Albuquerque Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Don Moya filed a whistleblower lawsuit Monday against the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, APS Superintendent Luis Valentino and Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera for his suspension after he blew the whistle on embattled former Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez improperly handling APS contracts.
The lawsuit – filed by Egolf, Ferlic and Day LLC – says all defendants violated the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act and committed civil conspiracy when Valentino sent Moya a text message saying he was going to “go after” Moya for getting involved in contracts Martinez was trying to negotiate.
It also alleges that Gov. Susana Martinez and Skandera colluded with Valentino not to hire Moya as deputy superintendent and to instead hire Martinez while protecting him from a background check.
The text message was intended for Skandera. Moya was placed on administrative leave soon thereafter.
The lawsuit says that after Moya reported the contract handling by Martinez to his superiors “in good faith,” the three defendants’ responses “constituted malfeasance in public office, violations of state law, gross mismanagement, wasting of funds, and abuses of authority.”
It also claims that APS and Valentino retaliated against Moya and that both conspired with Skandera to violate the act by “discussing the retaliatory actions to be taken against Moya, how they would retaliate against Moya, and when they would retaliate” against him.
LAWSUIT ALLEGES MOYA WAS OFFERED DEP. SUPERINTENDENT JOB; GOV. MARTINEZ, SKANDERA SCOFFED
The lawsuit says that Valentino told Moya on May 9 that he intended to appoint Moya as APS Deputy Superintendent, which Moya accepted in a verbal agreement. The lawsuit says Valentino would send a formal written agreement afterward.
The lawsuit also says that Valentino met with Gov. Susana Martinez and Skandera on May 29 to discuss Valentino’s plans to make Moya the deputy superintendent.
It goes on to say that based on “information and belief,” Gov. Martinez and Skandera “expressed their displeasure that Mr. Moya was insufficiently supportive of Governor Martinez’s political agenda.”
VALENTINO RESCINDS OFFER, HIRES EMBATTLED JASON MARTINEZ
On June 12, according to the lawsuit, Valentino called Moya and told him Gov. Martinez and Skandera said they believed he did not support the “Governor’s education agenda,” and as a result, that he was rescinding his offer to make Moya Deputy Superintendent.
However, the lawsuit says that Valentino told Moya it was a “temporary situation” and that Moya would later be named deputy superintendent.
Later in June, Valentino hired Timothy “Jason” Martinez as Deputy Superintendent. Martinez resigned from APS last Thursday, a day before it came to light he has two felony cases – including one involving child sex crimes – pending in Colorado courts.
The lawsuit says that Moya believes Gov. Martinez and Skandera approved of Martinez’s hiring, which Valentino sought, and Moya believes the governor and Skandera pushed for.
“Because of his relationship with Governor Martinez and Skandera, Jason Martinez was hired by APS without a background check,” the lawsuit reads. “Valentino subsequently protected Jason Martinez from submitting to a background check.”
LAWSUIT ALLEGES OLD MARTINEZ FRIEND GOT GREASED CONTRACT
The lawsuit also alleges that Martinez, who worked with Bud Bullard at Denver Public Schools, let Bullard gain a contract with the state and APS through his new company – Advanced Network Management, a technology firm with offices in New Mexico and Colorado.
In order for ANM new to work outside of the original contract and do additional work for APS, the lawsuit says it would have required a new procurement process.
It goes on to say that soon after Martinez was hired by Valentino, he began “almost immediately” to “take steps designed to send more APS work” to Bullard.
The lawsuit says Bullard had allegedly been fired from Denver Public Schools for receiving kickbacks from contractors.
The lawsuit says Moya determined ANM and APS were going to reach an agreement for ANM to work outside of the scope of the initial agreement, and that he reviewed the plans.
Moya reported the activities to Toni Cordova, who helped pick Valentino during the search for a new APS superintendent and was later named chief of staff at APS, on July 21. The lawsuit says he reported the suspect activity to Valentino the next day, saying he believe the work was “unnecessary, too costly, wasteful and unauthorized.”
The lawsuit says it was “clear” that Martinez and APS “had drafted the new RFP as part of a blatant effort to circumvent the requirements of the [procurement code] and guarantee that ANM would get additional work and funds.”
On Aug. 6, Moya told his staff and other APS employees to “take no further action” on Martinez’s plan to send work and funds to ANM.
The lawsuit says Martinez responded “with a curt email stating erroneously that Mr. Moya lacked the authority to halt effort to give work to ANM.”
The lawsuit then goes on to say that after another email reinforcing his beliefs, Moya was targeted by Valentino and “began to conspire with Skandera to retaliate.”
The suspect text messages Valentino accidentally sent to Moya were sent Aug. 7:
“I am going to go after Don Moya in d [sic] next couple of weeks. My concern is that he has been allowed to ride rougshot [sic] over here and controls a lot of d [sic] financials. We are also trying to sell a bond. Our ratings could be jeopardized. Any ideas?”
The lawsuit says Valentino and Skandera eventually got in touch, and the two “jointly devised a plan to retaliate against” Moya.
Moya was placed on administrative leave later in the day on Aug. 7. The lawsuit says “Neither Valentino nor APS informed [Moya] that he was being placed on paid administrative leave,” nor did they give reason. Moya had to give over his cell phone, APS vehicle and other items, according to the lawsuit, which claims his reputation has suffered “irreparable injury” and that he has suffered emotional distress.
Moya is seeking damages from whistleblower violations, emotional distress and special damages, punitive damages, his cost of legal action and reasonable attorney’s fees.
He also requested that the facts of the case be presented to a 12-person jury.
DEFENDANTS RESPOND TO ALLEGATIONS
Superintendent Valentino had the following exchange with KOB reporter Ryan Luby Monday evening after the lawsuit was announced:
Luby: “Did you ever, uh, correspond with them or did they have any role in that process?”
Valentino: “No, they did not.”
Luby: “I mean, do you feel like this claim is completely off base?”
Luby: “How so?”
Valentino: “Well, that’s my answer. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not truthful. I had– that is not the case.”
Chris Sanchez, the governor’s spokesperson, sent KOB a statement regarding the allegations Monday evening:
“Governor Martinez dedicated her career to prosecuting child predators and these are completely false allegations by a former Bill Richardson crony who has no credibility. Governor Martinez never even heard [Jason Martinez] his name until this scandal broke. This allegation is so false and over-the-top that we will be filing a complaint with the state bar against the lawyer and challenge her partner — who is an elected official — to agree to resign from office when he is unable to substantiate this absurd claim about the governor.”
Sanchez addressed the “lawyer” – Kate Ferlic – and her “partner” – Brian Egolf – who is the House Minority Leader for the Democratic Party of New Mexico.
PED spokesperson Robert McEntyre sent KOB a statement Monday evening:
“These are false and unsubstantiated claims being peddled by a disgruntled APS employee who served under Bill Richardson and clearly has an ax to grind. As the Secretary has said before, Jason Martinez should have never been hired in the first place,” he wrote.
Tuesday, former Gov. Bill Richardson responded to the statement from Gov. Martinez’s spokesman:
“It is repugnant that the Martinez administration is maligning the reputation of Don Moya who is foremost a first rate educator. To keep blaming me for her disastrous policies and actions after five years is an old song that has run out of gas,” he wrote in an email KOB.
Originally published at KOB.com