SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (AP) - The new mayor of the troubled southern New Mexico city of Sunland Park has resigned but hopes to be reappointed next week.
Javier Perea's resignation on Friday came a day after Attorney General Gary King issued an opinion saying the City Council violated state open meetings law when they appointed him less than two weeks ago.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that Perea immediately asked the Council to reappoint him in a way that meets King's requirements.
"The city has the option to appeal the opinion and ask for a stay, but that is not the right thing to do for the people of Sunland Park," Perea said in a statement. "As such, I will accept the conclusion of the opinion and relinquish my title and the ability to perform in the official capacity as the mayor."
Perea, a 24-year-old former diamond salesman, said a letter sent by Attorney General Gary King a day earlier "appears to contradict itself on several matters." But Perea said he'd step down anyhow.
The Council appointed Perea during an April 18 meeting attended by so many citizens that they couldn't all get into the meeting room or hear the deliberations.
Perea was appointed after mayor-elect Daniel Salinas was arrested in separate cases on charges of extortion, bribery and receiving kickbacks from a city contractor.
Perea urged city councilors on Friday to "immediately take the necessary steps to give notice of a new meeting, utilizing the city's open meetings act resolution as a guide" and make sure everyone who attends is allowed to hear the proceedings.
Perea said his goal remains to "put our city operations back within the law and work to bring quality of life to all residents of Sunland Park."
"I look forward to a reaffirmation of the vote from last week."
King's letter directed the City Council to either re-host the April 18 meeting or show evidence why it didn't believe it had violated the Open Meetings Act.
Before Perea's announcement, the Attorney General's Office was checking into whether he should still be considered mayor, said Phil Sisneros, attorney general's office spokesman. The office hadn't faced that question before and had advised Perea to check with Sunland Park's legal counsel, he said.
Sunland Park's attorney, Frank Coppler of Santa Fe, couldn't be reached for comment. Coppler has submitted a resignation letter, but he remains the city's attorney until a replacement is selected.
The Sun-News filed a complaint Monday with King's office, in connection with the likely violation.
"Perea has decided to take the high road, and we applaud his decision," said Jim Lawitz, Sun-News editor. "Now it's time for the city council to do its due diligence."
Sunland Park Mayor pro tem Isabel Santos, City Councilor Carmen Rodriguez and City Councilor Sergio Reyes Carrillo couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
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