People who showed up to a public meeting called by Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez on Monday were surprised to find him absent.
The county had been promoting the community meeting with Vasquez since May 2 but gave no advance notice that he wouldn’t be in attendance.
Vasquez, a Democrat who represents District 5 on the commission, is tending to a death in his family, according to a county news release. In addition to missing Monday’s meeting in Doña Ana, he will miss two other community meetings this week.
County staff will still be on hand for the public meetings Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Radium Springs Community Resource Center, 12060 Lindbeck Road, and Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Hatch Community Center, 837 Highway 187 (West Hall Street).
Vasquez, who also missed Tuesday’s commission meeting, has been under scrutiny for a string of controversial votes since taking office in January that included allowing additional fireworks sales that benefited a campaign contributor and firing the county manager without explaining that decision to the public. At the time, Vasquez told NMPolitics.net his vote to fire Julia Brown was “was based 100 percent on my desire to provide the best leadership for our county.” He didn’t elaborate.
After voting to fire Brown, Vasquez was inundated with criticism, and he deleted his Facebook account — one avenue people were using to communicate with him about his vote.
Vasquez hasn’t responded to an email or text message from NMPolitics.net asking for more details about his family situation or why people weren’t informed he would miss Monday’s meeting until they showed up to it. The county released no additional information.
Dozens of people showed up to Monday’s meeting. After staff announced that Vasquez wouldn’t be there, some walked out. Others booed.
On Facebook, some people expressed sympathy for Vasquez.
“A death in the family is a completely understandable reason to miss meetings,” Barbara Kim of Las Cruces wrote. “My condolences.”
“Deaths are unpredictable,” Barbara Alvarez of Las Cruces wrote. “So I’m giving him a pass. This time.”
As for the remaining meetings, the county news release says staff will be on hand “to gather input from constituents and relay it forward to Commissioner Vasquez upon his return.”
This article has been updated with quotes from Facebook.