Sunday, February 5, 2017

Española Public Schools fired security firm over campaign contributions

Española, NM Feb 5 2017
Did Española Public Schools officials risk the safety of students because a security contractor refused to play political games?
Those are the shocking new allegations from the district's former security contractor, ProSec.
Owner Elias Coriz said he was fired in July for refusing to contribute to the campaign of a New Mexico Legislature candidate.
The allegations come as the district's superintendent shelled out $20,000 for emergency security as gang-related threats plague the high school.
Every development in the district's corruption and financial mismanagement scandal reveals a deeper web of who's involved. On Thursday, it's the security company that was fired because the boss said he wouldn't support the House of Representatives candidate the district wanted him to support. 
"I am appalled that we have students and staff on campus right now without security," said Christine Roybal at an Española School Board meeting on July 21.
Roybal spoke out at that July 2016 board meeting, terrified over the decision made the same year a man was arrested with a gun on the Espanola High School campus. Superintendent Eric Martinez said the move was his effort to "change culture."
But according to a lawsuit filed last week, the motivations behind ProSec's contract ending may be far more disturbing.  The suit alleges ProSec's owner, Coriz, was approached by Espanola school board president Pablo Lujan in May or June of 2016.
According to the lawsuit, Lujan "told [Coriz] to make a campaign contribution to him for the benefit of Barney Trujillo," the county commissioner who was running for a state House seat.
 Coriz refused to make the contribution. Trujillo later lost the June 3 primary. Weeks later, ProSec's 10-year-old contract was terminated with only hours' notice. At the time, board member Yolanda Salazar told KOB she and board member Ruben Archuleta tried to block the move but were out-voted.
"With time some of this will come forward, and we'll be able to get rid of some of this political corruption," Salazar said on July 21.
The suit also alleges other district contractors were asked to contribute to Trujillo's campaign.
 On Jan. 20, the county commissioner's home was raided by attorney general's agents serving a search warrant that, sources told KOB, is connected to an on-going state-level criminal investigation of individuals at the district.
As part of its financial takeover of the district, the state Public Education Department has admonished the district for putting students at risk by firing the full-time security company. The state has also accused the district of offering contracts as favors.
Martinez has repeatedly dodged KOB's questions.
On Monday, he signed a funding request for $20,000 in emergency security services from the Rio Arriba Sheriff's Office after a drive-by shooting near the high school and gang-related threats to students and athletic events. A day later, deputies were assigned to provide security at the high school.


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