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Man who pleaded guilty to felony appointed to Luna college board

July 28, 2018

The troubled Luna Community College in Las Vegas, N.M., this week appointed a man to its board of trustees who has pleaded guilty to a felony.

In a 3-2 vote, the board approved the application of Las Vegas contractor Mark Dominguez, 47, to replace former Commissioner Michael Adams, who resigned in April. To win a term of his own, Dominguez would have to run in an election for the seat next year.

Dominguez in February 2009 pleaded guilty to jury tampering, a third-degree felony.

But Ricky Serna, the interim president of Luna Community College, said there was no problem with the appointment, arguing there is no felony on Dominguez’s record. “He was eligible,” Serna said. “We had our attorney check into it.”

Serna referred to a plea bargain in which prosecutors dropped a charge of jury tampering. State District Court Judge Abigail Aragon gave Dominguez a conditional discharge, which means his felony conviction would be set aside after he completed probation.

He was supposed to be on probation for two years, 11 months and 29 days. But in September 2010, Aragon was discharged from his probation — a year and five months early.

Serna said the community college board, when debating Dominguez’s appointment, did not discuss the crime to which he had pleaded guilty.

“I know nothing about it,” Serna said. “I didn’t have interest in discussing it with him.”

He noted that none of the trustees brought up the specific charge during the appointment discussion.

In a brief telephone interview Friday, Dominguez also pointed out that he has no felony on his record.

According to a criminal complaint filed Dec. 3, 2008, Dominguez was accused of attempting “to threaten, coerce or induce a trial juror to vote for a false verdict or a grand juror to vote for no indictment or false indictment” in late January of that year.

In addition to his probation, Dominguez was ordered to work 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine, according to his plea bargain.

Luna board members Daniel Romero, Kenneth Medina and Ernie Chavez voted to appoint Dominguez. Board members David Gutierrez and Abelinio Montoya Jr. voted against the appointment.

Montoya, in an interview Friday, said he preferred another applicant for the position, Joanne Gallegos. He also noted findings by the national Higher Learning Commission, which decided earlier this month to put the college on probation for two years rather than take away its accreditation.

The findings, Montoya said, focused on the board of trustees and issues of “transparency, honesty and leadership.” He was worried, he said, that appointing a trustee who’s been convicted of a felony could hurt the college’s effort to keep its accreditation.

The college has until March 2019 to provide evidence it is addressing its compliance issues. The commission is expected to make a determination in November 2019 on whether Luna’s probation will be lifted.

Serna defended Dominguez’s appointment, saying he has children who have graduated from Luna and that “he’s a local business owner who concentrates in masonry and cement work.”

Luna started out as a vocational and technical school, Serna said, and the board has shown interest in strengthening its trades program. Dominguez’s work in construction should be helpful in that area, he said.

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