The blatantly incestuous hiring practices of Gov. Susana Martinez could be watering down the effectiveness of state government. Aren’t there consequences to filling government vacancies with candidates who know the right people but aren’t necessarily the best choices for their positions?
It happened again for one of the governor’s underlings this week. This instance was a little extraordinary, in that we aren’t talking about the spouse of some insider getting hired to a government job but rather an insider himself, being promoted from $115,000 taxpayer dollars per year to $125,000 taxpayer dollars per year, according to reports. Ryan Cangiolosi is to be executive projects director for the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center. The job, the Albuquerque Journal reports, is a “newly created position.” (Wait…. I thought “Government doesn’t create jobs.”)
Cangiolosi was the governor’s deputy chief of staff. It’s probably not a very big deal if he got hired over someone more qualified. Not in this specific case. But if this is happening rampantly at the highest political level in the state – insiders getting important jobs over better candidates – might there be real consequences? If we passed a tipping point where all this cronyism actually did matter, what would it look like? Bad decisions might affect the overall economy and might cost people their jobs. Public services suffer when the wrong people are put in positions of power, because political cronyism encourages the idea that government is about helping the well-connected over normal, average, nonpolitical working stiffs.
How many times should we let this happen with the Martinez administration before they have to answer for it? On Dan Carlin’s great political podcast “Common Sense,” he interviewed Harvard law professor and author Lawrence Lessig. This is part of what Lessig said:
“The appearance of corruption is corruption, because what the appearance of corruption does is… it leads people to believe money is buying results and therefore it leads them to disengage from the process, at least as long as they don’t have money to bring to the table.”
If Cangiolosi’s hiring wasn’t corrupt, it at least looks corrupt. Just like it looked corrupt when the wife of Martinez’s press secretary Scott Darnell got hired as “director of operations” for $75,000. Or when Chief of Staff Keith Gardner’s wife was hired at the Public Education Department as a “test coordinator” for $67,000 per year. In that case, Gardner was emailed about the job early in the hiring process, and the requirements for the position were changed – actually changed! – to say candidates needed “teaching experience within the past 12 months.” The Albuquerque Journal said at the time that “qualified educators who have worked their way up from classroom to principal or administrator are out from the get-go. Unlike Gardner, the four who weren’t hired have years in testing and data analysis for the PED.”
Yeah, but they don’t have that sweet connection. How about a few more? Darren White resigned in strange disgrace as Albuquerque Public Safety director, but then this year got handed the job as general manager of a new racino that’s supposed to be built by Martinez campaign contributors on the site of the state fair grounds. White has no gaming managerial experience, and the racino is woefully behind schedule. White, however, did film a commercial for Martinez’s gubernatorial campaign and was appointed by the governor to the Judicial Standard Commission, an appointment he resigned.
Oh! And we also just this week found out that the governor’s awesomely named husband Chuck Franco got a job as security at the district courthouse in Santa Fe. The company AKAL has the taxpayer-financed contract to guard the courthouse, and AKAL has donated generously to Susana Martinez’s campaign. So Chuck Franco has a government job he was given by a company who donates to his wife’s campaigns.
(Darnell told the Journal that “given some of the financial strains that come with he and the governor working to maintain two houses and care for their family, it’s necessary for them to have two incomes.” Is that a joke? She makes six figures while thousands of unemployed, house-owning, family-raising New Mexicans have no income at all right now. Hire one of them.)
Back to Cangiolosi. I invite you to try combing through news archives to figure out what he did as deputy chief of staff. All I can find are stories about him communicating over private email with campaign donors who wanted a fat state contract. He’s worked on campaigns, including the governor’s. That’s about it.
On the essential political blog “New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan,” an anonymous source was quoted: “I’m one of the 19 applicants for the UNM Hospital job – the job that Ryan Cangiolosi got. … I have well over a decade of finance and management consulting experience. I have an MBA from a top 15 school. … I believed I was an extremely competitive candidate given my business background. I didn’t get the job obviously and word started getting around that the offer was made to a senior government official. … I have asked friends and they confirmed that his real resume is even more weak than its portrayed on his online profile. He’s an aspiring gospel singer who has gotten his jobs by attaching himself with politically connected people. As a New Mexican, I feel like I’ve been screwed out of a job I was more than qualified for due to politics. I’ve been told about cronyism here but this is the first time I’ve experienced it for myself and it sure doesn’t feel good.”
We’ve heard a lot lately about the governor’s work to impact campaigns and stack a more Martinez-friendly legislature. We’ve heard about her travel outside New Mexico, and we’ve heard about these hirings. What we haven’t heard her address much, however, is the horrible economic news that keeps coming out for New Mexico. From the Santa Fe New Mexican: “(J)ob growth in New Mexico ranks almost dead last among the 50 states over the last six months.”
Unless you know the right people. Jobs for members of Martinez’s political family tree seem to pop up quite frequently.