APS Board Member Connected to Embezzlement Suspect
A local education advocacy group is calling for the resignation of Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education member Analee Maestas following revelations that her daughter had embezzled nearly $700,000 from La Promesa Early Learning Center—the charter school Analee founded. An investigation conducted by state auditor Tim Keller found that Julieanne Maestas—La Promesa's former assistant business manager—diverted more than $475,000 from the school into her personal bank account in 2016 by forging checks in a process called dual endorsement. The investigation also discovered she had deposited about $177,000 worth of checks payable to her mother and her boyfriend, a school vendor. An emailed statement from Analee Maestas' attorney denied any involvement with the stolen money and alleges that Julieanne Maestas suffers from a previously unacknowledged substance abuse problem. In light of these developments, the New Mexico Education Improvement Project announced a recall campaign called Operation Three Strikes last week. The campaign's name was inspired by what the group sees as Analee Maestas' failures. They say her first strike was her choice to vote for the removal of auditors in APS. The second strike was the reports that she had allegedly used school funds to pay for cleaning services at her home. The group says failing to notice over half a million dollars in school funds being diverted into a family member's bank account is the third strike. The group has reportedly begun the process of filing for Analee Maestas' recall. The state auditor's investigation did not find that she had committed any wrongdoing in connection to the embezzled school funds.
Feds Say N.M. Voting Not Hacked by Russia
The Department of Homeland Security called election officials in 21 states last week to notify them their voting systems had been targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential election. Officials with the DHS spoke before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, testifying that they had evidence that Russia had targeted the voting systems of multiple unnamed states. State officials confirmed last week that New Mexico was not one of the states targeted. Officials with the Secretary of State’s Office had already reviewed internal systems in June and had discovered no evidence of tampering. New Mexico also utilizes a paper ballot system alongside an internal voter database that is not connected to the internet. The DHS has yet to clarify what the hackers were attempting to do, exactly. Bloomberg Politics reported that investigators found signs that an attempt to delete or change voter data had occurred in targeted states, but that no attempts had been successful.
Pearce Denied Federal Campaign Funds
Republican Congressman Steve Pearce was told earlier this year that he could not use approximately $1 million raised for his federal campaign in his run for New Mexico governor. Pearce filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging the decision—made by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver—was politically motivated. He said it was his first amendment right to use his federal campaign funds in a state race. The Secretary of State’s Office responded last week, reiterating that only $11,000 can be transferred by Pearce to his campaign for governor, based on state laws. A spokesman for the state agency stated that Pearce failed to prove allegations that his campaign was irreparably harmed by the decision.