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Beware of Petty Tyrants

'You can leave … You can leave. You’re done. You are done. You are done. You are done' - APS Board member Martin Esquivel during ejection of APS critic from board meeting

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

Dennis Domrzzalski“In the first place God made idiots. That was for practice. Then He made School Boards.”

If Mark Twain were still around and watching the Albuquerque Public Schools board, I’m guessing he’d change his famous line to include something like “vindictive, despicable, hypocritical, sleazy, power-mad, petty little dictators who just cost you, the taxpayers, about a million bucks because they couldn’t stand that a member of the public dared criticize them.”

Thanks to a few former APS board members who fit the above description, you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets to pay off a guy who dared to try to hold them accountable by calling them out at public meetings.

The guy is Charles “Ched MacQuigg,” a former APS teacher, who, for the past 20 years has been going to APS board meetings and doing what citizens are supposed to do: demanding that board members and school officials hold themselves to the same standards of integrity, honesty and character they demand of students. He also criticized board members and school officials by name for refusing to release public information about potential wrongdoing in the school system.

In some cities, MacQuigg would be honored as a decent citizen who cared enough to get involved and drag himself to hundreds of meetings. Not in Albuquerque. Here, and especially at APS, citizens who demand accountability and honesty from their public officials are figuratively stomped and spit on and derided as nuisances and misfits.

The APS board found MacQuigg’s effort at good citizenship and free speech so outrageous, threatening and dangerous that in 2010 it banned him from attending further meetings until he repented, kissed their asses, changed his ways and agreed to shut up.

Rather than caving, MacQuigg sued APS in federal court in 2012 saying the board violated his civil rights. On Dec. 8, APS settled the case.

MacQuigg

Ched MacQuigg, photo by Mark Bralley

Details of the deal were initially secret, and APS threatened MacQuigg with the loss of $10,000 of the settlement money if he revealed how the board members had cost us. But APS caved and revealed that it will shell out $95,000 to MacQuigg and $480,000 to his attorneys. APS paid its own attorneys $288,000 to defend itself. That’s almost a million bucks. Insurance will cover most of it, but we still got screwed become APS can’t stand to be criticized.

So who are these petty minds that apparently hate criticism and who’ve just cost you a lot of money? Former APS Board President Marty Esquivel, who, ironically, is a First Amendment attorney; former board member David Robbins and former APS superintendent Winston Brooks, now known as the $350,000 man.

The incidents that led to the lawsuit began Nov. 4, 2009, when Esquivel had MacQuigg ejected from a public board meeting. MacQuigg had signed up to speak during the public comment period of the meeting. When he spoke, MacQuigg focused on the “Pillars of Trustworthiness” as outlined in the Character Counts curriculum that APS once taught. When MacQuigg addressed some board members by name, they went crazy and lashed out at him. Esquivel had MacQuigg tossed out of the meeting under the excuse that MacQuigg was talking about forbidden personnel issues.

Then-board member Robert Lucero jumped on MacQuigg, first with the insanity that a member of the public wasn’t allowed to address board members by name.

“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,” Lucero said. Eventually, Esquivel jumped in.

“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,” Esquivel told MacQuigg.

“I haven’t addressed a personnel issue,” MacQuigg replied.

“You can leave … You can leave. You’re done. You are done. You are done. You are done,” Esquivel said.

Esquivel, and the others are gone from APS, but I’m sure they still hate to be criticized by name. So, for good measure, here goes: Marty Esquivel, Winston Brooks, Robert Lucero and David Robbins, you are all despicable, petty tyrants who cost all us for your sickening behavior. You owe us money. Pay up.

Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.
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2 Comments

  • Vic
    December 17, 2015, 9:27 am

    I’m trying to think of a time in the 58 years I’ve lived here that I remember feeling good about the APS Board. For that matter, I’m trying to remember a time when I felt good about any kind of governance in NM. Can’t.

    REPLY
  • Corry
    January 9, 2016, 11:16 am

    School boards need to go away. I’ve never dealt with one that even thinks aboutvthe kids, in this or any other state. Thank you for more great local reporting!

    REPLY
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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.