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An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Up Front

Interim county manager named

The Sandoval County Commission voted unanimously to install Phil Rios as the interim county manager after being without a county manager since April 18. Rios, who was the county public works director, replaced Juan Vigil who was abruptly fired over a month ago. The commission voted on the county manager’s job after holding a closed-door session in May.

Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena indicated that Rios was an obvious choice because he was already working for the county and has experience in preparing budgets, which will be necessary as Sandoval County must submit a budget to the state Department of Finance and Administration by June 1 for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Before working for Sandoval County, Rios was treasurer and administrator for the village of Corrales. He had been one of the candidates interviewed for the county manager’s position in late 2008 but lost out to Vigil.

During the closed-door session, the Commissioners also voted unanimously in favor of Patrick Trujillo as county attorney. He had previously been deputy county attorney for Bernalillo County. Trujillo replaced interim county attorney Stephanie Lopez who was in that position since summer 2010. Lopez was also interviewed for the job, but it is unknown whether her interpretation of the language in Juan Vigil’s contract, which Chairman Madalena dismissed, had anything to do with her losing out on the position.

The firing of Juan Vigil has spawned a lawsuit against the county and commission. Vigil’s attorney, Daymon Ely, filed a lawsuit in 13th Judicial District Court in Sandoval County, claiming breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing by the Sandoval County Commission and specifically commissioners Chapman, Walters and Madalena who voted to terminate his contract. The complaint claims the commission violated the state Open Meetings Act and states that their action in terminating him was “willful, wanton and reckless” and violated the terms of his contract.

Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena had previously suggested that Vigil demonstrated arrogance when dealing with Intel over a long running property tax dispute and that the county needed to move in a new more positive direction.

But, according to public records, it appears Vigil’s dealings with Intel had the county’s best interests in mind.

Public records show that Vigil refused to agree to Intel proposals that the County’s bond attorney said would violate state law. The county manager believed Intel’s plans to finance an expansion here put the County’s finances at risk. He insisted Intel abide by earlier contracts that would put some of the multi-billion dollar manufacturing giant’s assets on the County’s property tax rolls after a 30-year exemption ran out, and Vigil insisted that Intel had no right to dictate who the County would use for legal advice in the matter of the County’s industrial revenue bonds for Intel and implications for property tax.

Intel got its first 30-year property tax exemption with the Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) approved in 1980. The basis of the tax dispute seems to have been whether equipment purchased with later IRB funds but installed on portions of the original Intel plant would now be subject to property tax, which Vigil asserted they should.

When Commission Chairman Darryl Madalena previously ruled that a 3-2 vote to fire Vigil should stand it was against the advice of interim county attorney Stephanie Lopez who interpreted a “supermajority” vote as a 4-1 vote.

Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, asked for the attorney general’s opinion on how many votes constitute a “supermajority,” and the attorney general subsequently issued an opinion that “supermajority” does mean a 4-1 vote in this instance.

Since Vigil was terminated from his position by less than a “supermajority” vote (which contractually must occur) he has filed a lawsuit claiming he lost the value of the contract and that as a result he should be entitled to all the pay and benefits due him under the contract. It also claims the termination tarnished his professional reputation.

Sandoval County initially hired him as county manager in 2009. Previously he had been Bernalillo County manager for many years and administrator for the village of Los Ranchos.

Vigil had only served about three months of a two-year contract that provided him with an annual salary of $120,000. The lawsuit seeks damages, attorneys fees, pre-judgement interest and other relief that the court may deem appropriate. Vigil’s suit seeks pay and benefits for the remainder of his two-year contract as county manager, estimated to run more than $200,000.


apples

Dixon’s Apples: heavy losses won’t hold them back

The cold snap in February has left Dixon’s Apples, near Cochiti, with only about 5 percent of its usual spring crop. The harsh winter weather has all but decimated this years crop of red and green Delicious, Romas, and Champagne apples.

But, it’s not all bad, the family operation has turned to cutting down older, less productive trees to make way for younger ones, thereby ensuring bountiful harvests far into the future. Many New Mexico families make it a Fall tradition to load up the car and make the trip to the “New Mexico Apple Mecca” for baskets of the delicious fruit.

Although this years harvest is diminished, the hayrides, picnics and weddings will help to bring in revenue and with great anticipation, Dixon’s is expecting a wonderful 2012 crop.


Formation of Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association at May 22 Meet-and-Greet at Anasazi Winery

—Orin Safier
On Sunday, May 22, at the Anasazi Winery in Placitas Village, there was a gathering celebrating the passage of House Bill 306, which severed Placitas, along with the part of Algodones east of I-25, from ESCAFCA.  Reid Bandeen, president of Las Placitas Association, introduced the event.  The large turnout at the event was entertained by Placitas’ own Tres Amigas band. 

