Mayoral candidate's family questions residency


The tale of two houses continues as both mayoral candidates have had their officially listed residences questioned by community members even as election day draws near.

Mayoral challenger and current town councilor Darien Fernandez' 326 Montoya Street address had been questioned by the community and now his family as four of the six owners of the property have come forward saying he does not reside in the family home.

The Fernandez family shares ownership of the house among the six children of Bonifacio, and Margie Fernandez and all have an agreement to use the house as they wish, which includes younger members of the family. The four siblings say no one resides full-time in the house, including Darien Fernandez.

"There's no animosity towards Darien," said Chris Fernandez, an owner and caretaker of the house. "The bottom line is that he does not reside here. Nobody really resides here. If he did stay here, I would know about it."

Chris Fernandez said he is at the house at least five days out of the week working on the house, yard and other aspects of the property. While Chris says Darien does have the right to enter the house and use it as per the family's agreement, Darien cannot be considered a resident of the house.

Chris, Catherine and Albert Fernandez all said no one notified them about Darien's intent to use the house for his mayoral address and that none of them have seen him at the house in some time. Darien Fernandez was given a key to the property in 2011 when he moved back to Taos and stayed there briefly in 2016, according to the family.

"Any of our sons and daughters are welcome to visit," Albert Fernandez said. "None of them could really be considered residents. As far as someone being considered an actual resident, Chris would be the closest."

The house has been in the Fernandez family for over 50 years and is often used by the siblings and children as a "home base" when they are in the area visiting, hunting or passing through. According to David Fernandez, Darien's father, Darien was granted access to the house in 2011 and was given a key. Darien said there has been no issue with him using the residence until the beginning of the election.

"This is a place of residence for all of us," Darien Fernandez said. "The bottom line is that seven days a week my head is in a bed somewhere in the town."

The mayoral candidate said he spends time at his partner's house on Ortiz street, within the town limits. Due to the division the issue has caused in the family, Fernandez said he will be looking to move his listed address if that will help patch up some of the tensions in the family.

"I know Darien wants to make every effort to make things right with his family," David Fernandez said. "He, like any of us, has access to it anytime. Through me, his father, Darien does have that right to access that house."

Across town, Mayor Dan Barrone is still facing a complaint filed at district court Feb. 5 by Taos councilwoman Judi Cantu challenging his residence at his 609 Zia Street location. The complaint alleges that Barrone resides at his 25 Camino Dona Amanda Martinez property in El Prado, outside the town limits.

Barrone has admitted in the past that he does own the two properties and that both are used by the family. He said the issue was not brought up in the past and that he has been mayor for the past four years without incident.

Cantu has repeatedly and publicly raised concerns about Barrone's residence.

Barrone has until early March to respond to the complaint. He said he plans to file a response but reiterated that he believes he has done nothing wrong. Election day is March 6.


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Laura Bulkin

Combining this piece with Mr Moya's previous article on the residency issue — and with the steady flow of anti-Fernandez "opinion pieces" in the past months, culminating in this week's endorsement of the incumbent — we have the appearance of a biased, vindictive hit campaign against Councillor Fernandez. In Mr. Moya's previous piece, there was at least a pretense of addressing both candidates' residencies — albeit just barely, and that article featured a compelling photo of Mayor Barrone standing on "his back porch" at an address "in Taos."

In that previous article, the author used the vague, unsubstantiated phrase: "Despite the confirmations, community members remain unconvinced..." This is appallingly irresponsible, given that the only two "community members" quoted about Councillor Fernandez were a relative with a clear personal issue (trotted out and exploited again in this week's piece), and a politically ambitious realtor who openly supports Mayor Barrone.

In both articles, you are shamelessly and cruelly exploiting intra-family personal issues (and can anyone say their families are exempt from those?) to slam Councillor Fernandez, with no journalistic diligence, no examination or transparency as to the objective reliability of quoted sources.

It could be argued that the entire "residence" issue, which has been brought up with numerous previous mayors and candidates over the years, is a nothing-burger that needs to be retired, with voting as well as candidacy opened up beyond town limits. It's ridiculous to pretend that decisions made in Taos won't affect Ranchos, El Prado and beyond.

When we are fortunate enough to have decent, intelligent young people willing to take on thankless public service, maybe we should look more closely at their proven integrity and at their ideas for our economy, our children and our community's future, and make less fuss about their street addresses. Many of our best citizens, who have been focused more on service than on amassing money, live where they can afford to live, period.

The paper's endorsement of the sitting Mayor this week absurdly suggests that he mitigate the issue of community mistrust in his administration, NOT by actually providing more transparency, but by hiring a good public relations firm! Literally suggesting he bring a professional liar into the situation to manipulate trust. Taos deserves more transparent, responsible government, and more transparent, responsible reporting.

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