By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
A Jan. 2 special recall election in Tucumcari targets two city commissioners, even though enough signatures have been validated to qualify a recall election for a third commissioner.
City Clerk Angelica Gray told city commissioners Thursday that District 3 Commissioner Ernie Dominguez won’t face a recall vote.
Gray said a petition to recall Dominguez had sufficient valid signatures, 35 out of 65 originally presented. It would have required 23 valid signatures.
But a recall would mean a special election, she said.
The commission decided against calling a special election, according to City Attorney Randy Knudson.
The next general election for commission candidates will be held on March 4, he said, and a special election cannot be called within 60 days of a general election. There is not enough time for advance notices to be published and other statutory procedures to take place to call a special election before Jan 4, Knudson said.
The commission decided, however, to accept the recall petition against Dominguez as valid, which state law also requires, Knudson said.
While the commission had the option of canceling the recall elections for District 1 Commissioner Dora Salinas-McTigue and District 2 Commissioner Jimmy Sandoval, both commissioners opted to hold the special election, and the commission voted Nov. 8 to hold the special election.
Sandoval explained if the recall election on Jan. 2 removes either or both commissioners from office, they could run again in the general election March 4.
The state statute regarding recall elections in commission-manager cities like Tucumcari, however, states: “If an officer is recalled, he shall not be eligible for re-election until the term for which he was originally elected has expired.”
Current terms for both Sandoval and Salinas-McTigue expire in March 2016.
While petition forms have been approved for District 4 Commissioner Robert Lumpkin and District 5 Commissioner and Mayor Amiel Curnutt, signed recall petitions have not been returned to City Hall on either commissioner, Gray said.
Tucumcari resident Gary Montaño had been scheduled to discuss three issues on the “New Business” agenda, but the commission decided on a 3-2 vote to exclude his presentation from the agenda.
Montaño spoke for three minutes during the “Items from Citizens” portion of the meeting, saying that according to city officials, there were no job performance evaluations for Powers on file with the city. He questioned again how Powers’ salary was raised by $17,650 over two years, while other city employees got raises of “maybe 50 cents per hour.” When benefits are added to Powers’ $70,000 salary, he said, the entire pay package is worth $89,163.40. Montaño also challenged Curnutt’s residency in Tucumcari, when he also owns property in Logan and Albuquerque.
When Montaño raised that point at a previous commission meeting, Curnutt said he lives in Tucumcari five days a week and travels to Albuquerque on weekends.
Lumpkin pointed out later that Powers’ salary as city manager matches that of his predecessor, Bobbye Rose. Powers was named city manager April 12, 2012 after serving as the city’s community development director. His salary in that position was in the range of $50,000 per year.
During the “Items from Commissioners” portion of the meeting, Sandoval asked for anyone from District 2 who signed the petition to recall him to step forward. One signer, Jonathan Brito, came up to the podium.
“Where have I failed?” Sandoval asked.
“Firing Doug Powers. He did nothing wrong,” Brito replied, adding that he considered Powers a friend.
“So you signed this petition for a friend. What has he done (for the city)?”
Other commissioners then interrupted, and Brito left the podium.
“That is sad for you,” Sandoval said to Brito, ending the discussion.
Another resident, Alice Valencia, said the recall of Salinas-McTigue and Sandoval is “nonsense,” and said, “there is going to be an investigation to find out where the money goes.”
Valencia also criticized the commission for excluding Montaño’s item from the agenda.
Daniel Garcia, another area resident, said that recalling Dominguez, Salinas
McTigue and Sandoval would eliminate Hispanic representation on the commission.
“Hispanics would have no representation at all,” he said.
Lumpkin responded that he “did not disagree” with Garcia on that point.