NMPED concerned regarding CCSD superintendent's removal

Joshua Kellogg
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Public Education Department has raised concerns about the actions taken by Central Consolidated School District board members who voted to remove Superintendent Don Levinski during the board's Aug. 18 meeting.

This comes after two CCSD board members filed a complaint with the New Mexico Attorney General's Office, alleging three of the board members violated the state Open Meetings Act when they voted to remove Levinski and appoint Colleen Bowman, the district's supervisor of schools, as interim superintendent.

The letter obtained by The Daily Times through an Inspection of Public Records Act request was written by Paul Aguilar, NMPED deputy secretary of finance and operations to CCSD school board President Charlie Jones Jr.

Aguilar said the school board's action may have violated the state's open meetings act by not listing any personnel action on the meeting's agenda and not giving notice of possible personnel action prior to the vote to remove Levinski.

The agenda for the Aug. 18 meeting lists a motion to enter an executive session to discuss the superintendent's evaluation. No action items were listed for removing the superintendent and appointing an interim superintendent after the executive session.

"In addition, it does not appear that the board followed any discharge procedures. It is essential that the board, as a public body, follow the law and conduct itself appropriately," Aguilar said in the letter. "I urge you to seek the advice of legal counsel on this matter."

Jones Jr. and board member Adam Begaye filed the complaint with the AG's office Friday. It accuses Vice President Ruthda Thomas, Secretary Christina J. Aspaas and Randy Manning of violating the state's open meeting laws.

After a closed executive session during the Aug. 18 meeting, the board voted 3-2 to remove Levinski and appoint Bowman as interim superintendent,

The state AG's office received the complaint, which is in the process of being assigned, according to Jennie Lusk, communications counsel for the AG's office.

In an email sent by Begaye to Attorney General Hector Balderas, Begaye said Jones Jr. and he were "filing the complaint because the illegal actions of the other school board members are placing our district at serious risk of loss."

Thomas declined comment Monday and attempts to reach Aspaas and Manning for comment were not successful.

CCSD spokesman James Preminger referred questions regarding the complaint to Bowman, who could not be reached for comment Monday.

Jones Jr. said he felt last week's meeting was "hijacked" by Aspaas and Manning, who took advantage of the new board members' lack of knowledge about the Open Meetings Act.

"It wasn't on the agenda, those two items, that was a red flag to begin with," Jones Jr. said.

Reporter Noel Lyn Smith contributed to this report.
Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.