Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Commissioner: Arrest result of 'misunderstanding'


June 19, 2019

Tucumcari City Commissioner Ralph Moya, speaking as a citizen at Thursday’s city commission meeting, said his arrest June 8 on a warrant from Tucumcari Municipal Court for failing to appear in court came about because of a lack of communication.

Moya, police records show, was not jailed as a result of the arrest, which he said was the result of a misunderstanding because he had called animal control officers earlier to report his sister-in-law’s dog had gotten loose.

He was out of town at the time, and his sister-in-law had called to tell him the dog had escaped, he said.

As it turned out, he said, the dog was at the Paws and Claws Animal Shelter when Moya made the call after being picked up by an animal control officer.

As a result of the call, Moya said, he was charged with letting the dog run loose, but he was not told about the citation against him or the summons to municipal court.

Moya said he was not aware of the court summons until he was arrested on the warrant Saturday while shopping at the Family Dollar store.

Tucumcari Police Chief David Lathrom, however, said Moya had a phone conversation with an animal control officer in which Moya refused to accept a citation.

Further, Lathrom said, he saw documents that showed Moya was notified in writing of a court date two weeks before his scheduled appearance.

Moya said he learned later Mayor Ruth Ann Litchfield and City Manager Britt Lusk had been aware of the arrest warrant but never had told him.

“Nobody had the courtesy to let me know,” he said.

Commissioner Christopher Arias said he was sorry Moya felt frustrated by the situation, but that he wasn't owed an update on his personal legal issues.

Moya also announced he was seeking re-election to his commission seat and thanked voters in his district for their support.

At the commission’s public workshop earlier Thursday, Moya objected to many provisions in a new code of conduct ordinance draft presented for commission discussion.

Thursday’s discussion was a continuation of conversation that began at an April 11 workshop on the proposed code.

The proposed ordinance presented Thursday included changes requested at the April 11 meeting, but commissioners cut short their discussions Thursday after debate on the proposed ordinance bogged down in definitions.

At the April 11 meeting, Moya said the purpose of a code of conduct was to “stifle dissent.”

He echoed that sentiment in a conversation after Thursday’s meeting.

“They’re trying to shut me out,” he said.

Moya described himself as “outspoken.” He is reliably argumentative in commission meetings, often interrupting other commissioners and City Manager Britt Lusk to drive home a point.

On Thursday, Moya questioned the definition of the words such as “family” and “appropriate” as used in conflict of interest portions of the proposed ordinance.

District 5 Commissioner Todd Duplantis objected to the idea of an ethics committee.

In the U.S. Congress, he said, ethics committees tend only to “just find things to get the other party.”

Conflict of interest, Moya said, should apply in cases involving employers of commissioners.

He said District 2 Commissioner Amy Gutierrez should refrain from voting involving the First National Bank of New Mexico because, as an employee of the bank, she profits from the transaction.

Gutierrez disagreed with the reasoning. Moya said if the bank pays her, she’s profiting.

At the work session, the commission heard a presentation from Citizens Bank in Tucumcari in the bank’s bid to become the city’s depository.

Citizens CEO Jeff Nunn emphasized Citizens is locally owned, and the bank’s operating headquarters are in Tucumcari.

The bank’s offer, according to a Proposal for Services document, includes guarantee that interest paid on savings will not sink below 1.1%. The current rate, the document states, is 1.25%.

Other features include no service-charge fees on demand deposit accounts, online banking services, payroll direct-deposit services and wire transfers, among other items.

In other business, the commission:

• Accepted a request for proposal response from Stantec Engineering’s Tucumcari office for engineering work on resurfacing Mountain Road.

• Authorized the Tucumcari Farmers’ Market to use Wailes Park for farmers' markets from July 13 to Oct. 19. The market will operate from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays those weeks.

• Authorized a contract for engineering evaluations of two runways, taxiways and aircraft aprons at Tucumcari Municipal Airport. The contract was awarded to Bohannon Huston of Albuquerque. The engineering study’s expected cost is $110,144.88, according to proposal documents.

• Approved a request to move $10,591.08 from inspection services to engineering services and $17,219 from inspection services to construction services for a Community Development Block Grant Fund project for paving at the Tucumcari airport. If granted, the moves would leave a balance of $94,039.83 in the engineering account and $470,615.73 in the construction account for the grant.

• Approved engaging the services of Kyle Harwood, an attorney who specializes in water rights matters. Under the contract terms, the city would pay $265 per hour for legal services up to $20,000, according to the contract.

• Voted to accept a $35,848 grant from the New Mexico Department of Tourism to match city spending on advertising designed to promote tourism in the city. The total advertising cost covered by the grant and city funds is $76,869, according to grant documents. Advertising will be purchased in magazines, digital radio, email, paid Facebook entries and billboards, among other media.

Lusk noted in his regular report he has marked his first year as city manager. In that time, he said, the city has made progress on a wastewater re-use system that will avoid increases in wastewater treatment bills for city residents, and the city received $225,000 in capital outlay funding through the New Mexico Legislature this year. Last year, the city received no capital outlay funds.

In response to questions from commissioners, Lusk reported the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp. receives $58,000 annually in salary funds, $6,000 a year for rental space, and $259.80 for telephone service bills. The city’s total contribution to the economic development corporation is $64,800 per year.

In commissioner comments, Moya relayed a question from a constituent on whether the city will water Northside Park. Lusk said there have been problems with sprinkler lines at the park that have been solved, so watering will resume.

Another constituent, Moya said, asked about clearing weeds in the medians of city streets. Lusk said First Street is a state highway, as is Historic Route 66, which also has medians. Lusk said the city street department is short-handed, which has slowed weed clearing on other streets.

Moya also asked about mosquito abatement; Lusk said the city is ready to begin that in the wake of recent rainfall.

Moya also asked about apparent illegal activity at the Quay Apartments, which he said a resident brought to his attention.

Duplantis said residents have suggested a “neighborhood watch”-type program to help city crews find properties that need grooming.

Another resident, he said, suggested to encourage use of the city landfill for trash, the city could offer to take a load for free for every 10 loads a resident brings to the dump.

In comments from residents, Al Patel, a local business owner, talked about his campaign to improve the appearance of the “T” on Tucumcari Mountain. To date, Patel said, he has raised $1,000 in donations for the effort, and said the lodgers’ tax board may recommend funding for the project, as well.


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