SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The superintendent of one of New Mexico’s larger school districts has resigned after spending months on paid leave during an investigation into his handling of sexual abuse allegations at a previous job.
The Española school board accepted Fred Trujillo’s resignation on Tuesday, board members confirmed Thursday.
Trujillo was hired to lead Española in February of 2020, when he was head of the smaller Pecos school district that’s also in northern New Mexico.
The board put Trujillo on leave in May 2021 after a lawsuit claimed he failed to respond to sexual misconduct and abuse complaints against his staff in Pecos. Some complaints were later substantiated and led to criminal prosecutions.
“We’re moving the district forward and he resigned and that’s all I can tell you. The rest is a personnel matter,” said board president Gilbert Serrano.
Serrano has previously said that Trujillo was vetted and "his credentials checked out.” The board named another superintendent in June.
Former board member and Española doctor Yolanda Salazar said the lawsuit contained no information the board hadn't considered when they hired him. Salazar believes Trujillo followed proper protocols in Pecos, and resigned in June in part over her opposition to opening the investigation.
The district said in a statement that it won’t release the new investigation’s findings.
“I feel that the Board wants to force me to resign, and I have no other choice,” Trujillo wrote in his resignation email.
Trujillo said in the letter he resigned this week because the board had denied requests for bereavement leave.
He did not respond to text and cell phone messages left Thursday afternoon.
Salazar said the bereavement request was due to the death of a close relative of Trujillo's.
She said she had opposed the investigation when she was a board member because she didn't believe it could uncover new information, and she questioned the cost of paying two superintendent's salaries for months. The board had named an interim superintendent in June.
Salazar credited Trujillo for bringing the school through the pandemic and questioned the board's decision keep him on leave.
“If they would have found anything damaging they could have fired him and not paid him,” Salazar said.
Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.