- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A former city manager of a troubled New Mexico border city has filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract and violation of the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports (https://goo.gl/QMKnrr) Vernon Wilson said in recently filed court papers that the Sunland Park City Council conducted his job performance evaluations “in bad faith” and made up information to fire him.

Wilson was hired in 2013 after state officials threaten to take over the troubled border city amid an extortion case and allegations of voter fraud.

The council voted 5-0 to fire Wilson on Feb. 3 amid a number of disagreements. He had two years left on a contract and was earning an annual salary of $80,000 at the time of his dismissal.

Court documents said Wilson’s contract as Sunland Park’s city manager included a non-interference clause that stipulated “(City) councilors individually or as a group (would) not control city staff directly.” But the lawsuit made numerous allegations that Sunland Park councilors tried to interfere with Wilson’s duties as the city’s chief administrator.

“Because this is a matter of pending litigation and the nature of it, I’m not at liberty to make any comments about the lawsuit,” Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea said.

In 2012, Sunland Park drew national attention after a mayoral candidate was charged with extortion for secretly recording an opponent receiving a lap dance from a topless woman in his campaign office.

The year before the extortion case, former Mayor Martin Resendiz said he was drunk when he signed nine contracts with a California company for $1 million.

The lawsuit also claimed job performance reviews submitted by Perea were designed to give Wilson low scores that were later used against him.

The lawsuit also alleges Wilson’s dismissal was in retaliation for his “good faith report of unlawful or improper acts to the city and third parties” as stipulated in the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act.

Wilson’s lawsuit seeks compensatory and actual damages “two times the amount of back pay plus interest,” unspecified special damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees, and “any other relief as the court deems just and proper,” according to court documents.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, https://www.lcsun-news.com


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