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School board recall petition withdrawn

Jacob Gil, who wants to recall Albuquerque Public Schools board member Peggy Muller-Aragon, withdrew his petition in District Court on Tuesday but says his effort isn't over. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Jacob Gil, who wants to recall Albuquerque Public Schools board member Peggy Muller-Aragon, withdrew his petition in District Court on Tuesday but says his effort isn’t over. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A local father and a retired teacher have withdrawn their petition to recall Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education member Peggy Muller-Aragon, citing a lack of legal counsel and vowing to re-file.

The target of the recall called their action “frivolous.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Jacob Gil and Gerald Schneider went to 2nd Judicial District Court’s civil clerk to file paperwork to stop the recall. They also provided a copy to Judge C. Shannon Bacon, who had been scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter Thursday.

Both said they would return, stressing that they are only backing down now because their former attorney will no longer represent them due to a conflict of interest.

“There will be a reckoning for Ms. Muller-Aragon,” Gil said.

The pair are seeking pro bono representation. If that doesn’t work, they plan to start an online fundraiser to help with legal fees.

Muller-Aragon said she feels the recall is a political attack that “won’t go anywhere.”

“I think it is frivolous,” she said. “They have a right to do whatever they need to do. I’m just sorry that it turned into something political.”

A Democrat, Gil said he doesn’t support Muller-Aragon’s positions and feels she is “an extension of Gov. Martinez’s administration.”

But he also believes there is valid cause to recall her.

Legally, a board member recall requires evidence of “malfeasance or misfeasance in office or violation of the oath of office.”

Gil and Schneider are citing Muller-Aragon’s decision to sit out two of the three APS executive sessions on then-Superintendent Luis Valentino, who was facing a number of controversies. Schneider said that, as a result, she failed to represent her constituents in crucial discussions about Valentino’s future.

Muller-Aragon disputed that view, saying that many board members miss meetings and it “doesn’t constitute malfeasance.” She also stressed that “the majority of the public” is against closed-door meetings, so she was standing up for their views.

“I did have a voice,” she said. “When I was outside of the closed doors, I was talking to people, I was listening to what they had to say, so I was representing them. To say I wasn’t is totally unfounded.”

If Gil and Schneider re-file the recall, a judge would determine if they have met the legal standard before allowing them to collect signatures. Next, they would have 110 days to collect about 1,100 signatures, which is 33.33 percent of those who voted for Muller-Aragon’s office. She would then face a recall election, with the rest of the school board appointing a replacement if she loses.

Muller-Aragon joined the board after winning District 2 in February with 64 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Kathy Korte.

Gil and Schneider don’t live in Muller-Aragon’s district on the northern West Side – Gil is in Barbara Petersen’s district and Schneider in Don Duran’s – but they say they still have the right to recall her because her votes impact the entire board.

Previously, Gil had sought the recall of six of the seven APS board members, excluding Steven Michael Quezada, over concerns about the roughly $100,000 buyout offered to Valentino.

He narrowed his focus to Muller-Aragon after learning that the New Mexico Public Education Department appoints replacement board members if a majority are recalled. Gil said he does not support PED’s positions.

A father of four, Gil has been outspoken since Valentino’s administration became embroiled in controversy in August. He started an online petition to oust Valentino, who resigned Aug. 31 shortly after it came to light that his hand-picked deputy superintendent is facing child sex assault charges in Colorado.

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