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Updated: Lawsuit Against Former Mora County Sheriff Dismissed

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Ex-undersheriff claimed his firing when he declared he’d run against his boss was unconstitutional.

Former Mora County Undersheriff Tim Marquez’s lawsuit against former Sheriff Roy Cordova and Mora County, alleging his First Amendment right to free speech was violated when Cordova fired him after he filed to run against his boss, was dismissed in federal court last month, the Las Vegas Optic reported.

U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera dismissed the suit, and in an 18-page memorandum opinion and order filed on Feb. 17 granted summary judgment to Cordova and the county, the Optic said.

Marquez claimed Cordova’s decision to fire him as undersheriff violated his First Amendment right to “freely comment, believe and associate in patters of public interest and concern,” but Herrera found that Marquez did not offer sufficient evidence that his interest in running for elected office outweighed Cordova’s interest in maintaining a functioning sheriff’s department, the paper reported.

In New Mexico, the position of undersheriff is a political appointment, and elected sheriffs pick their second in command, the Optic said.

Cordova and the sheriff’s department had argued that the duties and job responsibilities of undersheriff required, by their very nature, political loyalty to the sheriff, according to the Optic.

Marquez’s attorney Daniel Faber of Albuquerque told the Optic that he and his client were disappointed that the case was dismissed and are weighing an appeal.

“Judge Herrera found Mr. Tim Marquez’s claim to be without merit and me terminating Mr. Marquez to be lawful,” Cordova said in a written statement.

As it happened, neither Cordova nor Marquez won the Democratic nomination for the sheriff’s post, and Democratic primary winner Thomas Garza went on to win the general election as Mora County sheriff, the paper reported.


5:45am 1/12/11 — Former Mora Co. Sheriff Arrested: Roy Cordova, Guadalupita man charged after getting into a fight last Friday.

Former Mora County Sheriff Roy Cordova and another man were arrested after getting into a fight last Friday, the Las Vegas Optic reported.

Cordova, 39, of Rainsville, and John Gonzales, 34, of Guadalupita, both were charged with aggravated battery, resisting, evading or obstructing arrest and public affray after allegedly getting into a fight alongside N.M. 434 in Guadalupita, the Optic said.

The current Mora County sheriff, Thomas Garza, attempted to break up the fight, according to a probable cause statement filed by State Police Officer Frank Chavez.

Both men told police they had had an encounter earlier in the day at a transfer station near Mora, and the two later met again alongside the highway at Cordova’s girlfriend’s property adjacent to Gonzales’ property, the Optic said.

Each man blamed the other for starting the fight, according to the police report.

Garza, the man who replaced Cordova as sheriff, was driving home when he saw the commotion, and later told police he saw Cordova throw a rock at Gonzales and the two men exchange punches and grapple on the ground, the Optic said.

Both men were booked into jail on a $6,000 cash bond, the paper reported.

 


 

9:10am 11/30/10 — Mora Co. Officials Wanted Moonlighting Sheriff To Quit 2nd Job: Roy Cordova quit as Valencia County deputy after accident earlier this month.

Before Mora County Sheriff Roy Cordova quit his second job as a deputy with the Valencia County Sheriff’s Office following an accident this month, the Mora County Commission quietly urged the sheriff who lost his re-election bid in June to knock off the moonlighting, the Las Vegas Optic reported.

Cordova, whose term as sheriff of Mora County ends Dec. 31, took the deputy’s job in Valencia County in September and was commuting 2 1/2 hours from Mora, the Optic said.

Attorney John Grubesic wrote to Cordova on behalf of the Mora County Commission earlier this month telling him to quit the Valencia County job, the paper reported.

“Being a sheriff isn’t a part-time job. If you look closely at state statute, it says the sheriff is on duty at all times,” Grubesic said, adding that the sheriff’s moonlighting put Cordova in the position of “not doing an adequate job for the citizens of Mora County,” the Optic said.

Grubesic said he wasn’t asked by commissioners to look into docking the sheriff’s pay for the time he’d been working as a Valencia County deputy, according to the Optic.

Cordova, who earns more than $40,000 as Mora County sheriff, resigned in Valencia County when he crashed his squad car into a guardrail on Nov. 14, then refused to take a breath-alcohol test, according to earlier reports.

 


 

7:50am 11/18/10 — Mora Co. Sheriff Quits 2nd Job as Valencia Deputy: Roy Cordova, who lost re-election bid, crashed patrol car in Valencia Co. Sunday.

Mora County Sheriff Roy Cordova this week quit his second job as a Valencia County sheriff’s deputy after crashing his patrol car and refusing to take a breath-alcohol test, according to the Las Vegas Optic and Albuquerque television station KRQE News 13.

Cordova, who lost his Mora County re-election bid in the Democratic primary in June, was hired as a deputy in Valencia County in September and has continued to collect his full paycheck in Mora County even though he has been working part-time, according to the Optic.

KRQE reported Monday that Cordova was on duty in Valencia County Sunday when he crashed a sheriff’s department SUV into a guardrail and resigned the following day.

Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera said Cordova claimed his patrol car’s laptop was acting up and he was trying to fix it while driving in Los Lunas, but went off the road and struck a guardrail, News 13 said.

A police report said driver inattention was a factor but the box listing his sobriety was checked “unknown,” KRQE reported. The reporting sergeant said there were no obvious signs that Cordova had been drinking.

“He refused to take a Breathalyzer,” Rivera told the station, though it is protocol for any deputy involved in a crash to take a breath-alcohol test.

Mora County Commissioner Laudente Quintana told the Las Vegas newspaper that he has asked the county attorney to look into allegations that Cordova has been collecting a full paycheck — his annual salary is more than $40,000 — while only working for Mora County part time.

“I’m opposed to it,” Quintana told the Optic.

At the time he was hired by Valencia County, Cordova told News 13 that he wouldn’t have a job in Mora County as of January and “had to move up and look for another job some place in law enforcement,” telling KRQE, “That’s what I love to do.”

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