LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) – A Los Lunas school board member is speaking out after the Public Education Department suspended him and the rest of the board last week, accusing the board of a long list of wrongdoings. Now, suspended Steven Otero has been on the Los Lunas School Board for about a year and a half and says the accusations against the board are a form of retaliation from the former administration.
“We were questioning all these expenditures and it was upsetting administration. So, I think this is why all these accusations have come about,” Otero said. Otero claims the district maintenance department was inappropriately buying food processors, hunting and survival gear, and other items. He sent KRQE News 13 photos of the alleged purchases in an email.
“So, we launched an investigation approved by the board and since then, it’s been an uphill battle fighting with those people who have been accusing us of all of these, what I would say unfounded accusations,” he said. He said he brought the questionable purchases to the state auditor and nothing happened.
Otero said this all happened under the former administration while Dana Sanders was superintendent. Sanders now has a lawsuit against the district saying she was wrongfully forced into retirement by the school board. She alleges she was harassed because she wouldn’t go along with “unlawful acts” requested by Otero, current board president Eloy Giron, and member Bryan Smith.
The PED isn’t saying which board members are accused of wrongdoing, only that they have found evidence of nepotism, bribery, and extortion. Otero said he wishes PED would’ve only suspended the accused and not the entire board.
“How do you prove this stuff? Where did it happen? Who’s the one who committed these infractions? If it’s me they should flat out say Steve Otero did this. I would rather them say that than blaming the whole board and nobody knows exactly what happened there,” he said. “I would like to see if they can go back and let’s review it. Because in the community’s eyes, we’re being labeled as criminals with no chance of representing ourselves.”
Otero said he’s innocent. “I can say from the bottom of my heart and from all my knowledge, nothing has been done illegally, unethically, by myself,” he told KRQE. Otero said he was never contacted by PED, the State’s Auditor office, or Attorney General’s office to discuss the allegations. PED said it first told the board of the allegations in November and then provided training in January and March but that the board members continued to break the rules.
While the Los Lunas board is suspended indefinitely, the PED has placed former board member Sonya C’moya as a temporary board member. They are looking for more applicants to join her. The superintendent is currently reporting directly to the PED.