Albuquerque Public Schools will pay former Chief Financial Officer Don Moya $800,000 to settle a whistleblower lawsuit he filed in 2015 contending that then-Superintendent Luis Valentino placed him on paid leave for questioning unnecessary district audits.
The settlement, filed Dec. 19 in Santa Fe’s 1st Judicial District Court, covers Moya’s attorney fees and damages. APS will pay out $350,000, with district insurance picking up the rest.
Superintendent Raquel Reedy also provided Moya with a positive letter of reference that highlights various awards and his success boosting the district’s bond rating and cash reserves.
In response to media questions, Moya’s attorney, Kate Ferlic, and an APS spokeswoman provided the same short written statement: “Both parties are happy to put the events of 2015 behind them and are moving forward in a positive direction.”
Events leading to the lawsuit began in August 2015 when Moya and Valentino, then the district’s new superintendent, tangled over proposed departmental audits.
Emails leaked to the media show Moya vehemently arguing that the audits were a waste of money.
Moya also questioned the audit procurement process because then-Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez had first tried to give the work to a company that employed one of Martinez’s friends.
Valentino, who said the company was no longer in consideration at the time his dispute with Moya erupted, placed Moya on leave on Aug. 7, 2015. That morning, he had tried to text then-New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera that he planned to “go after” Moya for running “roughshot.” The text accidentally went to Moya himself, who then distributed it.
Martinez and Valentino soon left APS.
Martinez resigned Aug. 18, shortly after it came to light that he was facing assault and child sex assault charges in Denver. He never submitted to a mandatory APS background check that would have revealed his legal problems. After two trials in Colorado, Martinez was found not guilty of the child sex assault charges.
Valentino stepped down Aug. 31 with an $80,000 contract buyout and positive letter of reference.
Last month, the embattled former superintendent landed a lucrative three-month contract to work on strategic planning with the Portland school system.
Ferlic previously told the Journal that Moya had moved on to a finance director position with Santa Fe County, but he missed the education sector.
“That is his passion,” Ferlic said. “It’s been a tough few years.”