MORA, N.M. (KRQE) - The state auditor says Roger Gonzales misspent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars meant for the classroom at Mora schools, an allegation that led the state to strip him of his school business license and the district to let him go.
It didn't stop Mora County commissioners from hiring Gonzales as interim county manager at three times the pay rate of the previous manager.
As News 13 reported in 2011 , Gonzales, Mora Independent Schools' former chief operating office, and another district employee were accused of misspending more than $64,000 in district funds. That money was supposed to go to the classroom, but a state audit found it was going to gifts and other lavish spending for district staff instead.
The other employee was cleared, but the Public Education Department stripped Gonzales of his school business license and ordered him to repay the district about $16,000. Gonzales was pushed out of his job with Mora Independent Schools last year. He is currently appealing the state's decision.
Last month, Mora County needed to fill its county manager position. In a 2-1 vote, the county commission decided to tap Gonzales to fill the role for two months, through the end of the fiscal year.
"We felt he was the best man for the position," said County Commissioner John Olivas.
Olivas is very familiar with Gonzales. In fact, Gonzales played a big role in getting him elected.
"I think because he was my campaign manager I'm sitting in this position right now," Olivas said.
Gonzales is getting very well paid for his work. He's receiving $350 a day during his two months of work, more than triple what the former county manager made.
Olivas defends that saying the county was looking at increasing pay for its new manager.
The lone county commissioner who voted against Gonzales' hiring, Paula Garcia, says she was worried about the high salary and Gonzales' past work at the school district.
News 13 attempted to reach Gonzales in person at the county manager's office Friday afternoon but was told he was gone for the day.
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