From our “disturbing if it’s true” file, we note a recent lawsuit by Albuquerque Public Schools employees Bobbie Gallegos and Regina Sanchez, who claim APS hired a private investigator to surveil them by hiding a camera and another recording device in their work spaces. Their lawyer even obtained an APS invoice showing it paid Robert Caswell Investigations Inc. $1,007 for “Surveillance Ref: Bobbie Gallegos.” There’s also a $200 invoice for camera rental.
The women claim they found two hidden recording devices in their work spaces at the district’s testing center – a camera hidden in the ceiling above Gallegos’ desk and an unspecified recording device attached to the bottom of a desk.
The women’s attorney, Antonia Roybal-Mack, speculates her clients were targeted because one of their supervisors was unhappy that Gallegos, who is a union steward, had recently been moved into the testing center. Soon after the cameras were discovered, Roybal-Mack said, Gallegos was moved to maintenance.
The lawsuit claims the district violated the Federal Wiretap Act, that the surveillance violated Gallegos and Sanchez’s rights to privacy and caused them “severe emotional distress.”
The suit names as defendants APS, Robert Caswell Investigations Inc., and Eleanor Andrews and Claudine Sanchez, the plaintiffs’ supervisors. Gallegos and Sanchez are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
An APS spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the district’s policy of not commenting on pending lawsuits.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which APS officials would find it necessary to hire a private detective agency, let alone approve covert recording of two specific employees. But for taxpayers’ sake, let’s hope if the allegations prove true that such a scenario exists and everything is explained fully in or outside of open court.
Because settling such a suit behind closed doors for an undisclosed sum of taxpayer dollars is almost as creepy as hiding cameras over an employee’s desk.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.