By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
The Tucumcari City Commission voted unanimously Thursday to have signatures validated on petitions that call for a recall election on commissioners Jimmy Sandoval and Dora Salinas-McTigue, rather than accept the petitions.
According to state law, the commission could have decided to accept the petitions as presented or call for examination of the signatures. On a motion from Commissioner Robert Lumpkin, the commission decided to have the petitions examined to ensure all who signed the petitions were registered voters and lived in the appropriate districts — District 1 for Salinas-McTigue and District 2 for Sandoval.
McTigue said at least one of the petitions contained erasures, corrections, and a signature that was completely covered over, which would invalidate the petition. She approved the review of the signatures with a stipulation the petition she held up would be found invalid because of the blemishes she noted.
“They have to get a new petition,” she said.
City Clerk Angelica Gray assured the commission she had not altered the petitions in any way after she had received them.
State statute gives Gray 10 days from the time the petitions were turned in Tuesday to review the signatures.
Gray also said once petitions are turned into the city clerk, signers cannot withdraw their signatures.
Two residents told commissioners they had signed one of the petitions, but said they were misled.
Gilbert Pacheco said, “the person who brought me that petition lied. Why wasn’t (Commissioner Ernest) Dominguez on it?”
Joseph Ysco, owner of Joe’s Back in the Day Café, on Route 66 Boulevard, said he, too, had been misled when he signed the petition.
“I apologize,” Ysco said. “I signed it under false pretenses.” He said his main concern in signing it was support for the Rockabilly on the Route event.
The commission voted unanimously to give $10,000 in lodgers’ tax , funds, $4,100 more than the Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board had recommended, to the Rockabilly promoters to help with advertising expenses for next year’s event on Sandoval’s motion.
Another resident, Alice Valencia, supported both Salinas-McTigue and Sandoval.
“They do a great job,” she said of McTigue and Sandoval, “You need to take care of this city.”
She criticized inaction on disposing of the Sands Dorsey building’s remains downtown.
“It’s ghastly,” she said, saying the site is contaminated with asbestos and rats.
To Salinas-McTigue and Sandoval, she said, “You need to stay where you are.”
Another speaker, Daniel Garcia, advised commissioners they should have stuck with their decision to fire City Manager Doug Powers.
The commission voted to fire Powers on Sept. 26 and reinstated him at its Oct. 10 meeting. Powers’ firing was one of the reasons for drawing up the recall petitions, petition organizers said.
Garcia said the inconsistency of the votes to fire, then reinstate Powers might affect the city’s chances for becoming a racino site. In addition, he said, the vote gave Powers “more power than the elected officials.”
These speakers’ remarks were greeted with cheers from many of the about 50 residents who filled the available seats in the commission chamber.
In comments later in Thursday’s meeting, both Sandoval and Salinas-McTigue defended their records.
“I have done more for the city in my 18 months as commissioner than was done in the past 30 to 40 years,” Salinas-McTigue said. She challenged petition signers to come to the commission’s next meeting on Nov. 14.
“I want them to look at me straight in the face, while I tell them what I’ve been doing,” she said.
Sandoval said, “Since I’ve been on the commission, I been helping the commission a lot in every way I can.” He focused most of his remarks on the Tucumcari Memorial Park Cemetery, from which many of his grievances against Powers originated.
Gilbert Pacheco, who had earlier expressed regret at signing a recall petition, also complained about his treatment a few years ago by city staff when he tried to buy a cemetery plot. Sandoval again said he was the only commissioner who had apologized for Pacheco’s treatment and said other commissioners and the city manager should apologize, as well.
Sandoval said Pacheco was turned away when he tried to buy the plot and complained to Assistant City Manager Mike Cherry. Pacheco’s wife then went to make the purchase the following day, but no one from the city appeared. It took several trips and attempts before the wife actually chose the plot and made the purchase, Sandoval said.
Sandoval said there were other problems at the cemetery, as well.
“They said some of the problems would be fixed within 10 days” a few months ago, “and the problems are still there.”
He said that in the Babyland section of the cemetery, mowers had caused some damage to graves, “and there was never an apology,” he said. Sandoval said he was told that the mower “was just doing his job.” Sandoval said that despite these and other problems, Powers had failed to take disciplinary action against cemetery employees.
Before the current cemetery manager took over, he said, “we never had these problems.”