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Editorial: Fiesta Council turns petty

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By David Giuliani

The Fiesta Council acts as if it has no problems. Yet it botched this year’s event schedule, turned in a late permit to the city, forgot to ask for an appropriation from the city and hasn’t produced a financial report in months.

Instead of dealing with these shortcomings, the council has unfairly aimed its fire at 2009 Fiesta queen Carmela Montoya. This barrage has been an embarrassment — not for Montoya but for every one of the Fiesta Council members (and to an extent, our community).

Two days before this year’s Fiestas de Las Vegas, Fiesta President Mathew Martinez informed Montoya that she wouldn’t be allowed to take part in Fiesta ceremonies crowning her successor. Later, the council voted to cut her $500 scholarship in half.

Her offense? Missing some of the apparently required appearances of a queen. She acknowledged that she was a no-show for some events because her grandfather, who raised her, was ailing and later died. She contends she missed others because of the council’s miscommunications, which seems very possible given the group’s problems. But she said she kept the council in the loop when she wouldn’t be able to attend.

In August, she attended the Fiesta Council’s monthly meeting to give a speech, but the council closed the session, kicking her out. But at last week’s monthly meeting, without Montoya present, the council gained the courage to talk about issues related to the queen. Members accused her of illegally keeping her crown — an allegation not publicly mentioned before. One of the two Santa Fe members on the council suggested the group file a report with the police.

In an interview, Montoya said the council hadn’t contacted her about the crown. She told the Optic that other queens had kept their crowns. And when we reviewed our photos from past Fiestas, it appeared that each queen had a different crown. Did they get to keep their crowns or does the council have them in storage?

Recently, Montoya sent an e-mail to Martinez pleading her case for the rest of her scholarship. But Martinez complained at the meeting that she sent it to his personal address, not the one for the council. This gripe reeks of pettiness.

Then Martinez called the anonymous donor who gave Montoya the other $250 for her scholarship “less than generous.” Maybe the donor was less than generous to the egos on the Fiesta Council, but certainly someone with a good heart to help a young woman badgered by a vindictive group.

At last week’s meeting, the Fiesta Council almost had the good sense to restore the entire scholarship, but the two tough-talking Santa Fe members convinced them to hold the line against Montoya. Chris Sandoval of Santa Fe said the council shouldn’t tolerate rulebreakers.

“Excuse the language, but I don’t take no (expletive),” he said.

For her part, Montoya, who comes from a relatively modest background, has been level-headed during the council’s campaign against her. Would she be receiving this type of treatment if she came from a prominent family? One wonders.

We thought Fiestas de Las Vegas belonged to the community, but it’s become the domain of a vindictive, petty clique.