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APS Settles Suit with Critic

APS Settles Suit with Critic

MacQuigg, an APS shop teacher for 25 years, filed the lawsuit in November 2012 after years of fighting the board over its policies of tossing him out and barring him from its meetings

DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education will apparently pay a monetary settlement to longtime and vocal critic it tried to bar from its meetings.

The school board settled the three-year-old federal court civil rights case brought Charles “Ched” MacQuigg, a former APS teacher-turned-activist. The settlement was finalized Tuesday in the courtroom U.S. District Judge Steven Yarbrough, according to federal court records and MacQuigg’s attorney, John Boyd.

MacQuigg

Ched MacQuigg, photo by Mark Bralley

Details of the deal were not released, and both Boyd and MacQuigg said they couldn’t discuss the terms of the settlement. “I can tell you that the case has settled,” Boyd told ABQ Free Press Wednesday.

MacQuigg, an APS shop teacher for 25 years, filed the lawsuit in November 2012 after years of fighting the board over its policies of tossing him out and barring him from its meetings for criticizing board members by name. MacQuigg also filed numerous public records requests and accused APS of hiding information about an investigation into wrongdoing by the APS police force.

“MacQuigg’s outspoken nature and unrelenting scrutiny has angered the Defendants,” the lawsuit said. “As a result, Defendants have taken various steps, described herein, to silence Mr. MacQuigg by restricting his access to the Board’s public meetings and by limiting Mr. MacQuigg’s ability to review public records and other information maintained by APS.”

Named as defendants in the suit were former BAPS board members Marty Esquivel and David Robbins; former APS superintendent Winston Brooks; then-APS deputy police chief Steve Tellez; and APS spokespersons Monica Armenta and Rigo Chavez.

The incidents that led to the lawsuit began on Nov. 4, 2009, when then-APS Board President Marty Esquivel had MacQuigg ejected from a public board meeting. MacQuigg had signed up to speak during the public comment period of the board meeting. When he spoke, MacQuigg focused on the “Pillars of Trustworthiness” as outlined in the Character Counts curriculum that APS used to teach. When MacQuigg addressed some board members by name, board members lashed out at him and Esquivel had him ejected from the meeting. The lawsuit contained a transcript of the incident:

“Mr. MacQuigg: I have come tonight with individual opportunities to stand up as role models of the Pillar of Trustworthiness. [Board member] David Robbins, you can tell the truth about hundreds of whistle blower complaints that are being denied due process in front of the Audit Committee. Paula Maes, you can tell the truth … (interrupted).

“Member Robert Lucero: Mr. Chairman, I would motion that addressing board members – we will talk about issues, but addressing board members is inappropriate for public forums, so I would ask that either be refrained or the public forum stopped.

“President Martin Esquivel: (Inaudible) … move on.

“Mr. MacQuigg: You will tell the truth about your resistance to any audit that will individually identify corrupt and incompetent administrators. Marty Esquivel, you will tell the truth about the need for an independent ….

“Member Dolores Griego: .. Mr. MacQuigg …

“Mr. MacQuigg: … administrative standards and accountability audit.

“Member Dolores Griego: Mr. MacQuigg, if you would refrain from addressing us individually and address us just as a board …

“Mr. MacQuigg: (turning to face APS Supt Winston Brooks) You sir, will tell the truth about evidence of felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators which has still not been surrendered to the District Attoluey’s Office (Turning to face APS Chief Operating Officer Brad Winter). You sir, can tell the truth about spending at 6400 Uptown Blvd; candidly, forthrightly and honestly. Ms. Sink can tell the truth about….

“Member Robert Lucero: … Mr. Chairman, we’ve just crossed the line.

“President Martin Esquivel: It’s very clear that we’ve made it – we’ve told you not to address personnel issues. If you want to continue this you can leave.

“Mr. MacQuigg: I haven’t addressed a personnel issue.

“President Martin Esquivel: You can leave.

“Mr. MacQuigg: (inaudible)

“President Martin Esquivel: You can leave. You’re done. You are done. You are done. You are done.

“Mr. MacQuigg: Are you ordering him (surrounded by police) to arrest me – again?

“President Martin Esquivel: I’m asking you to leave voluntarily.

“Mr. MacQuigg: You’re arresting me. You’re depriving me of my two minutes.

“President Martin Esquivel: Goodbye.

“Member Robert Lucero: Thank you Mr. Chairman.

“Dolores Griego: Thank you Mr. MacQuigg.”

The lawsuit also claimed that MacQuigg was denied access to other APS-sponsored events, including an Aug. 19, 2010, gubernatorial debate between Susana Martinez and then-Lt. Gov. Diane Denish. The debate was held at El Dorado High School, an APS school, and APS officials, including Brooks, refused to let MacQuigg into the debate.

Finally, on Sept. 1, 2010, MacQuigg got a letter from Esquivel and Tellez saying he had been banned from attending future board meetings until he basically repented.

“If you would like your attendance privilege reinstated, then you must make arrangements to meet with me and Deputy Chief Tellez to discuss acceptable decorum from you and to clarify processes involving interaction between members of the public and the APS Board of Education,” the letter said.

“If we determine after this meeting that you are sincere in adhering to our rules of decorum, you will be allowed once again to participate. If, however, you cause any disruption or disturbance of public meetings, you will be permanently banned from attending meetings and having access to the APS administration building and facilities in general. If this proves to be the case, appropriate APS staff will be alerted.”

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.
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  • Francisco R Nogales
    December 9, 2015, 10:51 pm

    Interesting article by Mr Domrzalski! I certainly hope that Mr. MacQuigg will continue and be able to complete many 2 minute commentaries in the future. Current and future Board Chairs and members must allow for public commentary and input. That is such a simple but crucial part of what we need to ensure our children’s best interests are preserved!

    REPLY
  • Daniel
    December 10, 2015, 4:19 pm

    The APS board members who attempted to stifle public comment should be rounded up, tarred and feathered in Civic Plaza.

    REPLY
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