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APS whistleblower lawsuit headed for mediation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More than two years after former Albuquerque Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Don Moya filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the district, the case is headed to mediation.

The two sides will meet on Nov. 6 at the district’s request, according to Kate Ferlic, Moya’s attorney.

Ferlic said the case could settle that day, but “it’s not over until it’s over.”

Former APS CFO Don Moya

“We’ll just see what APS comes up with,” Ferlic said. “(Moya) is ready for trial. He is ready for vindication. He is ready to show New Mexico that he did the right thing by protecting school kids.”

Moya’s whistleblower lawsuit contends that he was placed on paid administrative leave in August 2015 for alerting APS administrators to wasteful audits supported by the new superintendent, Luis Valentino.

APS was recently denied a summary judgment in Santa Fe’s 1st Judicial District Court, and three district experts were barred from testifying on human resources procedures.

An APS spokeswoman declined to comment on the litigation.

To date, the district has spent more than $700,000 on legal fees, though insurance caps out-of-pocket costs at $350,000.

Ferlic said APS has had many opportunities to settle, but opted to “try to defend this case more vigorously than any case of this nature that I’ve seen.”

The saga began on Aug. 7, 2015, when Valentino, recently hired from San Francisco’s school district, tried to text New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera about “going after” Moya for running “roughshot.” He accidentally sent the text to Moya himself. Later that day, Valentino placed Moya on paid administrative leave.

The two were reportedly friendly when Valentino began the job in May 2015, but tangled over proposed audits Moya believed were wasteful and unnecessary. Then-Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez, a curriculum expert Valentino hired from Colorado, also supported the audits.

Less than two weeks after Moya was placed on paid leave, Martinez resigned amid allegations he had skipped a mandatory criminal background check to conceal child sex assault charges against him filed in Denver. He was later found not guilty.

Valentino stepped down at the end of August 2015 with an $80,000 buyout and positive reference letter from the APS Board of Education.

Moya now works as a finance director for Santa Fe County.

Ferlic said she hopes Moya’s lawsuit will “change practices at APS and make them more fiscally responsible than what the facts of the case revealed here.”

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