By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Tucumcari city commissioners began discussion Friday on how to choose a replacement for recalled District 2 Commissioner Jimmy Sandoval.
Calls for unity and for ending the divisive bickering that has marked some recent commission meetings mixed with views on how to handle the commissioner choice.
The commission made no decisions in keeping with the agenda item that called for only discussion. The commission saved a possible decision until its next regular meeting Thursday. The commission scheduled another discussion-only workshop on District 2 matters at 4 p.m. Thursday, two hours before its regular meeting.
Commissioner Robert Lumpkin said commission votes in September and October that first fired City Manager Doug Powers, then reinstated him have led to charges of discrimination and racism against the Commission. He said such charges have the potential to harm the city as it attempts to attract a racetrack/casino and other potential businesses.
“There has been no discrimination, no racism,” Lumpkin said.
A charge of racism, he said, is hard to prove or disprove, “but it leaves a scar.”
Commissioner Dora Salinas-McTigue, who been on the opposite side from Lumpkin on some recent commission votes, also spoke against discrimination, “racial or otherwise.”
“Not one small part of my brain” will consider charges of racism, she said, but she said, “I will deal with issues as they come up.”
The commission, she said, has been “on a collision course, but we have important decisions to make.”
“We can agree to disagree,” she said, but in the end, the commission has to decide that “what’s best for the city of Tucumcari is what’s going to happen.”
Salinas-McTigue appealed to the commission to hold a special election in District 2 to choose its next commissioner.
The cost of the election, she said would be worth it “to have the people of District 2 choose the person to be elected” to fill the vacant Commission seat.
She mentioned a petition with 30 signatures from District 2 residents asking for an election. That petition was submitted at the commission’s Jan. 9 meeting.
The margin of Sandoval’s recall, 60 votes to 50, was narrow enough, she said, to demonstrate the need for an election to choose District 2’s next commissioner.
Lumpkin presented two arguments against an election.
One, he said, was the cost. The other, the danger that another campaign would create more division within the district and on the commission.
District 3 Commissioner Ernest Dominguez said, “I want what’s best for District 2, and I want it to be done quickly.”
If an appointment would hasten the process, even if the process includes interviews and nominations, Dominguez said he would favor it. If an election would be faster, he said he would favor the election.
City Clerk Angelica Grey told the commission that according to City Attorney Randy Knudson, the city had a choice of appointment or election. If an election is to be held, however, she said the commission would need to declare it at its next meeting to meet a deadline of 84 days before the June primary elections. The election would have to be held before April 21, she said.