Breaking News: NM AGO ORDERS MARTINEZ ADMIN TO RELEASE RECORDS RELATED TO LOUISIANA HUNTING TRIP
The New Mexico Attorney General’s office has spoken loud and clear. The Martinez administration must now produce public records it sought to conceal.
The Attorney General is charged with the authority to enforce the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. In a determination letter regarding a complaint we filed against the administration over the denial of public records, the AG’s office determined that the administration did not have a valid reason for withholding the records, and “accordingly, we direct the Department to furnish Mr. Corwin with the records sought in his request.” Read the determination letter here.
The records in question that the administration, specifically DPS, must now release relate to the members of the New Mexico State Police Governor’s security detail who accompanied the governor’s husband on his hunting trip to Louisiana in September 2011.
Despite claiming to be “Sunshine Susanna”, her administration refused to cooperate with the AGO’s efforts to obtain information about these records as, “repeated efforts by this Office over multiple months to seek information from the Department regarding the denial have gone entirely unanswered.”
In April 2012, ISPAC made a written request for those records concerning that trip to both the governor’s office and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. We did so after it was learned that the out-of-state hunting trip was taken in a government vehicle and paid for using a government-issue gas card.
The governor’s office stated that the two governor’s security detail officers were assigned by the chief of NMSP to accompany Chuck Franco, the governor’s husband on a hunting trip. However, a deputy chief of NMSP reported to us that the two officers were already planning on going on the hunting trip when Franco essentially invited himself along.
Regardless of the basis for the officers accompanying Franco on the trip, the administration refused to release the records. DPS cited the safety of the governor and her family as the reason for this refusal despite the fact that the trip had occurred seven months prior to our records request. The administration dubbed the safety concern a “countervailing public policy”.
The hunting trip took place during the procurement period of the twenty-five year racino contract. Two of the three owners of the Downs at Albuquerque live in the Bossier City/Shreveport twin cities area of Northwest Louisiana. The Bossier City/Shreveport area was the only area as evidenced by gas purchases made on the security detail’s state issue gas card that they went through both coming and going.
Any benefit provided to Franco by anyone associated with the Downs, such as accommodations, hunting guides, equipment, or land to hunt on would constitute interstate bribery, and would apply to Martinez as the decision maker on the contract.
Through a reliable source we have learned that prior to this trip Chuck Franco had gone hunting with Paul Blanchard the third owner of Downs at Albuquerque. Could Blanchard have called his Louisiana partners to make sure that Franco was well taken care of during this trip? For all we know the security detail could have dropped Franco off in the company of the Louisiana owners and then went on their way have a taxpayer funded vacation.
After ISPAC started focusing on the brazen collusion involved in the Dirty Downs deal, the wife of one of these two governor’s security detail officers, and who happens to herself be from Louisiana, was hired into a high paying exempt position within the governor’s office. Paychecks are a great tool for building loyalty and silence.
Franco is an experienced law enforcement officer, who now works part-time as an armed court security officer protecting the federal courthouse in Santa Fe. Did he really need two members of the governor’s security detail to protect him while he hunted for alligator or wild hogs?
The New Mexico Attorney General’s office much maligned by some members of the media is to be praised for standing up for transparency, open government, and ethics. Kudos.