To the Editor: 

So, Rio Arriba County Commissioner Moises Morales believes the termination of County Manager Lucia Sanchez is a dirty political move. He should know, since he and former Commissioner James Martinez did the same exact movida in May 2021 when they terminated former County Manager Tomas Campos without posting the position for potential applicants. 

Morales and Martinez voted to not renew Campos’ contract and immediately offered the position to Sanchez. The political maneuver marginalized Commissioner Christine Bustos and set her up for failure in her reelection effort. Yes, it is dirty politics that continue to plague Rio Arriba County. 

Hey, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. 

     In regards to North Central Solid Waste Authority, I spoke with Commissioner Morales about the problem of the waste authority’s predatory liens when he came to my house seeking support for his election campaign. He told me then that the imposition of liens on citizens was wrong, that the word liens was inserted into the county ordinance founding the waste authority “to scare the citizens into participating in the program,” and that this must be changed. 

After Commissioner Morales was elected and Manager Sanchez hired, I met with them on numerous occasions in which both agreed that the liens were misguided and must be eradicated, and that the ordinance was improperly implemented and must be updated. I was allowed on the commissions’ agenda twice in 2021. 

I explained the many inconsistencies in the ordinance, and Manager Sanchez went so far as to describe the ordinance as “arbitrary, capricious and antiquated.” I mentioned that there were many people on the liens list who had been deceased for as long as 20 years who continued to be assessed penalties and interest. I also informed officials that the continuing efforts to force the heirs to those lien-encumbered properties to pay old garbage bills, and interest they do not actually owe, constitutes extortion.

It was like talking to the wall. 

Commissioner Morales’ only comment was that as long as he was commissioner, no one’s property would be foreclosed. I guess he intends to be in office forever, since there appears to be no statute of limitations on the waste authority’s actions involving liens and billing. 

    Prior to Mr. Alex Naranjo and Mr. Brandon Bustos’ election to the commission, I asked Mr. Morales why commissioners were not taking action on the liens. His response was that Commissioners Christine Bustos and James Martinez had declined to support him in his desire for action on the liens issue. 

   I then asked why he did not make a motion on the matter. He responded that only the chairman could introduce a motion. Really, Moises? The fact is, any commissioner can introduce a motion. If they want to address the liens issue, they can take action anytime. 

What is troubling to me is that Morales participated in the armed raid on the Tierra Amarilla County Courthouse in 1967 to protest the government’s taking of the people’s lands and properties. Now, as a county commissioner, Morales is part of the government responsible for placing unfair and unwarranted liens on citizens’ homes and properties.

In the 1970s, Morales participated in the effigy hanging of Emilio Naranjo for his abuse of power and political corruption. Morales and I were brothers in arms at the time, both fighting corruption. Like Moises, I was framed by the powerful political boss Naranjo. Ugly politics were with us then, and they remain with us now. 

There is an answer to the commission’s continuing problems: let’s increase the number of county commissioners to five. This will make it much more difficult for failures like the exploitative liens program to continue. As for commissioners Morales, Naranjo and Bustos, the citizens of Rio Arriba County have successfully petitioned for a grand jury investigation into North Central and Rio Arriba County’s continuing efforts to extort county citizens for services not rendered and, among other issues, the on-the-job death of one of its employees in November.    

Antonio DeVargas,

La Madera

(Editor’s note: DeVargas is a longtime activist and a Vietnam War veteran.)

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