ISPAC CONFIRMS FBI, NM AG INVESTIGATING “DIRTY DOWNS DEAL; More on First Gentleman’s Louisiana Hunting Trip

After weeks of unconfirmed reports, ISPAC has learned that the FBI and the New Mexico Attorney General’s office are in fact investigating the Downs at Albuquerque racino contract award by the Martinez administration.

ISPAC investigated and produced two extensive reports on the “dirty Downs deal”, exposing pay-to-play and the blatant manipulation of the procurement process by Governor Susana Martinez’s administration. 

But there are still more layers to uncover.  ISPAC is now investigating the September 2011 hunting trip to Louisiana by First Gentleman, Chuck Franco with two members of the Governor’s security detail assigned to protect him.

According to an Albuquerque Journal article, the governor’s office stated: “first gentleman Chuck Franco who made the trip to Louisiana, for a hunting vacation, paid for by himself, with two security officers sent at the direction of the State Police chief.”

This trip took place after the Downs and Laguna Development had submitted their response to the RFPs, but before Chuck Gara gave the Downs a perfect score for management expertise in his evaluation of the bid.

The two majority owners of the Downs at Albuquerque, John S. Turner, Jr. and William C. Windham, both reside in Louisiana with extensive property holdings and business interests, including hotels, throughout the state. 

They are also very politically connected. Turner and Windham both were appointed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to serve on state boards and commissions following large campaign contributions to Jindal.

Jindal recently held a fund raiser for Governor Martinez in New Mexico.

ISPAC is concerned that the First Gentleman and his security team could have received an improper gift during the procurement process, taking the form of free or discounted accommodations (hotel, casino, hunting lodge or personal residences), access to hunting land or fishing locations, boats, guides etc… ISPAC therefore, issued an IPRA to the Governor’s office on April 19, 2012 requesting:

“All records pertaining to the Governor’s security detail for the Louisiana trip accompanying Chuck Franco beginning on September 5, 2011. Records should include all accommodation records, motels, hotels, private residences, hunting lodges, etc. Please identify the location and owners of all accommodations and who paid for these accommodations. Please also include a complete itinerary, hunting and fishing locations, of the security detail for the full duration of the time in Louisiana.

But Governor Martinez is doing her best to prevent the release of information about this trip to Louisiana.  This is the same Governor Martinez who called on the legislature, “to restore New Mexicans’ trust in their leaders” in February 2012.

Her office’s response to the IPRA: “The Office of the Governor does not have any responsive documents. The Department of Public Safety may hold documents that are responsive to your request…The Department of Finance Administration may also hold responsive documents.

The Department of Finance Administration: “We recovered no responsive documents.” 

New Mexico State Police deputy chief: “Mr. Corwin as discussed DPS does not have any of the requested documents you reference.

The Department of Public Safety produced one document consisting of an excel spreadsheet of dates, times, and locations of gasoline purchases made on the state credit card by the security detail officers. (see document below)

We are expected to believe that the governor’s husband and two governor’s security officers went out of state for five days and all they claim to have is one document showing gasoline purchases on a state credit card.

Three different agencies cannot produce one single additional document, email, bill, receipt for accommodations, where they hunted or fished, hunting or fishing licenses, who paid for what, or whether Louisiana authorities were notified. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

ISPAC followed up on our initial IRPA and requested vacation leave requests and time sheets for the two security detail officers.

Since our inquiries into the itinerary and lodging, the story of the hunting trip seems to have changed.

Now, the state police are claiming the trip was just a vacation for the state police officers, and the First Gentleman decided to tag along.  

The deputy chief from the state police stated that one of the vacationing security officers is married to a woman from Louisiana who still has family there. Therefore, no one had to fill out any documentation or identify where they stayed, who paid for what expenses, or where they went. 

Either they were on vacation or they were on duty. It can’t be both. Security officers are on the clock and accountable whenever they are in the company of their charge. They took a state vehicle, used the state credit card to buy their gas, and were accompanied by the man they were assigned to protect.

So the security officers were permitted to charge the gas for the trip on their state credit card because technically they were on duty when they drove?  But because the trip was a vacation, they did not have to disclose where they went or who paid for what? Again, either they were on vacation or they were on duty.  It can’t be both.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the native Louisianan wife of one of the officers was hired by the Governor’s office as an executive assistant on a $55,000 a year salary in February 2012, about one month after we published our first report on the Downs deal. 

The spouse was an “exempt hire”, so the governor’s office did not have to follow the required hiring practice of posting the position and interviewing candidates.  They just gave her the job.

ISPAC has been able to glean a little information from the excel spreadsheet of gasoline purchases made on the state credit card by the security detail officers.  But there are still many more unanswered questions.

We know that the trip brought them through Shreveport/Bossier City on the way in and out of Louisiana.  Turner and Windham both live in the Shreveport/Bossier City area.

We know that they stopped in Natchitoches, LA, where one of Turner’s many businesses, Dimension Development, is based. Turner is the chairman of the board and a co-founder of Dimension Development, a company that owns and operates hotels in Louisiana and other states.

We also know that they drove day and night to get from Santa Fe to Natchitoches, LA and took two days to drive back, stopping somewhere between Brookhaven, MS and Tallulah, LA.

Large gaps. Missing information. No explanations. Stay tuned

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