Judge Hears Petition to Stop 'Frankenstein's Monster'

  • 0
  • 2 min to read
county NCSWA first hearing on grand jury investigation petition DeVargas Orie

Antonio DeVargs (left) filed a petition to impanel a grand jury investigation of North Central Solid Waste Authority for malfeasance, billing for services not rendered and other alleged illegal actions. DeVargas, along with Donald Orie (seated) have been attempting to discuss these issues with Authority officials for years, but said they feel they have gotten no real response from them or officials from Rio Arriba County.

A hearing is expected in August on a petition filed in First Judicial District Court regarding a request for a grand jury investigation of the North Central Solid Waste Authority.

La Madera resident Antonio DeVargas filed the petition June 5 in First Judicial District Court. The petition contains 527 signatures.

The petition states the signers are requesting an investigation because of “allegations of malfeasance, misappropriation of public monies, billing and collecting money for services not rendered, fraud and any other illegal acts committed by any individual associated with or employed at any time by the (Authority) and Rio Arriba County.”

First Judicial District Court Judge Jason Lidyard held the first hearing on the petition with DeVargas June 26 to discuss the next steps.

Lidyard said he sent the petition to the Rio Arriba County Clerk’s Office for signature verification and the next hearing will most likely occur sometime in August.

DeVargas said he was disappointed no one from the Authority attended the hearing, but is pleased with the information he received from Lidyard.

“I’m satisfied that at least I’m not in the dark anymore,” he said. “I didn’t know how this thing was going to proceed.”

DeVargas filed the petition using a provision of the New Mexico Constitution which allows citizens to request a judge impanel a grand jury.

The Constitution requires the petition either have 200 signatures or signatures from 2 percent of the registered voters in a given county.

Lidyard said they will determine at the next hearing if DeVargas’ petition satisfies the signature requirements.

He also gave DeVargas copies of four court cases dealing with previous attempts to convene a grand jury as allowed by the Constitution.

“If you satisfy the requirements for the number of signatures, then we are going to talk about the other requirements that are talked about in this case law and determine whether or not you’ve satisfied that requirement,” Lidyard said. “Assuming that all that works and that you’ve satisfied the requirements of the law, then we’ll charge a grand jury to proceed in the investigation that you’re requesting.”

Fuller said he spoke to Authority contract attorney Renee Barela-Gutierrez prior to the June 26 hearing and she said he does not need to do anything unless someone from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office calls him and requests a meeting.

If that happens, he said he will attend the meeting and have his own attorney present.

County Clerk Bureau of Election Chief Michele Jordan is responsible for verifying the signatures.

Lidyard told her to complete the verification process by Aug. 1.

“(I’ve) never had signatures for a grand jury investigation,” Jordan said. “I’ve done petition signatures, as you know, I’ve never even heard about (this process) before he told me.”

The verification process is straightforward and she will compare each name and signature on the petition with data in the County’s voter registration database, she said.

Lidyard told her to complete the verification process by Aug. 1.

Although DeVargas filed the petition and has had some free assistance from a friend who is a lawyer, he has not hired an attorney.

It comes down to money, he said.

DeVargas, along with Donald Orie, have been holding meetings since February to organize the petition. Both men have liens placed on their properties for non-payment of their trash bill.

DeVargas said while he decided to follow through with the petition, he still believes the problems originate with Rio Arriba County’s Solid Waste Ordinance.

Instead of being like other rural New Mexico counties, such as San Miguel or Taos counties, and allowing private companies like Waste Management to operate in the area, government officials decided to create a separate entity made of different government agencies to collect trash, he said.

It is not working, he said.

“Why did they even decide they needed to create this Frankenstein?” DeVargas said.”Because that’s what this thing is. It’s a Frankenstein. It’s a monster.”

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.