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Ex-West director's hearing delayed

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By David Giuliani

The state wants to revoke the teacher’s license held by Roberta Vigil, West Las Vegas’ former bilingual director. But it may take awhile.

For the second time, a state hearing officer has delayed the hearing for Vigil, who also has been indicted in connection with alleged wrongdoing in the bilingual program.

A hearing was originally scheduled for August, then was delayed to Monday. Now it is set for March 25, more than four months away.

Meanwhile, Vigil, the wife of state Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, remains a kindergarten teacher at West Las Vegas’ Armijo Elementary School. “She’s doing a fine job for us,” said Jim Abreu, the district’s superintendent.

Bruce Berlin, assistant general counsel for the state Public Education Department, said Thursday that the hearing was delayed at the request of Vigil’s attorney, Sam Bregman. He said Vigil wanted to focus on the pending criminal case; a trial is slated for January.

“The criminal matter can end in harsher penalties and can be considered more important,” Berlin said.

Still, Berlin said the state opposed the request to delay Monday’s hearing. While the hearing officer granted Vigil’s request, the officer warned that she wouldn’t further postpone the hearing for any reason other than illness, Berlin said.

He said he’s not too concerned about the delay, given that Vigil is no longer in an administrative position with control over official records.

Bregman has said previously that the state’s allegations are “baseless” and that Vigil had simply followed her supervisors’ instructions.

He contended that there is bias against the Vigil family, in part, because of the case involving former state Treasurer Robert Vigil, Roberta Vigil’s brother-in-law, who was convicted of one count of attempted extortion. Robert Vigil was Bregman’s client as well.

The state investigation began in July 2006 shortly after the Optic reported on an adults-only, invitation-only party that cost the district nearly $10,000. Nearly half of that money went toward a catering contract with school board member Ralph Garcia’s restaurant.

When the Optic contacted three Santa Fe restaurants listed as providing quotes for the catering, representatives denied they ever giving that information. Officials now suspect the bilingual program made up those numbers.

The Public Education Department is proposing the revocation of Vigil’s teacher’s license for alleged misdeeds, including the allegation that she misused more than $200,000 in public funds for private parties, furniture, travel and other items that didn’t support the bilingual program.

Among other allegations, Vigil was accused of falsifying data or directing her staff to do so to obtain greater funding for the program and making false statements that an employee was distributing prescription medicine.

In June, Vigil and her former assistant, Beverly Ortega, former Superintendent Joe Baca and school board member Ralph Garcia were indicted in connection with alleged wrongdoing in the bilingual program, in particular the $10,000 party.

Bregman said Thursday his client did nothing wrong.

“I can’t wait to get this in front of the jury to show what a ridiculous case this is,” he said. “They don’t like the way the funds were spent, but to accuse her of committing a crime is a whole different level. It’s ludicrous.”

Bregman said Vigil never wrote a single check and that every expenditure was approved.

“There’s no way that they can convict her of a crime based on that,” he said.

Baca left in the summer and agreed to relinquish his educational licenses to the Public Education Department. Ortega was fired by Baca, and Garcia remains on the board but misses many meetings.

Last year, the state took over West’s finances in response to the alleged problems in the bilingual program.

Vigil has maintained a public silence.