Chuck Franco’s Louisiana Excursion: What We Know

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez’s husband Chuck Franco went on a “hunting” trip to Louisiana in early September 2011. Why does this matter? Franco had never been to Louisiana and “coincidently” chose that specific time to go there while his wife’s administration was in the process of evaluating whether to award the 25-year racino contract worth a billion dollars to the winner to The Downs at Albuquerque or to Laguna Development Co. Two of the three owners of the Downs at Albuquerque, William C. Windham and John S. Turner, Jr. live in Louisiana and have extensive ties in the gaming (racino, riverboat casinos, and a thoroughbred breeding operation), real estate, hospitality, oil and gas, ranching and political fields. Windham and Turner gave extensively to Martinez’s campaign, both before and after the election, to her political action committee, Susana PAC, and to the Republican Governor’s Association who then turned right around and passed those contributions onto Martinez. The timing of these contributions leaves no illusions about their purpose– the money was given to influence the outcome of the contract award process.

The Martinez administration previously claimed on multiple occasions that Chuck Franco “paid his own way”, including his accommodations. However, we now know thanks to a recent statement by the administration given while refusing to release any records that Chuck Franco, and his two NMSP Governor’s security detail cohorts, Ruben Maynes and Frank Chavez, were “comped” for ALL their food and accommodations during their entire out-of-state junket. Not one single McDonald’s hamburger purchase the whole entire time they were out of state. ISPAC filed a public records complaint with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office against the administration in June 2012, when Martinez citing fears for her personal safety refused to release any information about the trip. In December 2012, the AG issued a determination saying that the administration must turn over the records. The administration continues to stonewall refusing to release information to the media as well.

Let’s be clear, the administration lied about Franco paying his own way. He did no such thing. On top of that, the state police provided two different rationale for why their officers went on the trip, 1) that Franco wanted to go to LA having never been there before so the chief ordered two officers to accompany him, and 2) that the two officers were going on vacation by themselves and Franco invited himself along upon learning about their trip. Thanks to the AG’s efforts, the administration did release a sanitized version of the amount of overtime the taxpayers paid out for the two state cops. A lot of overtime. The administration though refused to release the actual documents filled out by the two officers claiming that the typical paperwork required for out-of-state travel, such as dailies, and weeklies was conveniently not filled out.  From what we can glean from those overtime records, it looks like the trio probably hunted for just one day. That first day they arrived in Louisiana. We also can glean from those records that Ruben Maynes spent perhaps one day hanging out with his in-laws, who live do live in Louisiana. From gas receipts showing amounts and locations of gas purchases, the taxpayers and not Chuck Franco, paid for all the gas the trio used for their junket. From those receipts it is also clear they the trio went mobile in search of fun. No staying in one place and hunting on the same property for the duration of the trip. There is though an interesting correlation between the location of gaming facilities and the locations where they purchased gas. And it appears they stayed overnight in Mississippi or right close to Mississippi, and its Las Vegas style Mississippi riverfront gaming. No taking the short cut for these three either. Traveling on the way back up through Mississippi added several additional hours to their travel time.

After the trip, we know that Susana Martinez personally hired Ruben Maynes’s wife into a high paying job directly in her office, and then turned around during the time that the administration refused to cooperate with the attorney general’s efforts to secure documents about the trip, and hired two of Maynes’s sister to work directly in the governor’s mansion. Maynes, by the way, had prior to joining the governor’s security detail, been convicted on two counts of contracting without a license and was sued by numerous people for taking cash deposits from them for construction work that was then never done. None of these jobs given to Maynes’s family were offered to the general public or to state employees. Was Martinez trying to buy silence with such generosity to one family? And if so, what does Maynes know about the Louisiana trip that warrants such benevolence?

We know that the ONLY place the trio traveled through both in entering and leaving the state was the Shreveport/Bossier City area, where Windham and Turner live and hold numerous interests. Interests with a reach well beyond just northwestern Louisiana. Say as far as Opelousas, La Place, Lake Charles, and Vicksburg…

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