Española Police Union Loses Appeal

(SUNfoto by Austin Fisher) New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board Chair Duff Westbrook (center) reads from his motion, Aug. 9, upholding the decision to dismiss the prohibited practices case brought against the city of Española and its police department.

The New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board has upheld an earlier decision by its director to dismiss allegations that the city of Española and it’s police department tried to dismantle the local police officers union.

The three-member Board unanimously affirmed, Aug. 9, Executive Director Thomas Griego’s findings that the city did not violate labor laws when it fired American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18 Local 923 Labor Union President Sammy Marquez in January and suspended Vice President Robert Vigil for two weeks in March.

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City Officials Want To Collect Old Debt

Unpaid utility bills have left the city of Española’s utility services short $1.5 million — about 15 percent of the city’s annual budget.

However, officials have a plan they hope will recover some of that money. A proposal reviewed by the city’s Finance Committee, Aug. 18, would hire The Advantage Group, LLC, an Albuquerque-based debt collection agency, to find customers who are delinquent on their utility bills and collect the money from them.

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Grand Jury to Hear Española Voter Fraud Case

(SUNfoto by Austin Fisher) Dyon Herrera, 21, arrives for hearing at Rio Arriba Magistrate Court, July 20, in Española. The GMC Yukon pictured was being driven by Lenora Herrera, Dyon’s grandmother, which means he was defying an earlier court order by Rio Arriba Magistrate Judge Joseph Madrid to stay away from her and other parties named in his case.

The New Mexico attorney general’s office will press new criminal charges against Española Councilor Robert Seeds’s campaign assistant, after taking over a State Police investigation into alleged voter fraud.

Seeds won the March 8 race for the District 4 city council seat against incumbent Cory Lewis by just two votes, 238 to 236. Seeds received 94 votes by absentee ballot — two times more than all seven other candidates for City Council seats. Lewis received 10 absentee votes.

Lewis challenged the results in civil court, and now Seeds’s lawyer, Yvonne Quintana, will also defend 21-year-old Dyon Herrera in the voter fraud case, which Attorney General Hector Balderas intends to present to a grand jury.

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Española City Website Launch Delayed

A screenshot of a preview build of the new city of Española website as it appeared on Aug. 27, 2016.

The launch of a new city of Española website has been delayed until late September, more than nine months after the city signed the contract to build the site.

City Clerk Anna Squires expected the website to launch on Aug. 1, but the company building the site said it won’t be ready until Sept. 22. The city and Manhattan, Kan.-based company, CivicPlus, signed the contract in December 2015.

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City assistant resigns, blames clerk’s office

Employment didn’t last long for the assistant to Española’s city manager and mayor. Lora Lamas resigned, June 15, saying she could not work with the City Clerk’s Department.

“The Clerk’s Office is on a power trip, they’re pretty much power mongers,” Lamas, the former executive assistant, said just 30 days after she started.

“They used to be in control before. They were used to being the right hand to the mayor and the city manager. When I got hired, they created difficulties, they have this type of possessiveness, jealousy and insecurity. They acted it out and it was uncomfortable.”

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Board Mulls Union Busting Case

(SUNfoto by Austin Fisher) Española Police Chief Richard Gallegos testifies in June during the prohibited practice case against his department. The police officer’s union accuses Gallegos and his former deputy chief of trying to dismantle the union.

Months of strife within the Española Police Department will soon reach a tipping point.

Lawyers for the police officer’s union and the city of Española will try to convince the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board of their versions of events, which led to a mass pulling of dues by the rank and file and the firing of Union officers.

Thomas Griego, executive director of the Board and the hearing officer in the case, is weighing final arguments turned in, June 16, by attorneys from both sides in the union’s prohibited practice case against the city police department. Griego’s decision could determine the future of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18 Local 923 Labor Union’s leadership, and its relationship to Department management.

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Mark Trujillo is Española City Manager

(SUNfoto by Austin Fisher) Mark Trujillo (center right) swears an oath to serve as Española City Manager, June 14, at City Hall with his cousins, Marco Serna (left) and Valeria Espinoza (right) and goddaughter Kaitlyn Lujan. Trujillo was interim city manager for 90 days before being hired.

After 90 days as interim city manager, the Española City Council decided June 14 to hire Mark Trujillo for the job, permanently.

As the city’s head administrator, he will make $100,000 a year, plus benefits, making him the city’s highest paid employee.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m honored for the opportunity to prove myself to the governing body and the community and getting everybody’s help to move the city forward.”

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