DISREGARD THAT OLD ANTI-NEPOTISM POLICY: The trustees at Luna Community College in New Mexico have exempted themselves from the school’s strict anti-nepotism policy.
By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE, N.M. – Luna Community College used to have one of the most stringent anti-nepotism policies in New Mexico.
Not anymore — at least for the school’s board of trustees.
The trustees Friday unanimously voted to exempt themselves from the policy, thus allowing the school’s leadership to hire family members of trustees so long as the full board is notified by the next public board meeting and the new hire does not work directly under a relative.
Board of trustees chairman Abelino Montoya says the old policy was too restrictive because of the relatively small population in the area surrounding the school in the northern New Mexico town of Las Vegas.
“There are generations of families that have lived (in the area),” Montoya told New Mexico Watchdog. “Heck, we’re almost all related one way or another. For me, as long as the individual does their job and they’re qualified to do the job and help the institution move forward, I’m OK with hiring (a relative).”
Montoya acknowledges the decision will lead to criticism, especially considering New Mexico’s history with the “patron” system, in which political leaders routinely handed out jobs and favors to political friends and family.
“I know that’s a perception,” Montoya said. “I know that there are some who look at it that way, but I’ve also had people say, Why are we going to send qualified people out of Las Vegas? There aren’t that many jobs … In a larger community where there are plenty of jobs that wouldn’t be a problem. But in a smaller community, you look at Springer, N.M., or Santa Rosa, you’re going to have relatives.”
But Robert Portillos, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the board of trustees, disagrees with the policy change.
“I believe the best practice is for the president and trustees not to hire any relatives because the perception is that it is political,” Portillos told the Las Vegas Optic newspaper.
Portillos contends he was not allowed to speak before the board, but Montoya disputed that.
“Mr. Portillos never asked to be put on the agenda to speak,” Montoya said. “If he would have asked, I probably would have let him comment.”
The president of Luna Community College is Pete Campos, a Democratic state senator who has served in the Roundhouse for 23 years. As president, Campos answers to the school’s board of trustees and is in charge of hiring decisions at LCC.
When asked his reaction to the nepotism policy, Campos said, “I support the actions taken by the board of trustees and I will abide by those policies. I will continue to work to hire the most qualified individuals, and that includes individuals who are the best fit with their credentials to serve the needs of our students … The trustees enact policies; I implement those policies.”
LCC’s nepotism guidelines have been in place since 2010 and prohibited the college from hiring anyone related to a current board member, administrator or school employee, except in limited circumstances.
Under the new policy, a carve-out is made for relatives of the board of trustees ”when a qualified family member” is hired by the school president, provided the hire is announced before the board at its next meeting.
“As long as we monitor this thing, where it doesn’t get out of whack, where people are getting promoted just because of a board member … we have to watch that,” Montoya said. “And the public will tell us. The public isn’t shy about speaking out. Is it comfortable? No, but it’s something that had to be done.”
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