All the state legislators representing Placitas attended — Representative Jim Smith, who introduced HB306, and Senators Sue Wilson Beffort and Kent Cravens. Each of them commended the citizens of Placitas for their diligent work in getting this difficult legislation passed. Representative Smith talked about the challenges and rewards of his freshman term as state legislator, saying that he received up to 300 emails a day on various issues, all of which he hopes to answer by the end of summer.

Bandeen also acknowledged the citizens of Placitas who had been most instrumental in the passage of HB306: JoAnn English and Doris Faust, elected as ESCAFCA directors in 2010, Bob Gorrell who filled the vacancy on the ESCAFCA board of directors prior to the 2010 election, and Placitas residents Lynn Koch, Barbara Longeway, Floyd Cotton, Mike Neas, J D Domenick, Ron Overley, Steve Barro and Orin Safier.

The meet-and-greet Sunday also introduced the Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ESCA).  Bob Gorrell explained why this organization is needed, and how it is intended to work.  ESCA will represent all citizens of Sandoval County east of highway I-25, including Placitas, the east part of Algodones and the East Mountain communities within Sandoval County.  Gorrell said that ESCA is like a Neighborhood Watch organization, in that it will gather information on issues of concern to the community, and then be able to take action on them.  ESCA will monitor local, county, state and other authorities’ activities regarding these issues.  ESCA will lobby for the community at various governmental levels.  And if the voting membership concurs, ESCA directors will establish legal defense funds to represent community interests.

Placitas has up till now lacked a permanent organization such as ESCA.  In the past only individual citizens and groups formed to address relatively specific issues have actively worked to represent community interests.  A major example of what happens when the community lacks such organization is the formation and performance of ESCAFCA, which it took extraordinary effort to counter after it had already become established. 
Had there been an organization such as ESCA monitoring these developments it is quite possible that the problems would have been averted.

Gorrell said that membership in ESCA will be $50 per person, and each member will have one vote.
So there can be multiple memberships in a single household.  Dues will pay for necessary organizational expenses, including insurance, and also will fund efforts such as lobbying and providing timely information to the community.

Non-members will be able to sign up for general email alerts, but will be unable to vote.  There will be seven directors, three at-large and four directors representing each of four quadrants, drawn roughly at Highway 165, running east-west, and north-south at the S-curve on Hwy 165.  It is suggested that recently ousted ESCAFCA directors JoAnn English and Doris Faust be among the first at-large directors of this new citizens association.

Bob Gorrell said that ESCA will officially launch on July 4 if sufficient pledges have been received by then.  The group is looking for a minimum of 150 pledges, and hopefully many more.  Citizens in the ESCA area can pledge by signing the petition, which Lynn Koch has at La Puerta Realty, or by going to the esonevoice.com web site and hitting the “PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT” button, or by emailing osafier1278@comcast.net.


Casa Rosa benefit

La Puerta holds flea market to benefit Casa Rosa. Photo by Jim Harris.

Thanks to donated items provided by members of the community, La Puerta Real Estate Services, LLC served as the collection and sales site for a flea market held on Saturday, April 30. All proceeds benefited Casa Rosa Food Bank. A check for $2,147.64 was presented by La Puerta to Casa Rosa, as captured in the above photo featuring (from left to right) Lynn Koch (La Puerta owner and associate broker), Sherrill Cloud (cochair, Casa Rosa board of directors), and Jennise Phillips (La Puerta associate broker).


Rio Rancho/Bernalillo redistricting may improve area representation

The redistricting process is about to begin in Bernalillo and Rio Rancho. Officials in the two Sandoval County communities are hoping the process will increase the districts representation at the state level.

The process of redistricting will establish government districts based upon the increase or decrease of population. While the Legislature is responsible for redistricting at the state level, local governments are largely responsible for their own districts.

Sandoval County has seen its population increase more than any other county in New Mexico in the past ten years. The primary area of growth was in Rio Rancho which saw a 69 percent increase in population, while Bernalillo experienced a gain of 26 percent.

The community leaders believe that the increased populations will lead to a redistricting that allow for more targeted area representation at the state level.

Redrawing the boundaries of state House and Senate districts affects who gets elected and how decisions are made on issues such as taxes, public safety, education, employment opportunities and the environment. The goal of any potential alterations in the current layout would be for the legislative boundaries to be drawn to better represent the communities involved.

A number of Sandoval county residents who spoke at a recent County Commission meeting asked Sandoval County commissioners to consider establishing a citizens task force to advise them on redrawing the County Commission districts. Although citizen redistricting task forces already exist in cities such as Albuquerque and Las Cruces which can provide advice, the final approval of any redistricting is up to the local government bodies.

State House and Senate legislative committees will begin work on redistricting in June, and lawmakers are expected to convene in September to adopt final plans.

   

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