Human beings do things in secret when they’re ashamed or fearful. Such was the Jan. 10 vote taken by the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees to replace the late David Salazar with his grand-nephew John Ramon Vigil.
The vote resulted in an official selection of Salazar’s opening on the Board. The cowardly majority of the Co-op Board insisted the vote be taken in a closed meeting. Why? Please reread the first sentence of this editorial.
We also can’t fathom why the Board needed to call five State Police officers to try to remove Rio Grande SUN staff writer Molly Montgomery and member-owner Luis Torrez. Neither of them give off any sort of threatening vibe. They just wanted to hear their trustees conduct an open and democratic meeting. After Montgomery and Torrez talked down the cops, the Board slinked off to another room to hold its secret vote.
It was difficult to get straight answers from Co-op General Manager Ernesto Gonzales regarding who applied for the open post. It was more a game of getting him to confirm or deny applicants leaked to the SUN until he was finally pinned down to confirm a list of applicants.
Before diving into the list and its accompanying politics, please keep in mind this has absolutely nothing to do with what is best for Co-op member owners who reside in District 2, Ward A. It has everything to do with:
• who owes what favors to whom;
• who swings more political clout;
• who is backed by the stronger washed up politician and;
• who may know about a skeleton or two.
Members got lucky because last week prior to the vote, the Board majority was split regarding each’s loyalty to an applicant. That, more than anything, probably drove the secret vote. Perhaps it wasn’t so much that trustees didn’t want members to know for whom they voted as much as the applicants themselves.
Anyone who’s lived in Rio Arriba County through any single election knows voters lie to politicians and politicians reply in kind.
So trustees had to choose between accountant Joseph Salazar, Española City Councilor John Ramon Vigil, former fired and disgraced basketball coach Richard Martinez and former Española School Board member Leonard Valerio.
You can toss Valerio out immediately. He’s honest, hard-working, community involved, youth-oriented and ethical. There’s nothing in that abridged list of Valerio’s many attributes that would appeal to the Jemez Board majority. But we sure thank him for applying. It puts things in perspective.
Martinez still swings weight in Española despite his epic fall from grace. We all know it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, as long as you can win all-important basketball games. A contrast in Valerio’s focus on education and Martinez’s focus on basketball speaks volumes. A preponderance of Valley parents prefer a winning basketball team to a higher high school graduation rate.
Joseph Salazar has an inside track. He’s worked on audits for the Co-op in the past and surely has a fairly accurate financial picture of the Co-op. It would be helpful if he shared some of that knowledge with member-owners, since the Co-op Board majority won't.
Salazar may also be one of the candidates that falls into the skeletal knowledge category.
John Ramon Vigil applied as the heir apparent to his great uncle’s position. For some nebulous reason people think a deceased trustee’s spouse should get the position almost automatically. Thankfully, David Salazar’s wife declined.
But Vigil surely feels some right as a descendant to take the position. He has a point. It just wouldn’t feel right to not have someone from the Salazar clan in each political body throughout the County.
With the exception of Valerio each man had a couple of votes on the nine-person delegate panel. Former Board president Nick Naranjo and current President Leo Marquez probably shocked everyone in the room when Naranjo sided with the minority and chose Vigil and Marquez voted to abstain, which by Robert's Rules of Order gives his vote to the majority. Great irony.
If the minority thinks Vigil is going to be an ally, we believe they’ll be shocked shortly. The Board will learn this lesson at member-owners’ expense.
This was yet again another move by the Jemez Co-op Board to usurp member-owners’ representation and rights by not allowing a robust public discussion and a vote where every trustee must be exposed to the light of day.