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La Junta Mayor allegedly blackmailed by councilman accused of watching girls get dressed

LA JUNTA, Colo. (KRDO) -- A La Junta City Councilman already accused of watching girls get undressed now faces accusations of trying to blackmail the mayor.

On Feb. 21, 2023, Synchronicity Dance Productions, a local performance company in La Junta for teens and young adults, was invited to the city council meeting to announce their newest production.

After the meeting, the mother of one of the performers filed a complaint that city councilman Edward Vela was trying to look inside the room where the girl performers were changing.

“I told him girls were dressing and he could not enter,” the complaint stated, which was read during a public city council meeting on April 17. “He didn’t seem deterred in the slightest and advised he needed a tissue while looking past me into the room (where the girls were changing).”

During that same council meeting, Vela claimed the allegations are a “big lie.”

“Don’t try to pull this slime on me, because I’m not going to put up with it,” he said during the meeting.

When asked if he intentionally looked at girls while they were changing inside a city building, Vela told 13 Investigates, “Hell no.”

During a May 1 meeting, the La Junta City Council voted to fund an investigation into the complaint against Vela. Before the vote was taken, City Manager Rick Klein asked Vela to step down to not waste taxpayer funds. Vela declined.

“I've just never seen anything like this where it distracts from the work at hand,” Klein said. “We don't need this.”

The council voted 6-1 to fund the investigation into Vela’s alleged misconduct. Vela was the lone abstention. The investigation is expected to cost at least $10,000.

He told 13 Investigates the entire situation is “local politics.”

City Councilwoman Lisa Pantoya said the way Vela is being portrayed is not the person she has known for 33 years.

City Councilwoman Elaine McIntyre said she was “saddened” for the community and the people involved in the alleged incident. She said the investigation is “taking away a lot of resources and time.”

“It’s unfortunate he just won’t step down,” McIntyre said.

This isn’t the first time Vela has been in trouble for inappropriate behavior. Another complaint was filed in 2021 by women during a tour of a city facility, claiming he was inappropriate. However, there wasn’t enough evidence to investigate the complaints.

During the last council meeting on May 15, La Junta Mayor Joseph Ayala claimed Vela, his uncle, sent the city attorney a “proposal,” which stated the person that filed the complaint needed to recant her story or “there would be damning information released about the mayor.”

“I’m not going to be threatened with information held over me,” Ayala said during the meeting. “That’s not how I operate. We are all adults here. We have a ton of problems we have to work on and instead, we always have to deal with things like this, nine times out of ten it’s coming from Mr. Vela.”

Ayala, Vela's nephew, said he thought about filing a complaint against Vela because the proposal was “borderline blackmail and extortion.”

City Manager Klein said the whole ordeal has been an unnecessary distraction for the city of La Junta.

“It's sad to see that they have to do this instead of work for the good of the community.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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