LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) – A former employee for the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority is suing the state after he says he was retaliated against for questioning a massive budget increase in his department. Jeffrey Eaton oversaw budgets for school projects and says he discovered staff at that Facilities Authority were being pressured to exceed the budget for a Los Niños Elementary School project in Las Vegas, New Mexico, by nearly half a million dollars.
“There was no legal authority to increase the budget for this project by almost $500,000.” There was enormous political pressure to get this done even though it broke the law and he was fired for not wanting to break the law,” said Eaton’s attorney, Jacob Candelaria.
The Facilities Authority claims there has never been a budget increase for the Los Niños project, and the project never exceeded its awarded amount. They also say Eaton was never fired, but that he resigned. According to the lawsuit, Eaton alleges the Facilities Authority forced him to resign, in retaliation for him blowing the whistle about the unlawful increase in the Los Niños budget.
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Eaton’s attorney, Jacob Candelaria, alleges the facilities authority wanted Eaton to say yes to the budget increase, even if it meant breaking the law. “His word and his integrity matter to him, and so for him, that’s what was on the line. And unfortunately for him sticking to his integrity and being a person of integrity, in this case, meant that unfortunately he got fired for it,” said Candelaria.
Eaton is seeking damages under the Whistleblower Protection Act, double the back pay owed to him, and his reinstatement into his former position. Candelaria says the Facilities Authority will be receiving formal notice of the lawsuit, and he will await a response to begin discovery into the allegations.