Louisiana Trip Laid to Rest? Hardly.
So now that Governor Susana Martinez released some information pertaining to the trip to Louisiana that her husband Chuck Franco took with two state police officers from the governor’s security detail, the administration believes that this excellent adventure on taxpayer dollars has been laid to rest.
Sorry to burst their bubble. The information they released and how they released it raises even more questions than it answers.
Governor Martinez publicly claimed more than once that Chuck Franco paid his own way on this trip. A trip taken in a state vehicle using a state issued gas card. But we now know that was untrue. Franco did not pay his own way. It is likely that Martinez knew this to be the case and yet she continued to falsely convey to the public that Franco paid his own expenses for the trip.
Why lie about something like this if everything is kosher?
Rather than prove the administration’s version of events through receipts and other documents, Martinez released a copy of an affidavit prepared by Ruben Maynes, one of the two state cops that went with Franco on the trip. According to Maynes’s affidavit, Maynes’s wife’s uncle and his friend picked up the tab for the trip. Thus, Maynes billed the taxpayer’s overtime while hanging out with his family.
Nice gig if you can get it.
The affidavit is supposed to prove once and for all that the trip was unrelated in anyway to the awarding of the racino lease worth a billion dollars to the Downs at Albuquerque. Two of the owners of the Downs, who helped bankroll Martinez with campaign and other contributions, live in Louisiana and have interests and connections clear across the state.
But there are problems with the affidavit, in part because it doesn’t jibe with gas purchases they made on the state gas card, leaving open the possibility that some of Franco’s activities during the trip were left out of the affidavit. Also there are definite credibility issues involving the person who signed the affidavit.
In a court case, the opposing side can raise questions about a witness’s reputation for honesty and veracity. In Maynes’s case, the list of people who can testify to problems with his credibility stretches across state lines.
As recently as October 2009, Maynes was charged in Pima County, AZ with issuing a bad check (CR09919545A). The court went so far as to issue a warrant for his arrest. In Arizona you can only be charged if the person writes the check “knowing that the person does not have sufficient funds” to cover the account. Further, Arizona will not charge people who correct the bad check within six months as long as they pay appropriate fees and interest on the amount owed.
According to a bankruptcy petition filed by Ruben Maynes in 2009, the Pima County Attorney was listed as the collection attorney for bad checks to an Arizona company totaling over $6300.
In 2008, Maynes was prosecuted and convicted on two counts of contracting without a license. How did he end up getting charged?
Maynes collected deposits from ten people before beginning work on their projects but then didn’t complete the work. In his bankruptcy petition, Maynes assigned the dollar value of the money paid by those ten people to him as upwards of $16,000.
People feel ripped off when they pay money for work that is promised, but then not preformed. Several of those people filed lawsuits against Maynes seeking reimbursement for the money they paid him, but through the bankruptcy process, Maynes was able to stop the lawsuits without having to pay the people back.
Two of those who paid deposits to Maynes filed complaints to the Construction Industries Division when they found out that he was not a licensed contractor. Perhaps he represented that he was licensed? An investigation by CID led to the criminal charges.
As the saying goes, the line of people who can testify as to Maynes’ poor reputation for honesty and veracity stretches out the door and around the block.
But there is more. Around the time that Maynes prepared the affidavit about the trip in September 2012, Governor Martinez hired his sister, Christine Tabet, to work in the governor’s mansion. Ms. Tabet herself would shortly thereafter be charged with Larceny in an unrelated matter from early September 2012, yet, Governor Martinez, a former prosecutor, kept her employed at the mansion.
Still more. Martinez earlier that same year hired Maynes’ wife, Donna, as an executive assistant in Martinez’s office. Martinez didn’t post that position for other applicants to bid on. Donna was hired as an “exempt hire,” meaning the job in Martinez office was just given to her.
Yet, the administration wants Maynes’ affidavit to be taken at face value of proof that the trip was on the up and up despite all of these clear-cut issues.
The affidavit itself raises factual concerns too. For example, the administration claims that Franco, Maynes and Frank Chavez spent two days hunting alligators while staying at a hunting lodge.
Yet, by 2:35 PM on the second day, they purchased gas using the state gas card in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Plus, both Maynes and Chavez billed the taxpayers six hours of overtime for their work on the second day; when on the first day at the lodge they only billed 3 hours of overtime each.
One explanation would be that the three did not hang out all day at the lodge as reported in the affidavit. Instead they took a side trip. There are lots of things to do and see in Lake Charles, casinos among them.
There is also another possible explanation for the gas purchase. According to the state gas card spread sheet, the trio purchased gas on the first day in Natchitoches, LA. Natchitoches is about two and a half hours from Lake Charles. Lake Charles is only 69 miles from where they gassed up on at around noontime on day three of their trip in Scott, LA.
On their way to Louisiana, the trio drove through Texas. They stopped for gas only twice, with the stops occurring after between four and five hours of driving. The same on their way back to New Mexico.
Yet, they stopped for gas after about an hours drive between Lake Charles and Scott. Keeping to their driving schedule in Texas, they should have had no trouble driving from Natchitoches to the hunting lodge to Scott without gassing up. In fact, they gassed up twice on the fourth day after traveling less than two hours each time, and on the fifth day, again after driving less than two hours.
So either they made side trips not to places not identified in the affidavit or there was another reason for getting gas especially since they knew they would be driving only short distances on those days.
One possibility is that they used the state gas card to put gas in someone else’s vehicle.
After all, Maynes’s wife’s uncle went way above and beyond for these guys, including towing in a travel trailer for Frank Chavez to stay. Also, according to Maynes, he and Chavez were joined by their sons, who traveled in a different vehicle, for the first night or two of the trip. Did they gas up their family member’s vehicle using the state gas card?
Obviously, had Martinez produced the actual gas receipts, we could see how much gas was purchased. Maybe they just topped off each day to play it safe or maybe they put more gas in the card than makes sense for the distance driven.
Maynes’s wife’s uncle, ironically named Blanchard like the third owner of the Downs, runs an electrical contracting and generator business in Lafayette, LA. Ironically, Dimension Development, owned by one of the Louisiana based Downs owners owns a hotel in Lafayette managed by a local politico. It would be interesting to see if Donna’s uncle ever did work for Dimension Development.
Lafayette, LA is also home to casinos and is not far from Evangeline Downs, one of the premier racinos in the state. So, until they produce receipts to show how much they traveled, we still cannot eliminate the possibility that the trio sought to reciprocate for the good time hunting with a special gaming experience provided thanks to the Downs owners.