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Ex-Hoover principal named in whistleblower lawsuit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An assistant principal at Manzano High School, Jim Chacho, has been named as a defendant in a whistleblower lawsuit stemming from his time as principal at Hoover Middle School.

Chacho is accused in the lawsuit filed Oct. 2 by Hoover school counselor Louise Adelstone with retaliating against her after she told Albuquerque Public Schools officials that some of his behaviors harmed “the interests of the students and staff” of the school.

In the lawsuit, Adelstone claims that Chacho, who became principal at Hoover during the 2013-2014 school year, was frequently absent from work, often showed up demonstrating “visible signs of intoxication,” and that he was verbally abusive to members of the school’s staff and administration.

The APS board is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. “We don’t comment on pending litigation,” said APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta.

Because Adelstone voiced her concerns to APS officials as well as the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, the ATF conducted an APS-approved “climate survey” of staff at Hoover regarding Chacho in February 2015. The survey results were “largely very negative regarding his performance and professionalism,” the lawsuit says.

The following month, Adelstone contacted officials at APS, pointing out their failure “to take appropriate actions” against Chacho with respect to the survey results, and regarding her allegations of retaliation.

Among the retaliatory actions, she says, Chacho ordered her to vacate one of two offices that she needed for counseling students; sought to have her transferred to another school, despite her having only “exemplary performance evaluations”; and that he systematically began “isolating” Adelstone from other staff and students while “eliminating her job duties” and making it impossible for her to be a counselor.

The complaint for violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act charge Chacho and APS with infliction of emotional distress and interference with contractual relations, and asks for damages to be determined, the defendants to restore Adelstone’s status as a valued counselor, costs associated with hiring an attorney and filing the lawsuit, and other relief as seen appropriate by the court.

In an unrelated incident, Chacho, 42, was found in a car on the 9200 block of Montgomery NE on Aug. 20, with multiple gunshot wounds to his neck and chest. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Police said the shooter, Craig Cuthbert, believed Chacho was having an affair with his wife. Cuthbert subsequently fled to the Faith Lutheran Church, at 10000 Spain NE, where he shot and killed himself on steps outside the building.

Cuthbert was not an APS employee but was heavily involved in children’s sports. His wife was an occupational therapist at Eldorado High School, according to APS.

Chacho is still listed on the Manzano High School website as an assistant principal, though he remains “on leave” according to APS spokeswoman Armenta.


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