Judge finds probable cause for mayor’s recall petition
GRANTS, N.M. - During the recall petition evidentiary hearing to recall Mayor Martin "Modey" Hicks at the Cibola County 13th Judicial District Courthouse on Monday, Aug. 17, the Honorable James Lawrence Sanchez determined with the evidence presented to the court, one item was shown as probable cause of malfeasance. That item was the mayor’s behavior at the June 22, 2020 city council meeting. (Malfeasance is the commission [as by a public official] of a wrongful or unlawful act involving or affecting the performance of one's duties, according to merriamwebster.com.)
The petitioner’s attorney, John A. Aragon, presented the court with nine exhibits, which were all entered in as evidence by Judge Sanchez. The exhibits included the behavior of Mayor Hicks at several city council meetings as well as his behavior in public on July 4 in front of City Hall, and two violations of the New Mexico Department of Health orders.
Aragon called two witnesses to testify against Hicks – former City Councilman Manuel Vasquez and current City Manager Laura Jaramillo.
Vasquez testified against Hicks regarding a council meeting that took place on August 5, 2019, claiming that Hicks demonstrated aggressive and unrestrained behavior.
“I felt threatened,” Vasquez said. “I thought he was going to hit me.”
However, Vasquez never filed a formal complaint against Hicks from this incident. Judge Sanchez ruled the video evidence did not show any law being broken, just two people in a heated argument, and did not find any probable cause by Hicks at that meeting.
Jaramillo’s testimony was lengthy as Aragon submitted eight exhibits while she was on the stand. Of the eight exhibits presented only the June 22 city council meeting was ruled on by Judge Sanchez to show probable cause of malfeasance.
Hicks’ defense attorney, Diego Roman Esquibel, called three witnesses to testify on the mayor’s behalf at the hearing. Those witnesses were Diane Rowe, Carolyn Newton, and Ronnie Pynes.
All three were questioned by Esquibel about their involvement in the July 4 protest parade and all three admitted they were responsible for putting the protest together and the mayor had nothing to do with the planning of the event. Hicks had been given a notice by the New Mexico Department of Health not to conduct the parade. However, Hicks was the MC (master of ceremonies) for the parade and led the protest through the streets of Grants. On July 8 Hicks received notice that he was being fined $5,000 for the parade.
Rowe, Newton and Pynes were also part of a petition that was sent to several small businesses in Grants which asked for the city to reopen for business. In all, more than 80 local businesses signed the petition, known as “Reclaim your rights, Reclaim your life.” The petition was filed with the City of Grants on April 21 at 2:55 p.m.
The petition asked the city council to adopt a resolution which would allow local businesses to resume normal operations on April 27, 2020.
On April 27, Mayor Hicks declared that the City of Grants was reopened for business.
With the finding by Judge Sanchez, the petition for a recall on Hicks will continue to move forward. The petitioners will have to rewrite the petition with only the matter ruled upon and submit the document to the judge who will sign the order. After that, 425 signatures will be required on the court-approved petition.
The Cibola Citizen will continue to follow this story and supply updates to our readers.