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Doubt Cast On Council Forum

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A candidate running in the four-way Rio Rancho City Council District 6 race has raised questions about the ties between one of her opponents and the group organizing a candidate forum next month.

District 6 candidate Helene Apper questioned whether opponent Marilyn Salzman’s relationship with Rio Rancho Cares would give her an advantage in the forum. Salzman is the former president of Rio Rancho Cares, a local activist organization that has arranged the District 6 forum at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at Calvary Chapel, off Northern.

The municipal election is on March 6.

“My concern is because of this relationship (between Salzman and Rio Rancho Cares), questions will be provided to her in advance or questions will be posed that you know she has educated herself on,” Apper wrote in an email to interim Rio Rancho Cares president Cheryl Everett and the Journal.

Apper said she still plans to attend the forum, although candidate Lonnie Clayton said he will not because of the controversy.

Salzman said she resigned as Rio Rancho Cares president on Jan. 8, two days before she had to file her candidacy with the City Clerk’s office.

“It was to dispel any conflict of interest issues,” Salzman said. “As I understand it, the questions are going to be taken from the audience and given to the candidates. If I believed I had an advantage I would recuse myself,”

Everett confirmed that and emailed a written record detailing Salzman’s resignation.

Salzman’s name still appears on the Rio Rancho Cares incorporation document on the Public Regulation Commission’s website as the organization’s president and agent. Everett said she hadn’t had time to file a change with the PRC.

Everett said the only involvement Salzman had in organizing the forum was to contact Library Director William Cicola “because she knows him” to ask if the forum could be held at Loma Colorado Library.

Everett said she had “sought and received input from the LWV (League of Women Voters) on procedures and safeguards for a fair and successful forum.”

League co-president Sandra Browne said she had no qualms about Salzman or Rio Rancho Cares’ handling of the forum. “From our point of view, Cheryl Everett is doing absolutely the right thing in organizing this forum,” Browne said.

Everett said she has tried to assuage Apper’s concerns. “Rio Rancho Cares does not and cannot endorse any candidates,” she said.

The other candidate is incumbent Kathy Colley, who is not expected to attend.

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