Ex-Las Vegas, N.M., pub­lic works di­rec­tor su­ing city

Law­suit claims Gu­rulé-Giron wanted then-pub­lic works head to by­pass hir­ing rules

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Ter­rell ster­rell@sfnewmex­i­can.com

The for­mer pub­lic works di­rec­tor of Las Vegas, N.M., is su­ing the city govern­ment, claim­ing he was fired af­ter he re­fused to il­le­gally hire con­trac­tors that Mayor Tonita Gu­rulé-Giron wanted for cer­tain city projects.

Plain­tiff Martin Gon­za­les is seek­ing re­im­burse­ment for lost wages and ben­e­fits, and dam­ages for emo­tional stress.

He claims that shortly af­ter Gu­ruléG­iron was elected in 2016 she told him “to use a spe­cific con­trac­tor for an up­com­ing pub­lic works con­struc­tion pro­ject.” His suit does not iden­tify the con­trac­tor.

Gon­za­les’ com­plaint states that he told the mayor he would have to seek com­pet­i­tive bids in ac­cor­dance with state law.

He claims Gu­rulé-Giron told him to call the con­trac­tor she pre­ferred and “let him know the quotes” on bids. Gon­za­les said he re­fused, telling the mayor this would be il­le­gal.

Through a spokes­woman, Gu­ruléG­iron said she had just be­come aware of

the law­suit, filed in May, and was await­ing a brief­ing on it be­fore she could com­ment.

In May 2016, Gon­za­les’ suit states, Gu­rulé-Giron again ap­proached him, this time to talk about a roof­ing pro­ject. Gon­za­les told her the city did not have enough money to ini­ti­ate the pro­ject. Gon­za­les claims the mayor told him to “find the funds and to give the bid to a spe­cific con­trac­tor.” Once more, Gon­za­les said, he re­fused.

On June 1, 2016, the city man­ager told Gon­za­les that his ser­vices were no longer needed.

Gon­za­les said he was a year away from re­tire­ment when he was fired.

Then, he said in the suit, the floor­ing con­tract went to the con­trac­tor he had been told to hire.

A re­cent state au­dit of the city found sev­eral prob­lems with bid pro­ce­dures in the Las Vegas govern­ment. “Al­most ev­ery per­son in­ter­viewed ex­pressed con­cern re­gard­ing the in­stal­la­tion of hard­wood floor­ing at the city,” the au­dit states. A drink­ing foun­tain in City Hall, which had been im­prop­erly in­stalled, had caused a leak re­quir­ing car­pet and floor­ing re­place­ment.”

The city awarded that con­tract to a Las Vegas com­pany called Gemini Con­struc­tion, owned by Marvin Salazar, who worked on Gu­rulé-Giron’s 2016 cam­paign.

The city awarded a con­tract of $8,998 to Salazar’s com­pany on the ba­sis of a pur­ported emer­gency. Then the scope of the pro­ject bal­looned.

The city changed the con­tract to in­clude in­stal­la­tion of hard­wood floors in un­dam­aged of­fices.

These con­tract changes should not have oc­curred, au­di­tors said. They de­ter­mined that re­plac­ing the car­pet with hard­wood floor­ing was not nec­es­sary.

“The city im­prop­erly con­verted an emer­gency pro­cure­ment in the amount of $10,000 for the re­place­ment of car­pet to a pro­ject cost­ing ap­prox­i­mately $94,000 for the cleanup of wa­ter and con­ver­sion of the city of­fices from car­pet to hard­wood,” the au­dit re­port stated. “The cost of this ad­di­tional work was $84,204.”

Gon­za­les is ask­ing for a jury trial. He is one of at least three for­mer city of­fi­cials su­ing the city over their ter­mi­na­tions.

In April, the Las Vegas Op­tic re­ported that for­mer City At­tor­ney Dave Romero and for­mer City Man­ager Elmer Mar­tinez had filed law­suits over their fir­ings shortly af­ter Gu­rulé-Giron took of­fice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.