TIERRA AMARILLA, N.M. (CN) - A New Mexico sheriff subjected dark-skinned officers to vile treatment, and threatened to deport one officer's mother-in-law though she is a U.S. citizen, two officers claim in separate lawsuits.
Former Lts. Marvin Armijo and Gabriel Gonzales sued Rio Arriba County and Sheriff James D. Lujan in separate but similar complaints on Monday in Rio Arriba County Court.
When a new Sheriff was elected in Rio Arriba County, two department officers were told to "get out the knee pads" if they wanted to keep their jobs, according to a pair of lawsuits filed Monday in Rio Arriba-Tierra Amarilla District Court.
Rio Arriba County is north of Santa Fe, on the Colorado line.
Both officers claim that when Lujan was elected in 2014, he subjected dark-skinned officers who had been hired by his predecessor to sexual harassment, racial discrimination, threats against their job security and their own safety.
Both officers say Lujan called them "nigger" and repeatedly made comments such as "you better suck me better than you sucked the last sheriff," and even more offensive comments.
Armijo claims his mother-in-law told him that Lujan forced her to write a false statement about him and give it to the FBI.
"Sheriff Lujan threatened Lt. Armijo's mother in law with her grandchildren and children's lives if she did not comply with Sheriff Lujan's directive," the complaint states.
"The false allegations Lt. Armijo's mother in law was required to fabricate included Lt. Armijo having drugs in his house, having money the former sheriff gave him from the 'scholarship fund,' and [that] Lt. Armijo was recording the FBI agent for use against the FBI. Sheriff Lujan threatened Lt. Armijo's mother in law with deportation even though she is a U.S. citizen."
Armijo and Gonzales both say they were constructively fired in March.
They seek damages for sexual harassment, racial discrimination, retaliation, human rights violation, hostile workplace and whistleblower violations.
They are represented by Diane Gerrity, with Serra & Gerrity, in Santa Fe.