Serving the High Plains

Groesbeck refiles lawsuit

One week after his initial lawsuit was dismissed, the former president of Mesalands Community College filed a new whistleblower and retaliation complaint in Quay County against his former employer.

John Groesbeck refiled the lawsuit Dec. 1 in the 10th Judicial Circuit Court in Tucumcari against Mesalands. Circuit Judge Albert Mitchell Jr. has been assigned to the case.

Groesbeck initially filed his lawsuit in July in Santa Fe District Court weeks after the college’s board of directors fired him in the spring. The suit was dismissed without prejudice Nov. 24 after the judge there ruled it was filed in the wrong venue. “Without prejudice” means the lawsuit could be refiled.

Groesbeck’s new lawsuit is almost identical to the one he filed this summer, except for claims the Tucumcari court has jurisdiction over the matter and is a proper venue because his firing occurred in Quay County.

In the eight-page lawsuit, Groesbeck states he confronted the college’s foundation members, many whom also are on the board of trustees, at a meeting March 3 about allegations of improper distribution of federal grant funds, fraudulent property leases and improper appropriation of money to the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum.

Two weeks later, Groesbeck was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave after a closed executive session during a regular board of trustees meeting.

He was fired without explanation during the trustees’ next meeting in April. Groesbeck had been president less than two years.

Groesbeck hired the Kennedy, Hernandez & Associates law firm of Albuquerque to represent him the case. The college’s legal firm is Cuddy & McCarthy of Santa Fe.

Mesalands, through its director of public relations, has repeatedly declined to comment about the lawsuit. Groesbeck could not be reached for comment.

Natalie Gillard, vice president of academic affairs, was appointed interim president. The college’s board of trustees formed a search committee to find a new president that is due to look over applications for the position in early 2021.