School board spends $863,000 on failed attempt to ban critic from public meetings

Dec 16, 2015 by

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque Public Schools agreed to spend $863,000 to settlement this week with one of its chief critics after officials banned the retired shop teacher from board meetings in 2010.

Charles “Ched” MacQuigg told the Albuquerque Journal the settlement vindicates him from allegations of intimidating behavior at board meetings that former board president Martin Esquivel used to justify the ban.

The legal expenses and payout – $863,000 in total – are also evidence of how the district spends taxpayer funds, he said.

“There is no limit to what they will spend on litigation,” MacQuigg said. “You cannot believe what you are going up against when you sue APS.”

Esquivel alleged he imposed a ban on MacQuigg with the support of school board members in September 2010 because MacQuigg would speak out of turn, hover over administrators and once wore an elephant mask and refused to remove it, according to an April 2014 Journal report.

MacQuigg’s alleged behavior was aimed at advocating for the canceled student program Character Counts, and he was ejected from meetings multiple times before the ban. MacQuigg reportedly attended virtually every public forum at the time to push for the character building program.

Federal Judge M. Christina Armijo ruled in March 2014 that district officials were wrong to ban MacQuigg, and lawyers have been hashing out the settlement since.

“The Court finds that the real reason for excluding Plaintiff from Board meetings is the Board’s frustration with Plaintiff’s ad nauseum belaboring of the Board about Character Counts, and that the justifications offered by the Board are pretexts masking viewpoint discrimination,” Armijo wrote, according to the Journal.

KOB reports APS spent $288,000 on its attorneys’ fees, $480,000 on MacQuigg’s attorneys’ fees, and $95,000 in damages as part of the federal court mediation. The district’s insurance deductible is $350,000.

“Due to some adverse court rulings, continued costs of taking this matter to trial and the unavailability of certain witnesses, a difficult decision was made to settle the matter with a majority of the funds coming from insurance proceeds and not from APS operating funds,” according to a district statement cited by KOB.

“The evidence is clear,” MaqQuigg told KRQE. “My civil rights were violated.”

“I’ve sued them now three times over their retaliation that they’ve released on me for trying to hold them accountable for their conduct,” he said.

School board treasurer Steven Michael Quezada told the news site that MacQuigg, who sat in the back of a recent board meeting, is “really disrespectful.”

“I’m not happy at all,” Quezada said. “I don’t think that we should settle with people who come to disrupt meetings and use that kind of format to make a living or make money.”

“It is just not right,” he said.

MacQuigg agrees.

“They shouldn’t have been wasting taxpayer money on this,” he said. “I think it’s outrageous.”

Source: School board spends $863,000 on failed attempt to ban critic from public meetings |

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