Indigenous lawmaker calls for immediate dismissal of civil servant accused of making racist comments | Local News


A Native American lawmaker on Friday called for the “immediate withdrawal” of a state education official accused of making derogatory comments about indigenous peoples – the latest effort to oust the controversial administrator.

“It needs to reach a higher level of accountability,” Representative Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, said in a statement. “We can’t just sweep this under the rug and hope it resolves. More needs to be done, including sacking Ms. [Rachel] Gudgel’s employment with the state. “

Gudgel, director of the Legislative Education Review Committee, has come under fire for allegations that she made racist remarks about Native Americans and created a hostile work environment.

Despite continued calls for his dismissal, Gudgel, who has the backing of several prominent lawmakers including Senate Speaker Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, has managed to keep his $ 129,000-a-year job.

But the pressure is building with Lente leading the last charge.

One of 10 voting members of the Legislative Education Review Committee was allowed to read an investigative report into Gudgel’s actions, Lente said in a press release that there is “a compelling need to raise the issue of Ms. Gudgel’s racist comments to a higher level of responsibility. which is now aggravated by the inaction of the LESC. “

Earlier this week, the committee met behind closed doors to discuss Gudgel’s job and found itself in a 5-5 deadlock over whether or not to let her go.

In addition to reading the report, Lente was among the select group of lawmakers with the right to vote on the committee to hear directly from the private investigator who conducted the investigation.

“I was alarmed by the allegations when they appeared in print and on social media. And now, after reading the report, all I can say is that it is worse than that. than I imagined, “Lente said in her statement.

The investigation report has been protected from public disclosure.

But Lente said now is the time to draw the curtain.

“On behalf of my constituency, I can no longer accept the continued support for someone who maintains an implicit bias towards the diversity of New Mexico,” he said in the statement. “As legislators, we have failed in our responsibility to protect the constitutional rights of our children to receive an adequate education. We cannot have separate standards when racism guides the development of education policies for Native Americans and, in the same breath, we expect us to implement the recently passed civil rights law and enforce it. the state human rights law. This double standard must end. “

In the press release, the All Pueblo Board of Governors, which previously called for Gudgel’s impeachment, expressed “disappointment” that Gudgel was not fired. The council’s 20 pueblo governors voted unanimously on Friday in favor of Lente’s call for Gudgel’s immediate impeachment, the press release said.

“We will not tolerate such contemptible attitudes and behavior on the part of a key and very influential legislative post,” said board chairman Wilfred Herrera Jr., who is governor of Laguna Pueblo, in a statement. “We have a sacred trust to defend and protect our children and our people. We will consider all measures politically and legally.”

Earlier this week, another Native American lawmaker, Senator Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, said in a statement that she had “only known the professionalism and respect” of Gudgel.

“I have confidence in the actions taken by the committee and its members when this was first raised and I now ask that we move forward in exercising forgiveness and respect, committed and more united in our goal. “Pinto said in a statement.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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