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Maestas’ seat empty at APS board meeting

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Embattled APS board member Analee Maestas did not attend Wednesday’s regular board meeting, and she has yet to respond to the state auditor’s claims that she fraudulently sought reimbursement for home maintenance services.

Board President Dave Peercy told the Journal that

Maestas skipped the meeting because her stepfather died.

She has not made any statements about Auditor Tim Keller’s report, released Tuesday, which says she paid about $340 to have ducts cleaned at her home in July 2015, then altered the receipt to make it appear that the expense was for carpets cleaning at the charter school she founded and runs, La Promesa Early Learning Center.

La Promesa staff submitted the receipt to the New Mexico Public Education Department for reimbursement, and it was flagged for investigation.

On Wednesday, Peercy stressed the importance of withholding judgement and giving Maestas due process.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We have a process for handling this. I know people are excited, and people want immediate reactions, but we need the process to play out.”

Peercy said he had not read Keller’s report, but felt there were “some concerns” when the questionable receipt came to light in February.

“Now the question is whether those findings are serious enough for someone else to take action or not,” he said.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg received a copy of findings and could charge Maestas with several crimes, including paying or receiving public money for services not rendered and making or permitting false public voucher, both fourth-degree felonies punishable by up to 18 months in prison.

State Public Education Department officials are also completing their own deeper investigation of La Promesa’s finances. They have the power to pull Maestas’ teaching and administrative licenses, forcing her to step down as the school’s executive director.

The board has little power to remove members, but a recall election would only require support from about 200 of her constituents – 33.3 percent of the voters who turned out to elect her in 2015.

Board member Peggy Muller-Aragón said the situation is sad. She also worried that the public will see it as one more example of corruption at Albuquerque Public Schools.

“We are all held to a certain standard,” Muller-Aragón said. “This is something where she (Maestas) has to soul search. Everyone has to explain what they do, and it is up to her to explain what she did.”