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Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Superintendent Luis Valentino was the new guy and wanted independent audits of several departments in the huge school district.
Veteran Chief Financial Officer Don Moya thought the audits were a waste of money and that he could tell the new superintendent what he needed to know.
That basic disagreement led to bad blood between the two and a blowup that ended with Moya being put on leave and with Valentino’s demise after just three months on the job.
Internal emails released by APS in response to a Journal request under the Inspection of Public Records Act put context around the dispute between Moya and then-Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez, who had been brought in by Valentino as his top deputy.
The two administrators were arguing over a possible request for proposal for the audits, which Martinez was pushing over Moya’s objections.
On the evening of Aug. 6, Valentino sent Martinez an email saying he would be going after Moya “with both barrels to the degree that I can.”
He then told Martinez to “stay clear” of Moya “and don’t give him any ammunition.”
Shortly before this email, Valentino and Moya had exchanged tense emails, with Moya pointedly relating his concerns about the RFP and criticizing Martinez.
“This is an amateur move on Jason’s part,” Moya wrote in reference to Martinez’s focus on the audit, which Moya felt would waste taxpayer dollars gathering information that APS already knew.
In a Journal interview on Aug. 25, Valentino said he felt strongly that several departments needed independent baseline audits, including purchasing, information technology and human resources.
He said he had seen contracts that, in his view, were requiring APS to pay too much for what it was getting and that Martinez was tasked with getting those projects moving.
‘Hubris and arrogance’
In his Aug. 6 email to Valentino, Moya said Martinez had repeatedly displayed “hubris and arrogance,” and also highlighted Martinez’s connection to Bud Bullard, a disgraced former Denver Public Schools administrator.
Bullard was then an employee at Advanced Network Management, an Albuquerque-based company that Martinez had approached about the audit job.
Bullard had left the Denver school district after being accused of taking lavish gifts from potential vendors. Martinez also had a long career as an administrator at Denver Public Schools.
Emails between Martinez and Bullard showed a friendly relationship.
“Bud, you look great and happy,” Martinez wrote to Bullard on July 11. “So cool to see.”
Martinez set up a plan for dinner with Bullard to discuss the RFP and get “time to catch up.”
Ultimately, Bullard resigned from ANM, and the company dropped out of contention for the RFP because ANM and the district both agreed that the job wasn’t a good fit for them.
But even after Valentino was no longer considering ANM, Moya cited it as evidence of Martinez’s poor judgment.
Moya wrote in the Aug. 6 email that Martinez’s relationship with Bullard “taints the entire process” of the RFP.
“You made it perfectly clear in our phone conversation this afternoon that the RFP process would continue regardless of my concerns and regardless of the fact that the Deputy Superintendent knowingly put forth a state price agreement … with a vendor that had been fired from the Denver Public Schools for taking … kickbacks,” he wrote to Valentino.
Moya then laid out “serious red flags” about Martinez, including misstatements of APS graduation rates and district policy.
He concluded by writing that he has “an ethical, fiduciary and legal responsibility” to inform Valentino of his concerns about the RFP and will “inform the Board President and the Chair of the Finance committee” if Valentino ignores those concerns.
Valentino responded defensively.
“Given you (are) inviting everyone into our staff conversation, it is clear that you and I cannot have a one-on-one conversation,” he wrote. “I will now need to respond to your questions and your concerns publicly.” Moya replied: “Your call. I’ve tried to have a one-on-one conversation with you to no avail.”
Valentino placed Moya on paid administrative leave Aug. 7 after accidentally sending him a text message saying he would “go after” him for riding “roughshot.” The text was intended for New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera.
Valentino then sent out a mass email to APS administrators titled “Update,” introducing Tami Coleman as interim CFO.
“I appreciate that times of transition are accompanied by a host of concerns, questions and uncertainty,” he wrote. “As you know, one of my goals is to align the strengths of our Leadership Team members to the needs of the district.”
On Aug. 24, Moya filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Valentino, Skandera and the APS Board of Education, contending that he was targeted for speaking out about a wasteful RFP.
Moya also claims that Valentino was against him because he “was insufficiently supportive” of Gov. Susana Martinez’s “political agenda.”
Moya’s attorney, Kate Ferlic, said Friday that the defendants must respond to the lawsuit by Sept. 28.
She said she has heard nothing from APS about why Moya was placed on leave or how long he could remain in that status.
“Of course, we have the reasons we think they put him on administrative leave – and that was, of course, his whistleblower activity – but there has been no news,” she said. “It is unfortunate that they are holding off on a decision, but I think their silence really indicates that they are panicking. … I think his case is particularly strong, and so it should be a high-dollar value case.”
APS spokesman Rigo Chavez would say only that Moya “remains on paid administrative leave.”
Moya has a two-year contract with APS that runs through June 30, 2016.
Under the terms, APS can terminate him for cause, including unsatisfactory work performance, incompetency or insubordination.
Ferlic said her office has received calls from other organizations with job offers for Moya. He is “waiting to see what APS offers” before deciding whether to return to the CFO position, she said.
Martinez and Valentino have both resigned from the district, Martinez on Aug. 18 shortly after it came to light that he is facing child sex assault charges in Denver, and Valentino on Aug. 31.