In the last 12 months, the News-Bulletin has chronicled the ups and downs of Valencia County. This year was marked by many significant events in Valencia County — fires and flooding, murders and convictions, political controversy and accusations and much more.
We dug through the archives to come up with the top stories for 2021.
Los Lunas Board of Education permanently suspended
Shortly after Los Lunas Schools released students for their summer break on May 26, the New Mexico Public Education Department notified the five-member Los Lunas School Board — Eloy Giron, Frank Otero, Steven Otero, Bryan Smith and P. David Vickers — of their indefinite suspension.
Among other reasons, PED said the suspension was due to “credible evidence certain board members have persistently violated procurement and public access laws, the state Public School Code, and professional ethical standards.”
Prior to the board suspension, New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón sent a letter to the board addressing “significant concerns” he had regarding the board’s annual audit which found violations of the Open Meetings Act, state and district procurement code, Inspection of Public Records act and the Governmental Conduct Act.
At the end of July, the education department held its first public hearings for the suspended board. After two days of the hearing over two months, the suspension of the board became permanent.
In the meantime, five Valencia County residents were appointed by the department to conduct the business of the Los Lunas Schools — Sonya C’Moya, Tina Garcia, Ragon Espinoza, Jessie Lewis and Bruce Bennett.
In mid-September, former Los Lunas Schools superintendent Dana Sanders settled her lawsuit against the suspended board for $600,000 in lost wages and other damages.
Sanders originally filed the lawsuit in November 2020, alleging Smith, Giron and Steven Otero — each named directly in the lawsuit — engaged in improper employment practices and retaliation against the former superintendent for her refusal to use her position to fulfill certain members’ “personal desires and/or vendettas” against district employees.
Following the 2021 local elections, Bruce Bennett was elected to a District 5 spot on the board, formerly held by Steven Otero, and Vickers was reelected to his District 3 position. They will be sworn in on Jan. 4.
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