Kickback Claims

"Kickback Claims Examined by APS:
Contractor Says Pair Demanded 10% Cut
Andrea Schoellkopf, Journal staff writer,
Albuquerque Public Schools

...is investigating a contractor's allegation that two district employees demanded kickbacks from her. In a letter dated Dec. 7, Joanna P. Jaramillo said an employee demanded 10 percent of the proceeds from each upholstering job she would get from APS.

"APS was my only means of support for my family, myself, my husband and my two sons," Jaramillo's letter said. A copy of the letter indicates it was received by APS police Dec. 10.

Jaramillo has a contract to do work for APS. Her letter - which was provided to the Journal by her attorney, Hank Farrah - says she also gave the employee her 1982 motor home, worth $5,500, in exchange for a promise of $10,000 worth of APS work."I had no choice but to give him my motor home," the letter said. "Because he said that was the only way I was going to receive any APS work at all."Her letter added that she had not received any "descent (sic) APS work" since giving him the motor home last year.She also said a second man acted as a "middleman" and alleged that he was being used by the other APS employee to get the money from her.

But, her letter said, the second man promised to help her get "legal jobs" through APS.APS spokesman Rigo Chavez confirmed that two employees had been suspended with pay, but he would not say whether that suspension was in connection with the investigation.

Chavez said he could not immediately provide information on how much money APS has paid Jaramillo. She reported that she has been doing work for the district since September 2000. Farrah said he has advised Jaramillo not to talk to the media. Barnalillo County Deputy District Attorney Joe Paone said his office is "aware of the investigation that's being conducted by APS. We're in communication so we know what is going on."He declined to provide details.

The APS maintenance and operations division oversees the maintenance, repair and upkeep of district buildings, equipment and grounds. Seventy percent of the district's work is performed by contractors.Last year, the district had $203.3 million allotted for capital projects, including new buildings and maintenance. Another $46 million went to cover operational expenses to the maintenance and operations division. Last week, Albuquerque voters rejected $192.4 million in taxes that would have paid for school construction, technology and maintenance.

APS staff accused of taking kickbacks:
A contractor says district staffers demanded compensation before giving him work.
Andy Lenderman, The Albuquerque Tribune, Feb. 12, 2002

An investigation is under way into allegations that thousands of dollars in "kickbacks" were paid to Albuquerque Public School employees in the district's Maintenance and Operations division, public documents indicate.The investigation is being conducted by the Albuquerue Public Schools police and the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office, according to one of two documents obtained by The Albuquerque Tribune.

So far, at least one school district employee has been placed on leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, authorities said. They said another employee could be placed on leave today. District spokesman Rigo F. Chavez confirmed one employee was on leave but declined to link the employee to the allegations. All other district officials were mum on the investigation, which could involve more than $100,000 in possible kickbacks or APS overbillings.

The investigation centers on activities within the Maintenance and Operations division. Its 1999-2000 budget was more than $44 million, and the division's mission is to keep schools clean and safe for the district's 85,000 kids.A local contractor reported allegations of kickbacks within the division, according to the public documents obtained by the Tribune.

One document was filed with school police on Dec. 10, 2001. Another document is an internal APS correspondence. The hand-written statement lists the names of two district employees. The Tribune is not publishing their names because they have not been charged with any wrongdoing. But the statement makes it clear that one of the men was demanding kickbacks worth thousands of dollars. The other man was "being used as a middleman," the statement reads.

The contractor was required to pay to keep working for the district, according to a written complaint by the contractor. The contractor, who's been working for the district for more than a year, gave the letter to another top manager in the Maintenance and Operations division. After the first two jobs," the letter reads, "I was told I had to give a 10 percent kickback from each job I was to receive in order to receive work."APS was my only means of support . . . So I had no choice but to comply."District spokesman Chavez did not confirm or deny the letter's allegations.

The documents also indicate the District Attorney's Office is aware of the allegations and is assisting in an investigation.District Attorney Kari Brandenburg declined to comment. Michael J. Vigil, the district's chief business officer, could not be reached for comment.Board President Leonard DeLayo declined to comment, as did other APS officials.

The kickbacks were part of a process where the managers approved contracts, the letter reads. The contractor accepted a deal where they received "$10,000 of easy APS work" in exchange for giving the manager a 1982 motor home worth $5,500, the statement reads.