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Editorial: APS Board can’t pretend lawyer’s report doesn’t exist

The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education will have a special meeting tonight, with a planned executive session to discuss the superintendent and an attorney’s report of her investigation of “a serious personnel issue” involving him.

Several board members who so far have declined to review the report surely must realize going in that while they can argue all they want over procedural issues, they really can’t continue to act like the report does not exist. Those who still have not read it, should; and any issues raised should be discussed tonight and dealt with appropriately. Anything less could set the district up for serious legal liability.

Last month, APS Board President Analee Maestas contracted with a local attorney to investigate “a serious personnel issue” concerning Brooks. She said the issue was raised during an executive session last month and board members knew of the hire on July 18 when she informed them of her plans.

Now, board member David Peercy says he doesn’t believe Maestas had the authority to hire an attorney without a board vote. On Wednesday the board failed to go into executive session to review and discuss the report on a 3-3 tie vote over such procedural questions. Peercy still wants to discuss procedural issues and even vote on whether to review the report if a closed session can be agreed upon during tonight’s meeting.

Board member Marty Esquivel, an attorney and former board president, says the president does have the authority to hire an attorney as long as the cost is less than $50,000. Esquivel, along with Maestas and board member Don Duran, has read the report and says, “I don’t know why you would want to wait to see it.”

As the superintendent’s employers, the board can’t just pretend the report doesn’t exist. If there are problems brought to light in the report, saying you didn’t read it would be a lousy defense if an APS employee were to file a lawsuit.

Brooks was suspended and put on an improvement plan after making disparaging tweets about Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera. And he recently made significant personnel changes in his APS leadership team. Whether any of that is related to the report has not been disclosed to the public.

Maestas did the right thing by bringing in a qualified professional from outside the district to do the investigation. The full board needs to consider those findings.

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.