SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas called Monday for the resignation of a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools education board over her prior role as executive director of a charter school that is under scrutiny in an embezzlement case.
Balderas wrote to Analee Maestas to say she no longer qualifies for her position on the education board in light of concerns regarding misuse of public funds at La Promesa Early Learning Center.
Earlier this month, the state auditor’s office said La Promesa’s former assistant business manager — Maestas’ daughter — had deposited over 500 checks worth more than $475,000 into her personal bank account.
Marc Lowry, an attorney for Analee Maestas, said in a statement Monday that his client did not participate in any conduct that violated her oath or the law.
“If the attorney general had read the state auditor’s report, he would understand that Dr. Maestas is innocent, and that the state auditor did not make a single finding suggesting that Dr. Maestas participated in that report’s allegations of embezzlement or fraud,” Lowry said.
Maestas previously said she was unaware of any wrongdoing at La Promesa, and that her daughter’s substance abuse problems were directly related to issues outlined in the auditor’s report.
Maestas founded La Promesa in 2008. She was accused last year of altering a receipt for maintenance work she had done at her home so she could be reimbursed as if it had been a school expense.
The state Public Education Department took over the school’s finances last year after Maestas was asked to resign. Her daughter also was discharged.
The Albuquerque Police Department has an active investigation into financial activities at La Promesa, agency spokeswoman Tixier Tanner said, No charges have been filed.
“While those matters are pending, the New Mexico Constitution does not require that you be found guilty of any conduct related to them to be declared unfit to hold your office,” Balderas wrote.
State auditors say checks from La Promesa were apparently signed over to Maestas’ daughter, Julieanne Maestas, through a process known as dual endorsing.
Julieanne Maestas could not be reached by phone Monday. It was not clear whether she has an attorney.
Auditors also found that an additional $177,000 worth of checks were made payable to Analee Maestas and a boyfriend of her daughter who was a school vendor but has not been identified.
Those checks were also deposited into Julieanne Maestas’ personal account, auditors say.