Sunday, December 27, 2015

Adventures of a Slightly Tipsy Governor

Santa Fe cops went to break up a loud party in a hotel room, then chickened out upon learning that one reveler was Governor Susana Martinez.

Doesn't bother me that the Governor got caught drinking. Does bother me that she threw her weight around, wasted the 911 operator's time, and showed her vindictive side – then gave us a damage-control “apology” containing bald-faced lies.

The 911 tapes establish that: Martinez's party had been warned repeatedly about loud noise, but neither quieted down nor dispersed; Martinez, while not slurring her words much, spoke in a weird sing-songy voice suggesting alcohol was influencing her; and both hotel security and the responding police officer thought her “inebriated.” 
The tapes also document that she repeatedly demanded from police and the desk clerk the name or room number of the complainant. For years, observers have described her as vindictive, and there's now a federal grand jury interested in whether she abused her position as DA to get back at folks who opposed her. Now that unfortunate character flaw is on audiotape.

Martinez also repeatedly makes sure everyone knows she's The Governor. The police officer's belt-tape suggests that this was effective: he commiserates with hotel security about not being able to evict her and shares hopes that she and her friends will keep quiet the rest of the night. (A laborer behaving as Martinez did might be in jail.)

Since, Martinez and her office have lied, including:

(1) saying she drank a drink and a half over the course of 4-5 hours, while eating. I've rarely (if ever) seen such minimal intake affect anyone so strongly. The cop, the security guy, and most who've heard the tapes have called her “drunk” or “inebriated.” (I'd be kinder: “a bit tipsy.”)

(2) saying the party wasn't noisy. