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Law firms made $1.1 million defending APS in Moya case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Public Schools’ legal fees to battle former chief financial officer Don Moya’s whistleblower lawsuit add up to $1.1 million paid out over more than two years.

Don Moya

The case, which was filed in August 2015 in Santa Fe’s 1st Judicial District Court, was settled last month with APS paying Moya $800,000.

Two firms handled APS’ defense: German & Associates, which billed $924,800, and Robles Rael & Anaya, which billed $180,991.

APS’ insurance caps its out-of-pocket costs at $350,000.

Under the terms of the settlement, Moya and APS face a $20,000 fine if they disparage one another.

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.

While Moya’s attorney, Kate Ferlic, cannot provide any new comments on the case, she previously told the Journal she thought APS was “cutting off its nose to spite its face.”

Ferlic said APS 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.”

She also claimed that the district had buried her in nearly 100,000 pages of “meaningless documents.”

APS has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The saga began Aug. 7, 2015, when then-Superintendent Luis 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 they tangled over proposed audits that 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 that 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 a positive reference letter from the APS Board of Education.

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

Ferlic previously told the Journal 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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