Los Lunas school board accused of bribery, attempted extortion

Crime
Los Lunas School Board Members May 2021

Los Lunas School Board Members May 2021

LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Earlier this week, the entire Los Lunas school board was suspended based on evidence that certain members had violated procurement and public access laws, the state Public School Code, and ethical standards according to the state’s public education department.

The suspended school board consists of President Eloy G. Giron, Vice President P. David Vickers, Secretary Frank A. Otero, and members Bryan C. Smith and Steven R. Otero. The members are not allowed to contact school staff or use school equipment or facilities during the indefinite suspension, and they cannot use the board’s attorney to represent them.

Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Dr. Arsenio Romero would not address any specific allegations made against the board. He did say the state auditor and attorney general have been investigating the board since before he started his new position six months ago. “State police have been working in conjunction with these oversight agencies through their investigation,” Dr. Romero stated.

The release states that the letter sent said PED has credible evidence of the following violations by one or more board members:

Public Access Concerns

  • Knowingly misrepresenting information in public meetings;
  • Violating the Open Meetings Act by using rolling quorums;
  • Acting on matters not described with reasonable specificity on board meeting agendas;
  • Violating the Inspection of Public Records Act by refusing to produce records as required.

Procurement Concerns

  • Interfering with district contracts and not following the Procurement Code;
  • Directly asking or demanding a vendor to redo a part of a contract;
  • Attempting to extort vendors by suggesting they would receive a district contract if they agreed to personally enrich a board member;
  • Soliciting bids;
  • Providing confidential bid information to potential vendors;
  • Demanding contracts for goods and services be awarded to certain vendors, bypassing appropriate procurement procedures;
  • Soliciting services and contracts without working with the district’s chief procurement officer and central procurement office.

Ethical Concerns

(Possible violations of board policy and/or Public School Code)

  • Addressing a district employee in an inappropriate and threatening manner in a public meeting;
  • Inducing an employee to lie about a supervisor;
  • Falsifying allegations about financial misconduct of school administrative personnel;
  •  Attempting to extort school administrative, support, and maintenance personnel through intimidation and threats;
  • Interfering with personnel matters, including demanding the demotion, suspension, and/or termination of school personnel, decisions and responsibilities properly assigned by law to the superintendent;
  • Interfering with overall district operations;
  • Demanding family members be hired, in violation of prohibitions on nepotism;
  •  Interfering with the superintendent and administrative staff roles.

On Friday, the first interim position to the board was appointed by Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart. Former Los Lunas School Board member Sonya C’Moya was picked to be a part of the board for the time being. she is currently on the board’s audit committee as a community representative.

Secretary Stewart is currently requesting letters of interest from those who meet the following qualifications to be on the board:

  • Live within the boundaries of the Los Lunas School District;
  • Be able to devote the time necessary to serve as a designee and to participate in required training;
  • Be committed to making decisions in the best interest of the students of Los Lunas;
  • Be committed to the responsible stewardship of public resources with the highest degree of integrity;
  • Be a collaborative member of a team, able and willing to engage with others in a professional and performance-focused manner;
  • Have no felony convictions.

Anyone who is interested in applying should submit a letter of interest of more than 250 words and a resume to Lucy.Valenzuela@state.nm.us by 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 8. For more information, visit the Public Education Department’s website.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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