The Española Police Department interviewed an Española city councilor in connection to allegations that a person or group has been creating fake profiles on Facebook in order to stalk and harass city officials and a former Rio Grande SUN reporter.
Española Police Officer Jerome Broyles spoke with Española Planning Director Richard Hubler, who verified photos of the exterior of his home were posted on multiple community pages on the social media platform.
Councilor Justin Salazar-Torrez told Broyles photos of his home were also posted.
Hubler also confirmed to Broyles that users made references on April 12 and April 20 to an alleged sexual relationship between Hubler and one of Hubler’s employees. He told Broyles “the references of such a relationship are completely false and inappropriate and are made to harass them as city employees.”
He told Broyles that the first reference to him having a sexual relationship with his employee was in a Feb. 12 email from landlord and former City Council candidate Philip Chacon.
Broyles wrote that Hubler “feels in fear for his safety and has since invested in surveillance cameras to monitor his home.”
Broyles spoke with an unnamed male councilor over the phone April 21 about the charges. The councilor asked Broyles if it was a criminal matter or even worth the officer’s time, and said he only wanted to talk to Broyles on the phone, not in person, according to the report.
The following day, Broyles tried again to talk with the councilor but only got his voicemail. Broyles wrote his “actions lead me to believe he is no longer willing to cooperate with this investigation into the harassment, stalking and spreading of rumor.”
Broyles’ report includes many references to a city councilor but his name is redacted. The unnamed councilor is suspected but not charged with a crime, which allows law enforcement to redact his name from their records before releasing them to the public.
However, the second alleged victim in the case, journalist and former SUN reporter Tabitha Clay, told Broyles that Councilor John Ramon Vigil “may have direct knowledge of the posts, and who is posting them based on the information the posts contained regarding herself, and the Mayor for the City of Española Javier Sanchez.”
Hubler addressed the rumors before the Española City Council on May 12 and said over the preceding weeks, personal attacks have been made against himself, his staff, members of the Fire Department, and other city workers.
Clay provided Broyles with photos and comments posted to social media meant to degrade her as well as city workers.
He later sourced the posts to three separate Facebook accounts, all of which he believes are operated by Vigil, he wrote.
“I will not speak to the specific allegations as I strongly believe that some of the motivation of the individual or individuals is to gain attention and create havoc,” Hubler told the councilors. “I will simply respond that the accusations leveled against myself and my staff are entirely untrue.”
Hubler said the first time he heard of the rumor was in some back and forth emails between him and Chacon, who was questioning his relationship with one of his employees. He told Chacon at that time that behavior was inappropriate.
The second time was on Feb. 25 when Chacon was talking about a property during a public discussion about the city’s Clean and Lien program but then accused Hubler of sleeping with one of his employees.
But after Chacon was incarcerated for the alleged stabbing of Jacob Smith on March 21, he initially wrote off the allegations until someone went as far as posting photos on Facebook of a city employee’s car parked outside his home.
“It wasn’t just a crazy rumor anymore, but it was someone taking it to the next level,” Hubler said. “That’s when it felt intimidating.”
In a separate criminal investigation, Española Det. Ernest Saucedo charged Vigil with three counts of felony bribery and a misdemeanor count of refusing to aid an officer in connection with Chacon trying to garner favors from Vigil over a condemned house on North McCurdy Road.
When Saucedo attempted to serve a search warrant for Vigil's phone on May 19 at his home on the West Side, the councilor initially refused to come out of his home, and called Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan for help, lapel video recorded at the scene shows.
"Why was the sheriff here?" Det. Zack Wright asks as he and Saucedo drive away from the home, phone in hand.
"I don't know," Saucedo replies.
Chacon is alleged to have offered Vigil and fellow City Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez $25,000 “if you guys get rid of (City Planning and Zoning Director) Richard (Hubler)” because of Hubler’s efforts to demolish the property.
Vigil’s attorney Robert Gorence said Vigil never communicated with Chacon about city personnel decisions.
“There is nothing criminal or unethical with communicating with a constituent nor does (the criminal complaint) specifically state Hubler’s name,” Gorence said.
He also said Vigil has not asked for the termination of an employee who is not immediately supervised by the governing body.
Gorence said these decisions are ultimately at the hands of the interim city manager Xavier Martinez.
Martinez said Vigil did not contact him about Hubler’s employment. Hubler said he had also contacted Martinez who said he was never contacted by Vigil.
Sanchez said the complaint was “bothersome.”
“(Hubler) is an outstanding person and he is an amazing planning and land use guy,” Sanchez said. “He truly is an asset to this city.”Hubler said he has been a little bit “nervous” and has called over to the Tierra Amarilla Detention Center several times to confirm that Chacon is still locked up.
“It is not as much the ravings of a crazed individual, but the fact that these attacks persist while he (Chacon) is in jail,” Hubler said. “Several times, and through several false social media accounts, these attacks have continued, even to the extent of posting pictures of my home in an apparent attempt to incite harassment against me. So it appears that multiple individuals have joined in this effort.”
Sanchez said Hubler or any of his employees do not deserve this kind of behavior or treatment as he is only trying to do his job.
Hubler said people should not be allowed “to harass, intimidate, and bully any of our city employees.”
Hubler has lived in Española for about a year-and-a-half and said he has lived in a lot of small towns, but has never had to deal with something quite like this.
He said he will continue to stand up for himself and his staff.
Hubler said he hopes councilors will speak out with a unified voice to say, “This behavior is inappropriate and will not be tolerated. We value all our city staff and will not listen to those in our community who bully, berate, or otherwise devalue them.”