Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
An investigative report commissioned by Albuquerque Public Schools contends Chief Financial Officer Don Moya wielded near-absolute control over his department without “checks and balances” – engaging in petty turf wars and suspiciously fighting a proposed information technology audit.
It also outlined reports of alleged questionable spending by Moya on office remodeling and a vehicle purchase.
Moya’s attorney, Kate Ferlic, called the report a slanted attempt to justify Moya’s placement on paid administrative leave more than four months ago.
The 265-page document, submitted on Oct. 19 by McHard Accounting Consulting LLC, was obtained by the
Journal through an Inspection of Public Records Act request filed with the New Mexico Public Education Department, headed by Hanna Skandera, a defendant in a lawsuit that claims Moya is a whistleblower who faced retaliation after questioning the IT audit.
The report describes a “dysfunctional and competitive work environment” rife with feuds and a communication style that was “dysfunctional, competitive and territorial, verging on the paranoid.”
The report said investigators were told that Moya ordered a new Dodge Charger through the APS Police Department using funds allocated for police vehicles.
“If true, we question why the CFO, who would be expected to primarily work at the APS administrative offices, would require an APS vehicle at all, much less the purchase of a Dodge Charger through the APS Police Department,” the report said.
Moya declined to be interviewed for the investigation.
APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said only that Moya is entitled to an APS vehicle as part of his compensation package but didn’t know specifics about the report’s language.
Moya’s lawyer said her understanding was that the APS car was given to him.
The report said investigators also were told by “several different individuals” that “Mr. Moya had spent over $850,000.00 on a remodel and furniture for his own suite of offices.”
The report said Moya’s furniture “seemed to be nicer than even that of the superintendent’s office.”
Chavez said he couldn’t locate documents on cost, but he said any remodeling involved more than just Moya’s offices, possibly including those of the superintendent.
His attorney said her understanding was that the remodel was for an entire floor at the APS central office.
Moya was a major part of the problems at APS, the report contends, regularly using profanity, yelling at supervisors and subordinates, and spearheading a reorganization that gave him extensive power.
McHard Accounting places much of the blame for the negative atmosphere on former Superintendent Luis Valentino, who “failed to correct numerous incidents of unprofessional behavior via email and in person by his senior staff,” including Moya and former Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez.
Moya had battled with Valentino and Martinez over a proposed information technology audit, particularly the request for proposals.
On Aug. 7, Valentino tried to text Skandera that he planned to “go after” Moya for running “roughshot,” but the message accidentally went to Moya himself.
Later that day, Valentino placed Moya on paid administrative leave, where he remains. A few weeks later, Moya sued, naming the APS Board of Education, Valentino and Skandera.
Several motions in the lawsuit will be decided today in District Court in Santa Fe. APS and Skandera are both seeking the suit’s dismissal. The fight also involves Ferlic’s subpoenas for text messages among the defendants, which she believes will show close personal relationships and plans to target her client.
Too much power
The McHard report contends that one reason the RFP debate escalated was Moya’s extensive power over district finances.
The firm’s investigators – who prepared the report under a contract that would pay up to $50,000 – recommended a restructuring to distribute the CFO’s responsibilities among several administrators to create more internal controls.
Currently, the position includes oversight of budget, accounting and finance, capital master plan (infrastructure and construction), business systems and procurement.
Reorganizing would “preclude a single individual gaining unchecked wholesale control of the entire financial picture of APS, without oversight, accountability or transparency,” the report says.
But Ferlic said Moya was highly respected for his work and has a proven track record at APS.
“Don Moya has done nothing but get APS into the black to get teacher salaries paid in a timely manner,” she said.
Moya had valid concerns about the IT audit, Ferlic said, particularly because former Deputy Superintendent Martinez first sought to give the work to Advanced Network Management, a company that had employed a disgraced former Denver Public Schools administrator who was Martinez’s friend.
ANM later dropped out of consideration because it felt it wasn’t a good fit for the project.
“Don Moya believes in good faith that there were nefarious actions taking place,” Ferlic said. “He has an obligation to taxpayers to protect that money and was punished for it.”
The report includes a transcript of Moya’s Aug. 7 call to APS’ whistleblower hotline, Ethical Advocate, in which he discussed his concerns about the IT audit.
“I’ve been at work since this morning and have not heard from the superintendent or HR or anyone, but I wanted to file this complaint because clearly the text message that the superintendent inadvertently sent to me indicates that he plans on firing me,” he said. “I should not lose my job for reporting concerns about an RFP process.”
To Ferlic, the McHard report reads like a “backfill” to justify Moya’s leave and boost APS’ case in the lawsuit.
District defends report
Chavez said McHard investigators had not set out to substantiate contentions such as the remodeling dollar figure and was merely including it for APS to follow up.
Peg Koshmider, director of APS’ internal audit department, requested the investigation, which sought to examine Moya’s concerns about the IT audit. It made no attempt to judge whether Moya is a valid whistleblower.
The firm analyzed 13,000 internal APS emails and interviewed at least nine people, including Valentino. APS submitted the report as part of the discovery process in Moya’s lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Moya has collected more than $30,000 while on paid leave. Martinez resigned Aug. 18 shortly after it came to light that he is facing assault and child sex assault charges in Denver.
And Valentino stepped down Aug. 31 amid outcry because Martinez never completed a mandatory APS background check.