An Albuquerque Public Schools administrator is suing the district and the head of the state Public Education Department, claiming that Albuquerque Superintendent Luis Valentino placed him on administrative leave for reporting a corrupt contract.
Don Moya, the Albuquerque school district’s chief financial officer, alleges in a whistleblower complaint filed Monday in state District Court that he tried to stop an unlawful contract that would have given kickbacks to a Denver company and then punished for it.
The lawsuit is the latest controversy for Valentino, who has come under fire in the past week for hiring a deputy superintendent, Jason Martinez, who is accused of sexually assaulting minors in Colorado. Martinez resigned last week.
Rigo Chavez, a spokesman for the Albuquerque school district, said he was aware of Moya’s lawsuit but it is district policy not to comment on pending litigation. Chavez said Moya remained on paid leave as of Monday afternoon.
The lawsuit claims Moya was placed on leave because he protested a technology contract between the district and a Denver contractor, Advanced Network Management. That company’s chief operating officer is Bud Ballard, who worked at Denver Public Schools with Martinez.
Moya said the contract was “unnecessary, too costly, wasteful and unauthorized.” Moya then told his staff to stop working on the contract Aug. 6. The lawsuit said Moya thought the contract was a cover to provide kickbacks for the Denver company. The next day, Valentino placed Moya on paid leave via text message.
“On information and belief, APS and Valentino placed Mr. Moya on leave as retaliation for his expression of concern over Jason Martinez’s efforts to send work and funds to [Advanced Network Management],” the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, Valentino tried to reach Hanna Skandera, Cabinet secretary of the state Public Education Department, about his plans to go after Moya before he placed Moya on administrative leave. The lawsuit said Moya wasn’t told why he was put on leave.
Valentino has since told media outlets in Albuquerque that he sent the text message, but he declined to speak further about the subject, saying it was a personnel matter.
Valentino hired Martinez to head the district’s instruction and technology division, The Associated Press reported. It later surfaced that he faces four felony counts of sexual assault of a child for incidents involving two victims in Colorado, the AP reported.
Valentino has denied knowing about Martinez’s history and the fact that Martinez had not gone through a background check. The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that a human resources director told Valentino repeatedly about the fact that Martinez did not undergo a background check, but Valentino dismissed those concerns.
Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, on Monday said his office will investigate Albuquerque Public Schools to see if other employees have been able to avoid background checks.
Contact Chris Quintana at 986-3093 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CQuintanaSF.