Monday, May 15, 2017
The Roake Case goes to Court
Corruption in Sandoval county going to court-- JoAnne Roake Case Update – At long last! Please attend the court hearing that will be held on Thursday, May 18, 2017, from 11:00 to12:00. Location: Valencia County District Court 1835 Highway 314 South West Los Lunas, NM 87031 Courtroom #302 – Judge James Lawrence Sanchez I will be sitting at the table with our attorney, but will not testify. This case will be argued before the judge by the attorneys. There will be no witnesses. It would be wonderful to have some supporters in the gallery. (Of course, no booing or hissing!) Why has this hearing been delayed for so long? What is going on? First of all, I want to thank those of you who donated to the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Fund. Because of your donations, at the end of February we were able to hire a very experienced attorney in county matters, Karen Mendenhall. In early April, Karen wrote a letter to the Sandoval County attorney Natalie Sanchez Downey. As you will see from the attached letter to the county, our case appears to be a solid one. A brief history: The county, unfortunately, is sticking to its position that it had the right to terminate Planning and Zoning Commissioner JoAnne Roake in March 2017. That date is the expiration of the term of Planning and Zoning Commissioner Sam Thompson (from Corrales). Sam had resigned for personal reasons. At the request of Commissioner Norah Scherzinger, on October 6, 2016, the county commission voted to appoint JoAnne Roake for a two-year term (to end in October 2018). Commissioner Jay Block, who defeated Commissioner Scherzinger in the November elections, was encouraged to appoint someone of his choosing to the Planning and Zoning seat held by JoAnne Roake. At first JoAnne was informed that she was immediately removed from the Planning and Zoning Commission. Subsequently she was officially told by the county attorney that her term would expire in March 2017, not in October 2018. The problem: There is nothing in the Planning and Zoning ordinance that prohibits the Commission from approving a two-year term, even though that person is replacing a commissioner whose term has not yet expired. Thus, this action to deny a commissioner a fully approved two-year term that has been unanimously approved by the county commission, is in violation of the current ordinance. Moreover, it raises serious concerns about abuse of power, as well as due process. Thus, our legal challenge actually goes beyond the case of this particular commissioner. The plot thickens. On March 2, 2017, the county commission decided to consider changes to the Planning and Zoning appointment process as outlined in the planning and zoning ordinance. These proposed changes were originally requested by Commissioner Block. One of those suggested changes was to specifically authorize a newly elected county commissioner to remove a sitting Planning and Zoning commissioner prior to the expiration of that Planning and Zoning commissioner’s term. Two of us attended the county commission meeting and protested this proposed change (and another one dealing with the removal of Planning and Zoning commissioners). The language was subsequently redrafted to authorize the commission to remove a Planning and Zoning commissioner (who has quasi-judicial responsibilities) at any time, for any reason. Again, the two of us challenged this language. The final proposed change dealing with the removal of a commissioner is to be considered at this Thursday’s county commission meeting. Thanks especially to Chairman Don Chapman’s support, the new language is based on suggestions made by Alan Friedman from Placitas and myself. If accepted by the county commission, a Planning and Zoning commissioner can only be removed for cause, with notice and after a public hearing. (See attached.) This is a positive step forward but does not correct past illegal actions. So let’s get back to our court case. A letter was sent to the county attorney stating our legal position that the commission did not have the authority to remove JoAnne prior to October 18, 2018. The county would not budge on the issue, so Karen sent a writ of prohibition to the court requesting that the county action of removing Roake prior to October 18, 2018, be ordered void. (The county commission, by the way, approved Commissioner Block’s request to appoint his candidate for JoAnne’s seat, Keith Brown, on April 6, 2017.) Why has it taken so long to have a hearing? The hearing has been delayed for so long because three different judges had to recuse themselves from our case! (One did so because he was the brother of a Sandoval County commissioner.) A fourth judge had such a busy calendar that he could not hear the case until July. On May 4 we learned that the case was reassigned to Judge Sanchez of Valencia County. Again, the hearing will be held on Thursday, May 18, 2017, from 11:00 to 12:00. The location for the hearing is: Valencia County District Court 1835 Highway 314 South West Los Lunas, NM 87031 Courtroom #302 – Judge James Lawrence Sanchez If the time changes, I will let you know. I sincerely hope some of you will be able to attend and demonstrate support for this important case. Thanks for your incredible support.
This is important case to everyone in counties along the Rio Grande valley.
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