2012 election continues to be challenged

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An old dispute concerning the election of Los Lunas Village Councilor Amanda Perea to the Council District 1 seat two years ago was resuscitated by opponent Helen Y. Cole this month.

Cole filed to reopen the case after the judge dismissed it.

The lawsuit goes back two years when Perea won the March 2012 election by one vote against Cole, who challenged the results. She contended that five of Perea's voters were not eligible to vote in District 1, and that two absentee voters' signatures were not signed by themselves.

Through her attorney, Alvin Rey Garcia, Cole filed her petition in the 13th Judicial District Court in April 2012.

Perea's lawyer, Tibo Chavez Jr., responded with a motion to dismiss the challenge.

After Cole responded to that motion, District Judge Violet C. Otero recused herself from the case on May 29. Judge William A. Sanchez was assigned to the case, and on June 5, Perea's attorney made a request for a hearing.

Sanchez recused himself on June 11, and Judge Camille Martinez-Olguin was assigned, but Cole and her attorney requested to change the judge.

Garcia said it was nothing personal against the judge, and they had their reasons for requesting the change.

The case went to Judge George Eichwald on June 29, 2012, but he did not set a date for the hearing.

"The defendants didn't follow the process to actually get a hearing in front of the court," said Garcia. "So, we've been waiting for quite awhile for the court to take it up and have a hearing on their motion to dismiss."

Eichwald dismissed the case for lack of persecution last month on Feb. 12.

"It was a shock because this whole time we had been waiting for the judge to tell the party that they needed to comply with the packet procedure and request a hearing and submit it for decision," Garcia said. "That's not our obligation."

Chavez disagrees.

"It is the plaintiff's responsibility to move a case forward," Chavez said. "If I file a case, it's not the judge's responsibility or the state's responsibility to move my case. It is the responsibility of the party who is wanting relief to move that case forward."

After Chavez filed for a hearing back on June 5, the next step was for the judge to set a time.

"We sent in a request for 15 minutes on a motion to dismiss," Chavez said. "Once that happens, then it's up to the court to set it."

Cole, who is running for a seat on the Valencia County Commission, and her attorney filed to reopen the case a month after Eichwald dismissed it. There had been no activity in the case for the past 13 months, and no prosecution after a two-year period.

Part of the inactivity was caused by judges excusing themselves from the case, Garcia said.

"We'll be requesting that the court give us an appropriate scheduling order, and that we get discovery done if necessary and prosecute the case," he said. "We're prosecuting the case because we do believe that there was improper activity that went on in the voting for that city council election."


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.