked his credentials, the Public Education Department secretary said. The district’s school board had previously voted to allow Charles Trujillo to continue receiving pay while the allegations were investigated. But the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Hanna Skandera says that he cannot be paid. “There is no further investigation necessary with regard to his licensure status or his eligibility for employment,” Skandera wrote in a letter to the school district. “Should the district refuse to comply with the law, please be advised the [Public Education Department] will take all action as authorized by law to correct the situation.” The New Mexican says that while Trujillo has yet to resign, an agenda item on the Mora school board’s next meeting says they will accept his resignation.
A second state Public Education Department employee is claiming she previously raised concerns about the faked credentials of a high-level administrator. Susan Benavidez, who worked in the agency’s licensure bureau until last month, released a statement to media today corroborating another employee’s recent claims about Charles Trujillo. Benavidez also said she raised her own concerns, which “fell on deaf ears.” Trujillo, the superintendent of Mora Independent Schools District, was the subject of a Las Vegas Optic investigation that revealed he faked his credentials to get an educator license from PED. Trujillo also headed PED’s licensure bureau in 2013.
The embattled superintendent at Mora Independent Schools surrendered his education licenses following a report that found he faked credentials to get the position. The allegations against Charles Trujillo were first reported by the Las Vegas Optic following a months-long investigation. After the report, multiple media outlets, including New Mexico Political Report, followed up on the report. One Public Education Department employee whose signature was on some of the faked credentials said she did not sign the papers and that she had raised concerns about Trujillo’s credentials to PED officials “well over a year ago.” PED spokesman Robert McEntyre acknowledged to media outlets Tuesday that the document with Lewis’ signature doesn’t appear to be authentic.
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. 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.
A Las Vegas Optic investigation into whether a Mora superintendent forged his state educator administration credentials is prompting at least two outside investigations into the matter. Over the weekend, the newspaper ran a story it had been working on for five months concluding that Mora Independent Schools District Superintendent Charles E. Trujillo, in the story’s own words, “faked his credentials in order to qualify for the administrative license he received.” The discrepancies include Trujillo faking a Highlands University transcript to show that he had a Master’s Degree, lying that he was employed as an education administrator for seven years instead of two and a half years and exaggerating that he worked as an adjunct instructor at Luna Community College for six years instead of three years. The state Public Education Department (PED), according to the Optic story, gave Trujillo an administrative license based on his Master’s Degree, for having more than six years experience as an education administrator and more than six years experience as an instructor. All ended up being not true, according to the Optic.