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APS Board member Analee Maestas resigns

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Embattled Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education member Analee Maestas resigned Tuesday, following investigations into embezzlement at the charter school she founded.

APS School board member Analee Maestas resigned Tuesday (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Maestas submitted a resignation email four minutes before she was to attend a regularly scheduled APS board policy committee meeting.

According to a 2016 report from the State Auditor’s Office, Maestas’ daughter, Julieanne Maestas, then the former assistant business manager for La Promesa Early Learning Center, diverted about half a million dollars into her personal bank account from June 2010 to July 2016, as well as depositing about $177,000 worth of questionable checks.

Both women left their positions at La Promesa in September 2016. The state charter school, with a campus on La Morada Place near Ladera and Unser, remains open with about 360 students.

Analee Maestas has blamed the nearly $700,000 in questionable transactions at La Promesa on her daughter’s substance abuse problems.

The Journal has not been able to reach Julieanne Maestas. Analee Maestas’ attorney did not return a call Tuesday for comment.

In a Sept. 25 letter to Maestas calling for her resignation, Attorney General Hector Balderas said that while she had not been found guilty of any crimes, she was unfit for the post. He threatened legal action against her if she did not resign.

Maestas’ attorney, Marc Lowry, said in response to the letter that, “Dr. Maestas has not engaged in any conduct that violated her oath of office with the APS Board, or any other law,” and she had no intention of stepping down.

But Tuesday, just a few minutes before a committee meeting intended to tackle controversial state science standards, Maestas submitted her resignation email to the board and the AG’s Office.

“Effective immediately I am submitting my letter of resignation from the APS Board of Education. It has been an honor to serve on the Board with each of you,” her letter reads in totality.

Board members learned of her resignation during the meeting.

“Everything is being handled in accordance with our process, and we are moving forward in a positive way,” board President David Peercy said.

State Auditor Tim Keller, Balderas and the group behind a recall effort against Maestas all said the resignation is beneficial for APS.

“After these unfortunate events, Maestas’ resignation helps brings some accountability,” Keller said in an email. “By resigning, she is at least providing the district a chance to be represented by someone who is not connected to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have been going to our kids’ education.”

Balderas was the first to announce the resignation.

“I am pleased that she responded to our legal demand by resigning and our office will continue to use our legal resources to protect the school children of New Mexico,” he said in an emailed statement.

Todd Hathorne, whose group launched a Maestas recall campaign, said the news of her resignation is a good step that could help the school get back what was stolen.

“I am happy that she made this decision,” he said. “I am hopeful that (police) will seek the location of the assets so that the judicial system might also weigh in on this question.”

Hathorne’s group, the New Mexico Education Improvement Project, launched the recall effort Sept. 22. Members criticized Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein, whose organization supported Maestas during her run for the post, for not speaking out against her following the investigations.

At the time, Bernstein emphasized that Maestas has not been charged with or convicted of any crimes and that “the community that voted for Analee” would have to be the group to criticize and ask for her removal.

“Criminal indictment is not the way to make decisions about who leads our schools,” Hathorne said.

Bernstein did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

The school board is left with six active members who must now, in an open meeting, vote on a person to replace Maestas, who represents District 1. The district includes Atrisco Heritage Academy and Rio Grande High School. That person will hold the seat until the next election, which is in February, according to state statute.

The elected person will serve the remainder of Maestas’ term, which expires in 2019.

If the board cannot fill the vacancy within 45 days, the state Public Education Department secretary would appoint a replacement.