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Ex-commissioner indicted by AG works for employment board

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

A former Rio Arriba County commissioner indicted by the state Attorney General’s Office on felony charges now works for a nonprofit agency overseen by the state department of Workforce Solutions.

Barney Trujillo

Trujillo was charged in 2018 with three counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and one count of a procurement code violation in connection with contracts his promotional firm had with the Española Municipal Schools. The court documents allege he was paid thousands of dollars without any documentation of work performed.

Trujillo has pleaded not guilty and now works as operations manager for the Northern Area Local Workforce Board, according to Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley and Workforce Board chair Joseph Weathers.

“They are not a state agency,” McCamley said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I’ve known that Mr. Trujillo works for them, but the decision to hire Mr. Trujillo is nothing we have any control over by federal law.”

The nonprofit Workforce Board was incorporated in 2001 “to operate as the Administrative Entity for workforce funds in the 10 northern New Mexico counties: Cibola, Colfax, Los Alamos, McKinley, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Juan, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos,” according to the board’s website.

The mayors and county commissioners or their representatives oversee the board and its lead chief elected official for the northern area is Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal, said McCamley.

“It (the judicial process) should run its course and, depending on the outcome, the (Workforce) board needs to address the situation,” Roybal said in an email, adding he was not part of committee that hired Trujillo.

Workforce Board chairman Weathers of Mora said he was aware of Trujillo’s history and has no qualms about the allegations.

Trujillo was hired in 2017 by a committee of board members and business owners. He made the committee aware of his indictment, said Weathers, who was not on the board at the time.

“I have no particular reservations or concerns” about Trujillo’s employment with the organization, said Weathers. “His work has been outstanding, exemplary.”

Trujillo deals with those who administer the program, said Weathers, adding that there are multiple checks and balances for the financial aspects of the nonprofit.

The Workforce Board was established under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), under the U.S. Department of Labor, and “is designed to strengthen and improve our nation’s public workforce system and help get Americans, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers, and help employers hire and retain skilled workers,” the Act’s website states.

State Rep. Bill McCamley

The role of the Workforce Solutions Department, as described by federal law, “is to oversee the overall operations and make sure funding is being spent correctly,” McCamley said in an email. “The Northern Area Workforce Board oversees about $5 million in federal funding every year,” McCamley said.

Trujillo was indicted by a grand jury in 2018 on three counts of unlawful interest in a public contract and one count of procurement code violation.

Trujillo made over $100,000 from three contracts with Española Public Schools, without the proper business licenses and never disclosed that he contributed to the campaigns of two school board members, which is a violation of governmental conduct laws, the AG’s Office said previously.

The AG also alleged that Trujillo ran illegal school board meetings, even though he wasn’t a member. The meetings were held at Big Dawgs Restaurant in Española, and attendees entered through the back door, according to court documents.

Trujillo has pleaded not guilty and a brief status hearing in the long-running case was held earlier this month in Tierra Amarilla District Court, with another scheduled for August 12, according to a telephone interview with Trujillo’s attorney, Dan Cron.

Cron said he “was not at liberty to talk about that” when asked if any plea agreement discussions were underway.

Trujillo’s company – 2 Smooth Advertising, later renamed Trujillo Media – was unanimously awarded a marketing contract with EPS at an August 2014 school board meeting without any apparent discussion, according to court documents.

“There is no line item accounting of the work performed by 2 Smooth Advertising on any of the invoices,” the documents state.

School board member Ruben Archuleta told the Journal in May 2017 that the district had nothing to show for Trujillo’s contracts because Trujillo never included anything specific on his invoices.

The Attorney General’s Office executed search warrants on the EPS district office and Trujillo’s home in January 2017.

Trujillo was elected to the Rio Arriba County Commission in 2010 and served two consecutive terms. He also ran for state representative in 2016, but lost in the Democratic Party primary.

Questionable procurement practices caused the state Public Education Department to take over the district’s finances in November 2016. The district regained control last year.

In a separate case involving Española schools contracts, married couple Lianne Martinez and Joseph Torres pleaded guilty last month to three counts each of violations of the procurement code, and received deferred sentences in a plea agreement, court records show. Multiple counts of fraud, making or permitting a false public voucher, racketeering and conspiracy between January 2015 and April 2016 were dismissed, the records state.

The AG’s Office alleged that the couple created a company, Enviro-Kleen – hired to order janitorial supplies for the school district – and made about $18,000 in illegal profit by overcharging the district on six different invoices. Documents in that criminal case state Martinez and Torres had connections in the school district to undermine the procurement process.