Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fellow Republicans Point to Martinez-McLeskey Corruption

Has anyone noticed how strongly the sweet scent of corruption permeates the New Mexico Governor's Office these days?

Maybe not. Newspapers, barely surviving economically, often don't report the facts in much detail; and as our politics grow more polarized, folks no longer bother to read critically. If there's an unpleasant fact about someone in the opposing party, it's probably true. If it concerns someone in your party, it's been fabricated or exaggerated by the other side.

But many of the most troubling accusations against Ms. Martinez and Governor Jay McLeskey come from credible Republicans appointed by Mart-lesky.

The recently unsealed whistleblower complaint against the Martinez Administration should be the final straw for anyone who still believed Martinez was some sort of antidote to corruption in Santa Fe.
She's right in the middle of it. She and her people aren't even subtle. But they're consistent: if you're a generous friend, they'll pay you back with our money or softened regulations; but if you speak up, they'll try to bury you.

The 33-page complaint filed in February alleges that a company co-founded by Jon Barela, Mart-leskey's secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, secretly benefited from a state tax credit program. It also claims: aides to Martinez instructed a state employee to use his personal email for sensitive government work to evade public records requests; Barela and his deputy, Barbara Brazil, ignored waste and management at the state's Spaceport project; and that Brazil ran several Dairy Queen franchises she had an interest in “while simultaneously being paid by the State of New Mexico.” When other officials questioned the apparent misconduct, they were demoted, then fired.

Interestingly, the lawsuit echoes earlier complaints about evasion of IPRA requirements, and involves the same private lawyer who was right in the middle of the Albuquerque Downs mess.

There, Martinez stacked a board with folks who would ignore the facts and give a lucrative contract to a company owned by Martinez campaign contributors, despite that company's poor record.
The whistleblower plaintiffs are two Republicans, appointed to office by Martinez. The wife of one had worked as a scheduler during the 2010 election campaign.

Two of the most consistent voices discussing the Albuquerque Downs misconduct were Republicans Tom Tinnin, and Charlotte Rode. Both were Martinez appointees. Ms. Rode, a reform Republican and political neophyte, is a true soccer mom (and long-time basketball coach) and life-long Republican. Caught letting campaign contributions override prudent government, Mart-leskey immediately attacked the messengers. (Martinez even tried to threaten Tinnin, he says.)

To be fair: Mart-leskey's Albuquerque Downs misconduct resembles Governor Richardson's; and I can't prove in either case that laws were broken. Ethics were sure scarce.

Partial releases of the “audit” Mart-lesky used to destroy mental health outfits in southern New Mexico keep adding more evidence that supports charges that the disruption was purely political. It looked that way initially: with no semblance of due-process, small companies were “suspended” and effectively destroyed, supposedly based on an audit by an out-of-state firm that found massive alleged fraud. Previously, in another state, the same audit firm had found massive that state auditors reviewing the allegations found were only minimal amounts of problem bills. Nevertheless, Mart-leskey declined to let the companies keep operating pending an investigation – and lied to the public by claiming the Administration had no choice.

It quickly became public that Mart-leskey had actually signed up the Arizona replacement mental-health firm before the audit that allegedly sparked the concern. This was done without bidding. Mart-leskey doesn't care for public bidding, as demonstrated in the Albuquerque Downs case, where the bidding was open only a token length of time. Public bidding can be so inconvenient when you have a paying pal eager to do the job.

Then Mart-leskey's people allegedly gave the State Auditor a version of the report that omitted the conclusion that there was no “credible evidence of fraud.”

As the AG's Office looks into the alleged mental-health scandal, the “fraud” diminishes with each closer look. The audit work on two or three of the mental-health firms has now been checked, and the fraud seems as illusory as the “widespread voter fraud” Mart-leskey used to push for a Voter ID law that conveniently would tend to decrease turnout among poor folks and non-native-English speakers.
A week ago the AG reported some overbillings but “no actionable evidence of fraud” by one of the companies. The State is trying to recover $340,000 in alleged overpayments to another, while the company denies any overbilling and the AG found $19,000 in overbillings.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing that significant Republican donors with a taste for good government are finding Mart-leskey unpalatably arrogant.

Will any of this make much difference in November? New Mexico voters are traditionally a little slow in responding to corruption. And the Koch Brothers, oil and gas interests, and other deep pockets are sending Mart-leskey plenty of loot to flood the airwaves with misleading commercials.
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News today, Sunday, 18 May, 2014.]

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