Martinez Administration Chief of Staff Keith Gardner condemned “that group” in response to the Black New Mexicans who protested against Susana Martinez’s line item veto in April 2011 of $349,000 of funding for the African American Performing Arts Center located on the New Mexico State Fair Grounds.
Gardner’s on camera comment came as part of a continuing attempt by the Martinez Administration, Larry Barker and KRQE to smear Democratic House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton, who just so happens to be the highest-ranking Black legislator in New Mexico.
Didn’t Don Imus and Howard Cosell get fired for similar types of statements?
Martinez, who prior to the start of the 2011 General Legislative session initially recommended funding the Center in the amount of $379,000 for fiscal year 2011 and $304,000 for the 2012 fiscal year. However, Martinez then turned around and cut ALL funding to the Center AFTER Williams Stapleton helped to block the Martinez Administration’s efforts to privatize public education in the general legislative session. Martinez did not publicly disclose her reason for the veto at the time.
At the time, Martinez issued a general veto message to address some of the vetoes she made at the end of the session. However, according the New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, “the Governor’s veto message does not explain her specific objections to the vetoed appropriations to the State Fair”. (King letter dated 9/22/11).
Despite vetoing the Center’s funding, Martinez “left intact amounts appropriated to the State Fair from Other State Funds and Internal Service Funds/Inter-Agency Transfers.” (King letter dated 9/22/11).
The Barker piece clearly shows that the Martinez Administration was involved in dictating the attack on Williams Stapleton. Again, like in his previous smear attack that was proven by the Albuquerque Journal to be false, Barker chose only to use individuals with an agenda. Not one neutral unbiased person.
The innuendo only story by Barker sought to recast Martinez’s veto from retaliation against Williams Stapleton and the Black community into fighting against corruption and secrecy in government while at the same time attacking Williams Stapleton. Barker showed Williams Stapleton’s name on the Center several times while claiming that an unknown legislator was behind the trickery.
The website for the Center itself says that Williams Stapleton worked with Richardson to get the funding—so much for claiming Williams Stapleton wasn’t known to all.
So it appears that the only lies, manipulation and “shenanigans” were on the part of Barker and Martinez Administration.
At the time she submitted her Executive Budget Recommendations for fiscal year 2012, Martinez knew that “the general fund appropriation to the New Mexico state fair includes three hundred seventy-nine thousand one hundred dollars ($379,100) for the operation of the African-American performing arts Center and exhibit hall at the New Mexico state fair.”
Martinez’s predecessor, Bill Richardson, also funded the Center the same way. Keith Gardner, who sat on the legislative finance committee at the time of the Richardson funding, knew all about it too and did not block it at that time.
Barker claimed the money for the Center was secretly moved around, yet in the Executive Budget report by Richardson dated January 2009, it clearly states, “The recommendation also includes $348.0 (in thousands) in General Fund for the operation of the African American Performing Arts Center. For FY08, funding the Center was included in the Office of African American Affairs operating budget. A joint powers agreement (JPA) has been processed to move the funds from the Office of African American Affairs to the New Mexico State Fair Commission. Because the JPA and budget process cant take up to three months to finalize before cash can be transferred, a direct appropriation to the State Fair in the future will ensure the funding for the Center’s education programs and building operations are not interrupted.” (Emphasis added).
So how is that secret?
Barker and the Administration then tried to claim that the funding was directly to benefit private foundation that rent space at the Center. However, Barker neglected to mention that the private foundation pays rent to the tune of $77,000 per year. Further, the foundation provides services that benefit New Mexicans.
Gardner and State Fair Chairman, Dan Mourning, a Martinez appointee, tried to claim the deal was illegal because the state could exert “no control or authority” over how the funds were spent.
Ironically, it is EXACTLY that reason that Attorney General Gary King determined that the appropriation did not violate Article IV, Section 16 of the New Mexico Constitution because, “the language does not impose reporting requirements on the State Fair, require any oversight and control or impose new substantive obligations on the State Fair.”
Barker and KRQE have given the Martinez Administration a free pass when it comes to Teach for America, which Martinez is giving $800,000 of which $11,000 per month goes to pay for an Administrator from Teach for America’s salary.
So let’s look at Gardner, Mourning and Conrad James, the third person used to attack Williams Stapleton and the Black Community for shenanigans.
Gardner was caught conspiring with Gene Moser, the director of the State Personnel Office to rig job qualifications to get Gardner’s wife a job. They did so by requiring one year’s classroom teaching experience immediately prior to applying for the job, which by the way, is an advanced administrative position. Anyone currently working as an administrator was immediately disqualified despite having genuine administrative experience unlike Gardner’s wife.
The Albuquerque Journal editorial board called out Gardner for financially enriching his family, but I don’t recall Barker doing so.
Mourning is knee deep in the ever developing story of what may be “bid rigging” at the State Fair. ISPAC broke the story of two of the RFP evaluators, who were hand-selected by Martinez, who contributed to the campaign of Darren White who helped to prepare the proposal that despite being much less favorable to the taxpayers was deemed the better bid. The winning company, whose members gave $70,000 to Martinez’s campaign and Pac, was reprimanded for poor operational management in a Legislative Finance Committee audit.
As for Conrad James, KRQE and the Administration sunk to a new low. In order to try to avoid the allegations of racism, they got James a Black first term Republican legislator to claim he supported the Center but not the way it was funded. Only problem is that James is such a hardcore Republican operative that he volunteered to be a party in the State Republican Party’s lawsuit to overturn campaign limits imposed on the party that restricts how much money it can get from the national Republican Party and pass those funds directly onto Republican candidates.
The Martinez Administration, Larry Barker and KRQE have crossed the line into an unjustified smear campaign against the Black community and Williams Stapleton just as Senator Joe McCarthy did. It is time for the public to speak out.