Delivery alert

There may be an issue with the delivery of your newspaper. This alert will expire at NaN. Click here for more info.

Recover password

Editorial: Maestas should come clean over suspect cleaning bill

The amount in question is small, but the question of whether Analee Maestas doctored a receipt to claim taxpayer money for cleaning work done at her home is big and it warrants a full investigation.

Maestas is founder and executive director of La Promesa Charter School’s Early Learning Center, which pays her $82,716 a year. She also is vice president of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education.

A receipt signed by Maestas and submitted to the state Public Education Department for reimbursement of $342.40 for carpet cleaning on July 31 appears to have been altered to show the school’s address in place of Maestas’ home address, among other discrepancies.

It certainly does not match copies of the original receipt that Clean Carpet Care says it issued for vent cleaning, a copy of which was provided by the company to the Journal. Clean Carpet Care owner Joseph DiBruno says he recalls cleaning ducts at Maestas’ home but could find no documentation of having worked at La Promesa.

Paul Aguilar, deputy secretary for finance and operations at PED, forwarded the suspicious receipt to internal auditors Axiom Certified Public Accountants, asking them to investigate and forward the findings to the Office of the State Auditor.

On Wednesday, Maestas told a reporter she had no knowledge of any investigation. It is curious that Maestas would make that claim when PED officials say they visited her and La Promesa on Jan. 29 after first becoming curious about the receipt.

On Friday, Maestas denied any wrongdoing without explaining the receipt – and went into the well-rehearsed APS “duck and cover” routine, blaming the media and not answering questions. She complained she hadn’t been given a copy of the receipts in question – without bothering to mention she had stood up a reporter for a scheduled interview Thursday and never answered her phone. Otherwise, she would have had copies.

Taking public education funds for personal use and doctoring records are separate crimes under New Mexico law. In additional to criminal penalties, the law calls for the person found guilty to forfeit his or her position. If an investigation finds Maestas did use money intended for public education of the state’s children for the upkeep of her home, it would be a serious abuse of the public trust that could result in her losing her position at the school.

And it would be sad indeed if a public official would compromise her elected and professional positions with a poorly executed sleight-of-hand trick.

Maestas owes the public a thorough explanation. If she can’t – or won’t – provide one, she should resign from La Promesa and from the APS board – saving the district and the state from another embarrassing and drawn-out, low-rent scandal.

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.


More on ABQjournal