The Edgewood Commission booted Mayor Audrey Jaramillo from her seat just three months before her two-year term was set to expire.
In a nearly-three-hour special meeting Aug. 21, the commission voted 3-2 to oust Jaramillo, claiming that she changed the verbiage in the minutes, micro-managed the Town Hall staff and possibly violated the state’s Sunshine Laws regarding information requests.
Commissioner Ken Brennan, who joined Jaramillo against the measure, was voted in as acting mayor. Commissioners Jerry Powers, Filandro Anaya and Sterling Donner supported the measure.
Two years ago, Edgewood adopted a weak-mayor with a commission-city manager form of government. Under that structure, the mayor is selected by the commission for two-year terms and it is a largely ceremonial position. The mayor runs the meetings but does not manage staff. The city manager retains supervision and control of city employees.
And it was the latter that Anaya and Powers asserted where Jaramillo consistently usurped her authority in day-to-day oversight of the employees and often times distracting them from their duties, frustrating them and even causing resignations.
In a regular commission meeting Aug.22, Jaramillo said she would resign as mayor when her term was completed and would not seek the position again, even if she ran again in the November’s election. She did bring the motion that Brennan run the regular meeting.
“You have my resignation as of Dec. 31,” she said. “I will not accept returning as mayor, even if I am running and even if I were to get elected. Those are ifs. I am letting you all know, you have my resignation as of Dec. 31 and that completes the two-year term that’s set out in statute.”
Jaramillo disputed the various allegations against her, while acknowledging early in her tenure she made mistakes and did her best to correct the behavior.
“I do have to say that (Monday’s) hastily called meeting that was an ambush is a complete disservice to this town and its people,” she said at the meeting Aug. 22. “The community did not know about this and there were many, many accusations thrown at me that were new that people had not addressed with me. There were lies, there were false things and there were things I have admitted I could do better and I have apologized for obviously.”
Jaramillo remains on the commission, but her salary will be reduced from the mayor’s stipend of $1,000 a month to $400, although she said she donates all of that income to various causes.
A point of contention that one of the town’s consulting attorneys noted was that under state statutes, the only way a mayor can be removed before the end of term is by death, resignation or a petition of malfeasance through the state district court.
So the commission’s move could leave it open to a certain amount of risk, said attorney Nann Winter of Stelzner Winter Warburton Law.
“My job here is to counsel you so that if, in fact, you want to remove (the) mayor, that you do it the right way, that you do it in accordance with the two statutes that apply, that you notice it the right way, that you vote on it the right way,” Winter said at the special meeting. “Not only do you have a reputational sort of obligation to this community, but if you do this the wrong way, if any vote is taken the incorrect way, the New Mexico Self-Insurance Fund in its letter from March tells you in a footnote that it will not cover you. That it will not insure or cover you for anything for any action brought by in any particular manner as a result of the fact that you did it the wrong way.”
Additionally, Jaramillo read into the record at Tuesday’s meeting an email from Winter: “At the request of Commissioner Brennan, I have been asked to convey to you that the New Municipal League is of the opinion that Mayor Jaramillo remains the legally selected mayor of the town.”
Anaya said he would begin the process of taking the issue before the district court to ensure its legality.
This is not the first time that the commission has questioned Jaramillo’s actions and discussed her removal, Powers said in a later interview.
“It’s been going on ever since we got into office,” he said. “The governing body as a whole can give direction by vote and only by vote. But there’s been this pattern of interference and not following the commission-manager rules. The mayor is really just another commissioner and should act that way.”
But what Jaramillo has been doing has been disruptive to the smooth workings of Town Hall.
“You can’t act that way,” Powers said. “When you get conflicting directives, you have morale issues and it causes chaos, confusion and uncertainty. This has been brought on the agenda two or three times. But through conversation, through trying to solve the problem that way, without bringing it to the vote because nobody wanted to bring it to this point. It’s the last resort when you have to do this, but when somebody doesn’t listen, the only resort you have is to make a change.”
During the meeting, Jerrett Perry, former interim Edgewood city manager, confirmed Jaramillo’s actions and talked with her about it “on several different occasions, some of her tactics that she used, that really did impede our ability to do our day-to-day operations. Not just with appointed officials, but also with employees. And so, yeah, her and I did have multiple conversations in regard to some of these things. And we did spend a lot of time trying to, you know, trying to overcome some of those behaviors. So yeah, that I can confirm that.”
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