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Maestas suspended as school’s leader

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools board member Analee Maestas was placed on paid administrative leave from her job as executive director of La Promesa Early Learning Center on Tuesday night, roughly a week after the state auditor found she doctored a receipt to receive improper reimbursement.

La Promesa’s seven-member governing council unanimously backed a resolution to remove Maestas from her position “until further notice.”

The embattled administrator silently left the meeting moments after hearing her fate.

“I take this very seriously,” she told the Journal . “I have retained counsel.”

Maestas referred further questions to her attorneys, Marc M. Lowry and Peter Schoenburg of the Rothstein Law Firm. They could not be reached Tuesday.

La Promesa principal Chris Jones and governing council president Julian Munoz both declined to comment about the decision to place their executive director on leave from the charter school she founded in 2008. Maestas makes $82,000 as executive director of La Promesa.

Maestas began Tuesday dodging media who attended a morning APS board meeting to get her comment on state Auditor Tim Keller’s report, released July 18, which shows she paid about $340 for duct cleaning at her home a year ago, then wrote over the receipt to make it appear the cleaning company had worked on carpets at La Promesa.

The school sought reimbursement for the cleaning from the New Mexico Public Education Department, which sent the suspicious receipt to the State Auditor’s Office for further investigation in February.

According to Keller’s report, the cleaning company owner swears he did work at Maestas’ residence, not La Promesa. In addition, the school has no records of carpet cleaning services performed in summer 2015 other than Maestas’ receipt.

Keller also raised concerns about nepotism in La Promesa’s administration – Maestas’ daughter is the assistant business manager and signed off on the questionable reimbursement.

“In effect, the Assistant Business Manager (daughter) reports to the Executive Director (mother),” the report states. “At a minimum, this creates appearance of impropriety.”

PED is taking a deeper look at La Promesa’s finances and could pull Maestas’ teaching and administrative licenses if it determines she is guilty of unethical behavior.

Maestas may also face criminal charges, including two felonies. A spokesman for District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said her office received the report late last week and is investigating.

Maestas joined the APS board in 2011, representing District 1, and won re-election to a second four-year term in 2015. She has served as board president, vice president and audit committee chair.