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Thursday, August 27, 2015

More APS Drama Today And It Seems More To Come; Our Continuing Coverage, Plus: That Other Crisis; No Firing For APD Officer's Illegal Database Check 

Luis Valentino (Brose ABQ Journal)
  • The APS School Board met for over four and half hours Thursday morning but announced it still has not decided the fate of APS Superintendent Luis Valentino. The board will meet for a third time on the matter at 7 a.m. Monday.
One of the city's most sensational scandals in its history will deliver more drama today but it is far from clear whether it will be the closing act.

The ABQ School Board meets this morning to settle the fate of embattled ABQ Public Schools Superintendent Luis Valentino. The surprise would be if he is actually permitted to stay in the Duke City.

Jason Martinez, the man Valentino hired as his deputy superintendent, languishes in a Denver jail facing charges of sexually abusing children as well as assaulting his boyfriend The charges were never disclosed to APS and the public because Martinez's criminal background check was derailed. The stunning display of incompetence will haunt Valentino for the rest of his career and further tarnish the image of a city already reeling from the APD crisis and the going nowhere economy.

Despite the gravity of the charges and the loss of trust and confidence, Valentino pleaded his case to the media only hours before the board was slated to meet. He wants to hang on when the community wants him hanged (figuratively speaking, of course). As they would say over in Texas, Valentino is now as welcome in ABQ as a porcupine at a nudist colony.

Once Valentino is out of the way the pressing issue will be those charges from APS Chief Financial Officer Don Moya that Gov. Martinez and Sec. of Education Skandera told Valentino to hire Jason Martinez, a charge Moya levels in a lawsuit and that the Guv's office calls "absurd."

In his media rounds Valentino has been giving cover to Guv Martinez and Skandera, saying he was solely responsible for the hire. The one person who has not been heard from is Jason Martinez which brings us to this Legal Beagle's take:

Jason Martinez is going to be locked up with no bond or very high bond since he is going to be considered a flight risk for not notifying the court of his out of state move. Likely that means he stays in jail until trial or a plea deal. Meanwhile, he obviously knows a lot about the push to bring in that Denver firm on a sole source contract deal that Moya opposed. Can he link that contract back to Gov. Martinez/Skandera and if so what is it worth in terms of getting him a bit of a break on his situation?

Interesting stuff. Of course, anything Jason Martinez might say will be called into question given his background. But the relationship--if any--between the Martinez administration and Jason Martinez has yet to be fully explored. When and if it is, will there be surprises?

GREASY MOTIVE?

ABQ activist Barbara Grothus comes with her take on Facebook:

It looks to me like the impetus to hire Jason Martinez was based on the interest of Skandera and or the Governor to push a contract with another of their scam service providers. Surely they did not know of the sexual assault charges against him. No doubt the contractor pushed his guy their way, and their primary interest was to get a contract "greased" as we have seen already in the APD contract for Taser. It blew up on them, and now they are doing their best to cover this with the tired "Richardson crony" wallpaper. If this can be substantiated, it is incredibly damaging all around. 

The ABQ Teachers Federation breaks its silence on the APS scandal with this statement from union president Ellen Bernstein:

Given the facts that have emerged and the still-unanswered questions of this case, I do not believe that Dr. Valentino can recover from this crisis. If he does not take the initiative himself and resign, I anticipate the Board will come to the same conclusion and fire him.

VERONICA OR NOT?

Veronica Garcia
Robert Behrendt, Ed.D, writes:

Joe, Michael Corwin's recommendation on your Wednesday blog to bring in former Secretary of Public Education Veronica Garica to fix the mess Governor Martinez and her appointee Hanna Skandera have created would be unwise. In my interactions with Veronica Garica, as a former Education Performance Auditor for the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), I can say that she was just as political, but not as ignorant, as the current players in Santa Fe. 

However, the larger issue in New Mexico is that both the legislature and the governor's offices have failed to manage the New Mexico public and higher education systems in an effective way. Hopefully, the scope of the attorney general's APS investigation will expand to include an investigation by State Auditor Timothy Keller. I seriously doubt that New Mexico legislative appropriations and executive expenditures on education have impacted students as much as adults who are employed in, and profit from, public and higher education. The current mess has brought the New Mexico educational crisis to a head. In the interest of public accountability, I would recommend that lawmakers seriously consider statutory changes that would make the higher education and public education secretaries elected, rather than appointed, positions.

THAT OTHER CRISIS

Meanwhile, resolving the long-running crisis at APD continues to run up against a culture resistant to change. The news:

An APD officer who admitted to a federal crime then lied about it, won’t be fired. Officer Regina Sanchez ran an illegal background check for a friend. Sanchez ran a check through a federal criminal database on a woman who had a restraining order against the brother of the officer’s boyfriend and then gave that information to him. He then showed up to the woman’s house with a handgun. Sanchez was suspended for 40 hours. This is not the first time Sanchez has been in the spotlight. In 2013, Sanchez was one of the extramarital lovers of former APD officer Levi Chavez and testified when Chavez was put on trial for the murder of his wife. Chavez was acquitted.

A reader comments:

I just can't believe this. She commits a federal crime, puts a domestic violence victim in danger, and APD Chief Eden allows her to keep her job. Let me repeat, she violated federal law! What is Eden thinking? The US Attorney should step in and charge her. APD has no leadership. 

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