The state Supreme Court this week shut down District Court proceedings against Edgewood Mayor John Bassett, issuing a stay in the case.
It’s the latest in the labyrinthine court case(s) against the mayor by members of Citizens for an Open Responsible Edgewood, or CORE, including two members of the town council, Sherry Abraham and Audrey Jaramillo. The lawsuit was filed by Tom McGill, Jerry Powers, and the late Howard Calkins.
The suit alleges malfeasance and fraud on Bassett’s part, and orders of the court said Bassett “was removed from the office of Mayor for the Town of Edgewood.”
At the heart of the legal actions against Bassett are allegations that he used his position as mayor for personal gain. The mayor’s mother and brother were both named as defendants as well.
Last week, Judge Maria Sanchez-Gagne declined to hold Bassett and the town’s attorney Marcus Rael in contempt of court, which had been sought by Terry. She also declined Rael’s motion to overturn the default judgment and summary judgment against Bassett.
Rael represents the town of Edgewood and its governing body, which is made up of the council and mayor.
Attorney Marc Lowry represents Bassett in his personal capacity.
Both attorneys petitioned the Supreme Court asking it to take over the case, or to correct any deficiencies in the case.
Both attorneys gave the Court notice that they plan to appeal the case as well.
Both used similar arguments, contending that Bassett and the town of Edgewood were not properly served and were denied due process in the case as a result.
The Supreme Court’s order gives until Dec. 7 for parties, including Sanchez-Gagne, to respond.
The case has laid bare an ongoing division in Edgewood’s government, with two town councilors pitted against the other two town councilors and the mayor. In spite of the bitter division, which has been evident for months in its meetings, Edgewood’s council votes unanimously much of the time.
CORE’s efforts to oust Bassett have included multiple lawsuits, a successful petition to change the form of government in the town, and exertion of public pressure at town meetings.
In addition to allegations of nepotism, fraud and malfeasance against Bassett, CORE, along with councilors Abraham and Jaramillo, take issue with the town’s investigation of whether it can take over the Epcor water system in Edgewood—despite the fact that the town council unanimously voted to do so in 2018.
The town has since spent more than $150,000 in legal fees since then.
Epcor, owned by the city of Edmonton in Canada, has said that it would legally fight any attempt by the town to take it over by eminent domain. The issue is complicated by the fact that Epcor ran the town’s wastewater system under an emergency contract for about two years.
An August special election, by a large margin, changed the form of government in Edgewood from the current mayor-council to the commission-manager format.
That change takes effect with the November 2021 elections, meaning that new commissioners will first be seated in January 2022, according to the Secretary of State and Attorney General, who both sent letters to the town.
At a public meeting CORE held via streaming video earlier this year, Terry described the group’s attempts to remove Bassett as a “shotgun approach” with several fronts.
Bassett has maintained that he did not act improperly in office and denies allegations of fraud and malfeasance.
In Edgewood, meanwhile, the town’s regular meetings in November have been called off due to the Veterans Day and Thanksgiving holidays. It’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Dec. 9, two days after the Supreme Court’s deadline for responses to its orders.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.