A lawsuit brought against Edgewood Mayor John Bassett and the entire governing body was the subject of a special meeting by the town council Sept. 3—and at which it took no action despite a contentious start.
The meeting pertained to a lawsuit by Thomas McGill, Jerry Powers, and the late Howard Calkins of CORE (Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood) seeks to remove Bassett and the governing body from office, alleging he has committed malfeasance and fraud.
The lawsuit’s court documents show the State of New Mexico as a plaintiff in what is called a “qui tam” action, meaning one brought by a citizen on behalf of the government.
The special meeting had a single agenda item, to be heard in closed session because it was about pending litigation. To enter closed session, the council must vote to go into closed session and state why it is doing so. Afterwards, councilors affirm that nothing else was discussed in closed session and that no action was taken; actions like motions can only be done in open session.
At the beginning of the meeting, councilors Sherry Abraham and Audrey Jaramillo argued that Bassett should not be allowed in the closed session as he is a defendant in the lawsuit.
The town’s attorney, Marcus Rael, advised that because the only thing to be discussed was whether or not the town would intervene as a plaintiff in the qui tam lawsuit or not, that Bassett could take part in the closed session.
Rael said that if the town were to vote to intervene in the court case, Bassett would then have to recuse himself from any votes on the matter.
Describing it as complicated and messy, Rael said he would explain the various issues to the council once they were in closed session.
The vote to go into closed session, made by John Abrams and seconded by Sherry Abraham, was split, with Abraham and Jaramillo voting no, and Abrams and Councilor Linda Holle voting yes.
Bassett broke the tie with an affirmative vote, and the council recessed to closed session.
When they returned after two hours, in just five minutes the council made its motion to return to open session.
Councilor Sherry Abraham then made a motion to intervene as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which died for lack of a second. No other motions were offered, and the council adjourned without further comment.
Attorney General Hector Balderas on July 28 declined to intervene as a plaintiff in the case. Edgewood’s declination means that an amended complaint filed March 9 will be unsealed, according to court documents.
CORE’s attorney, Adrian Terry, filed a motion June 6 to lift the seal “to permit Plaintiffs to serve a copy of the First Amended Complaint on all captioned defendants” and to “permit Plaintiffs to commence and continue with the prosecution of this action.”
According to that motion, McGill et al. want to add an additional cause of action and two additional parties, Bassett’s mother and brother.