“At this cabinet meeting, Keith Gardner told the Cabinet secretaries, (the) governor and others in attendance to, whenever possible, use our private emails when communicating, because by doing such would prevent them from being discovered through public records requests.” (Emphasis added)
Lupe Martinez, the former Department of Corrections secretary appointed by Susana Martinez, provided sworn testimony in an affidavit that lays out the intentional efforts to conceal government related communications by the Martinez administration. This affidavit was reported on by Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican, which can be read here
During our investigation into the Dirty Downs Deal, ISPAC made an IPRA request of all communications between members of the Martinez Administration, Jay McCleskey, Pat Rogers, Mickey Barnett, and the evaluators who handed the billion-dollar racino contract to the Downs.
The Martinez administration responded with,
“There are no records responsive to your request”.
We questioned it then, and ask again, was there really no communication between anyone in the administration or any of the evaluators chosen by Martinez? Nothing? Zip? zilch? nada?
But we now know why, thanks to Lupe Martinez.
Communication with the evaluators is critical because that’s where the fix took place.
Charles “Chuck” Gara, who has extensive ties to Jay McCleskey, gave the Downs a perfect score for “managerial experience”.
This score defies reality as does the supposed lack of communications. However, a less than perfect score for the Downs could have pushed the contract to Laguna Development, the competing bidder.
Even more telling is that Martinez actually replaced the original group of evaluators, who were recommended for being highly knowledgeable in the operations of the state fair, with Gara, who knows nothing about the state fair and even less about racinos.
ISPAC has again requested all communications using the newly discovered private email addresses that the Martinez administration has hidden behind to prevent information from being discovered through public records requests.
Sadly, the Martinez administration is into the Downs deal so deep with McCleskey, that we don’t expect them to produce any documents.
Martinez has been unapologetic in her use of private emails. While from now on, her administration will supposedly use only official government email addresses, she has not offered to produce the countless government related emails sent and received through private, secret email accounts.
She claims that there is no law requiring her to do so. Groups such as Common Cause disagree.
The New Mexico Attorney General, tasked with ensuring that public records remain public, clarifies the definition of government records as follows:
- PUBLIC RECORDS
A “public record” is defined to include any document, tape or other material, regardless of form, that is used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of a public body, and is related to public business. (Emphasis added).
It appears that Martinez, an attorney herself, got some bad advice from her fresh out of law school counsel.
The key portion contradicting Martinez is the phrase “held by or on behalf of a public body”. All emails sent and received by a public official clearly fall into that category, official government accounts or private.
The Martinez administration also claimed to have no documents responsive to our IPRA request regarding First Gentleman Chuck Franco’s hunting trip to Louisiana during the procurement process for the Downs contract.
We were seeking to determine whether Franco benefited from the two Louisiana based majority owners of the Downs, who own significant real estate, hotels, and businesses, in Louisiana..
The taxpayers paid for the gas and provided Mr. Franco with a government vehicle for the trip, plus paid the salaries, possibly over-time, for two state police officers to accompany him. Therefore, this trip is related to public business.
If Franco did receive perks for the trip from the bidders on the racino contract, that just reinforces the public’s right to know, since the contract is a government contract.
We have re-submitted that IPRA request as well, this time with all of the known private email addresses.
The Martinez administration can no longer claim any emails pertaining to government business on private emails are private.