New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-designate, Hanna Skandera appears to be in trouble, lots of trouble.
At a minimum she owes the public a full and frank explanation for her actions. Full and frank and under oath.
New emails obtained by ISPAC reveal that it was Secretary-designate Skandera who directed state employees and resources be used to prepare a contact list of non-union teachers in New Mexico.
A list was then provided through private email to Jay McCleskey, the head of New Mexico’s political oligarchy (government by and for a few self-serving insiders).
At her direction, PED IT staff dropped everything and spent TWO FULL DAYS compiling a list of emails for non-union teachers in New Mexico. (IPRA #115 is in reference to ISPAC’s request)
The IT staff did not use PED records to develop this email list. Rather, they combed the websites of the 87 different school districts throughout New Mexico to develop a list of the contact information.
Unfortunately, the IT staff “was not able to obtain emails from schools who block this information to the public through their websites.” As a result, they got email addresses for “9,350 out of approx. 23,000 teachers”. The head of IT did offer to continue with the effort if more email addresses were needed.
Skandera then directed the staff of the School Budget & Finance Analysis Bureau to conduct additional research from non-PED resources (contacting different school districts to determine union affiliations) and prepare “a spreadsheet with the information you requested regarding Unions.
Republican politicians across America have been targeting teachers’ unions. Here in New Mexico a shadowy political group headed by Sarah Lenti, sister of Skandera’s policy director, Leighann Lenti, ran television commercials depicting members of teachers unions as menacing thugs.
Governor Martinez fought legal battles all the way to the state supreme court in order to stack the state labor board against unions. She claimed that she was not targeting public employee unions when Skandera laid off the president of one such union.
Martinez’s spokesman Scott Darnell in October 2011 told Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican, “there is certainly no targeting,” of union members at PED.
The Associated Press pointed to Susana Martinez as one of three Republican Governors in the country most likely to target public employee unions.
A review of PED’s website does not indicate a legitimate governmental reason for Skandera to require her specifically targeted list of contact information for non-union teachers. Skandera has not identified any legitimate use.
Skandera has refused to speak about this at all. Instead, she repeatedly refers reporter Phil Parker to her spokesperson, Larry Behrens. Behrens also refuses to speak to Parker about this and does not return his phone calls or emails. Perhaps their silence is at the suggestion of an attorney?
Jay McCleskey, whose tentacles stretch through both Martinez’s political operation and her governmental operations, did not even try to offer a legitimate governmental purpose for the work. McCleskey stated that the list was compiled in response to his IPRA request, a request he made for entirely political purposes.
However, the PED IPRA log does not show an IPRA request or note of verbal IPRA request from McCleskey or his henchmen. His alleged request was never assigned an IPRA number, as were all other IPRA requests on the list. The IPRA numbers in the log are completely sequential, no gaps.
The IPRA claim by McCleskey does not survive scrutiny. We also know, thanks to the discovery of an email sent by PED Spokesman, Larry Behrens, that the contact list for non-union teachers was distributed well beyond PED, all the way up to Governor Martinez.
Behrens sent the list from his private email account to Jay McCleskey, Keith Gardner, and Scott Darnell, and to Hanna Skandera (who already had it), and Christine Stavem (who already had it). Skandera then forwarded the list on to Governor Martinez.
Behrens sent this list to the private email addresses for every single one of these high-ranking state officials, as did Skandera who forwarded the email to Governor Martinez’s “susana2010” email account.
What is critical is that all of the folks on the private email from Behrens knew this information was intended for political use, and was not governmental in nature.
Why else would McCleskey, who operates the governor’s political action committee, be included?
But the political purpose of this work appears to have been hidden from those directed to carry it out, namely the PED IT team and the staff of the School Budget & Finance Analysis Bureau. In other words, these government personnel were not made aware of the secret purpose behind the task.
The communications between those directed to ensure the work was performed all used their government emails. And why not? Their boss assigned them the work.
As with the Dirty Downs Deal, there is a pattern of both public and private email usage. Official government emails were used for certain above-board communications. But insider communications were done on private emails to intentionally conceal the closely held political nature of the request from public.
“Pattern and practice” is the legal term and it looks really bad for an administration claiming to be transparent and honest.
Skandera must be held accountable for this abuse of her authority.