Is This Really “Transparency”, Governor Martinez?

There’s an old joke that goes something like this, “how can you tell when a politician is lying?” Answer: “Her lips are moving”.

Susana Martinez is the self-described “transparency governor”, and spent much of her time on the campaign trail attacking Governor Richardson, accusing him of secrecy and corruption.

In October 2011, ten months into her term, Martinez told the New Mexico Press Association, “I have promised since day one that state government will be more transparent, more accessible, and more accountable.” 

Her lips are moving and her pants are on fire!

Martinez’s administration routinely waits the maximum allowable 15 days to provide information requested under the Inspection of Public Records Act. That is, if they provide any records from her administration at all.

Here is a real life example of how they attempt to skirt the law:  As part of our investigation into the “Dirty Downs” deal, ISPAC has made multiple requests for records pertaining to the First Gentleman, Chuck Franco’s, hunting trip to Louisiana in early September 2011.

The significance of this lies with the majority owners of the Downs at Albuquerque, John S. Turner, Jr. and William C. Windham.  Both live in Louisiana. Both are wealthy guys with extensive property and business interests, including hotels, gaming, oil and gas, and marine (boating) throughout the state. They both own lots and lots of land too.

These two men have access to a lot of places for Mr. Franco and his security team to stay, to hunt, to fish, and to gamble while showing them some old-fashioned southern hospitality.

Mr. Franco’s trip happened to occur after the Downs and Laguna Development Corp had submitted their competing proposals to operate a racino at the state fair, but beforeCharles Gara, gave the Downs a perfect score for “management expertise” (completely absurd considering their actual track record).

This perfect score ensured that the Louisiana folks, who gave huge sums of money at very questionable times to Susana Martinez and Susana PAC, won the contract worth a billion dollars over twenty-five years.

It is illegal for the First Gentleman to receive any gifts from a bidder during the procurement process controlled by his wife.

This would force the termination of the Downs’ contract.  It is also criminal conduct under state and federal law.

Under state and federal law, interstate travel in furtherance of bribery (receiving gifts to sway the bidding process) is a very serious offense.

In response to our IPRA, the Martinez administration first claimed they had no documents responsive to our request.

However, the Department of  Public Safety provided one document; a spreadsheet showing the dates, times, and locations of gas purchases by the security officers on their state credit card for the state vehicle they used for the hunting trip.

This one document shows that Mr. Franco and his security team passed through Shreveport/Bossier City where Mr. Turner and Mr. Windham both live, and stopped in Natchitoches, the location of Mr. Turner’s company—the one that operates hotels.

Yet the Martinez administration said no documents (invoice, emails, or even postcards) exist showing where they stayed while they hunted. No documents exist showing who paid for the accommodations, hunting guides, or on whose land they hunted.

Is is credible that the governor did not know where her husband and his security team were for 5 days?

A Deputy Chief with the state police told us that the trip had been planned as a vacation for the two members of the security team, and that Mr. Franco asked to come along.

This is counter to a statement from Martinez’s spokesman Scott Darnell that was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal April 19, 2012:

 “…it was 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.

So whose vacation was this?  The First Gentleman’s or two security team officers?

 A source with extensive security detail experience told us that security team officers are on the clock whenever they are in the company of the person they are assigned to protect. That would seem to include this hunting trip.

We next requested leave/vacation requests and time sheets for the security officers. One or the other of these documents must exist. The time sheets are the most likely since they did charge their gas to the taxpayers and did drive around in a state vehicle for the entire trip while accompanying the First Gentleman.

Yet despite the trip having occurred way back in September 2011, the Martinez administration is claiming that the governor and the first gentleman’s safety would be compromised by disclosing where they stayed, who paid for it, and on whose land they hunted.

You read that right.  You can read their response right here. (see below)

In an interesting coincidence, the governor hired the wife of one of the two security detail officers into a high paying job in February 2012.  This happened only a few weeks after we issued our first investigative report on the “Dirty Downs” deal.

The job was for an exempt position that conveniently did not have to follow the normal hiring process— the process of publicly announcing the position, collecting applications, and selecting the most qualified.

This same State Police officer, assigned to the Governor’s security detail, was convicted on two counts of contracting without a license in 2010.

There is no legitimate or discernible threat to safety here. However, there does appear to be a serious effort to conceal any information from the public that could reveal the Louisiana bidders showing the First Gentleman a good time during the procurement process.

If nothing improper happened, why go to such great lengths to hide it? Surely, the public’s right to investigate corruption and illegal conduct outweighs any unfounded claim of personal safety, especially when the trip took place nine months ago. We will find out.

This is the “transparency” governor?

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