ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico’s attorney general said Monday he will investigate how the state’s largest school district hired a high-level administrator who faces child sex abuse charges in Colorado.
The district’s new superintendent, meanwhile, faces increasing pressure to resign over the debacle.
Attorney General Hector Balderas announced his office will look into why Albuquerque Public Schools’ safety protocols were dismissed and former deputy superintendent Jason Martinez was hired in June before a background check was completed.
Superintendent Luis Valentino hired Martinez to head the district’s instruction and technology division.
Martinez resigned abruptly last week. It later surfaced that he faces four felony counts of sexual assault on a child in Colorado involving two victims. Two previous counts have been dismissed, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office.
A lawyer for Karen Rudys, the district’s interim assistant superintendent for human resources, said Valentino was informed multiple times about Martinez refusing to complete his background check but ignored those concerns.
“This was a horrific breach of trust for the parents of APS,” Balderas told The Associated Press on Monday. He stopped short of saying if his office would seek criminal charges, but he said the office will see if the district conducted necessary criminal background checks on other employees.
Valentino was selected for the superintendent post in June, and the school board plans to vote Thursday on whether he should be dismissed.
In a statement, Valentino said he welcomes Balderas’ investigation and believes staff and students’ safety is important.
“We will work cooperatively with the AG’s office to strengthen these processes and procedures and to ensure that they are followed with fidelity, which is in the best interest of our students, employees and community,” Valentino said.
He did not address the controversy about Martinez’s hiring or comment on his future with the district.
Valentino previously held a top administrative post in the San Francisco Unified School District. He was selected for the Albuquerque district’s top job following a national search.
The school board met behind closed doors for five hours late Sunday to discuss the controversy. An audience crowded the meeting, and some demanded that Valentino step down.
President Don Duran read a statement apologizing for the Martinez controversy.
Board member Steven Michael Quezada said Valentino’s hiring of Martinez without a background check was “unrecoverable,” and he think it’s best for the district and the new superintendent to part ways.
“Part of me thinks we’d be doing him a favor. It’s just too hostile for him now,” Quezada said. “I know he moved his family here, and he bought a house. But it’s just not fixable.”
Denver Public Schools officials did not immediately return a phone call seeking information about Martinez.
The Denver Post reported Martinez won a districtwide award in 2011 for helping design The Digital Door Project, which gathers data for teachers and principals, including individual student data, to help improve standardized test scores.
Records show police arrested Martinez on July 18, 2013, on suspicion of sexual assault involving two children.
According to an affidavit, authorities allege Martinez assaulted a child who was in his care. Another alleged victim reported that Martinez sexually assaulted him while on a trip to Las Vegas.
No phone listing could be found for Martinez, and a message seeking comment from his attorney, Michael Meaux, was not immediately returned.
Martinez faces five charges of sexual assault on a child involving a victim under the age of 15, and one involving a child under the age of 18. The assaults allegedly happened in 2012 and 2013.
Martinez’s trial in that case is scheduled for Oct. 9.
One victim told police he came forward because “Jay has been touching people.” The children knew Martinez as Jay.
Martinez also faces a domestic violence charge for allegedly striking two men in a nightclub district in January. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for Oct. 18.
Denver District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said the office filed a motion Monday to revoke the bond in Martinez’s two current cases.
Banda reported from Denver.
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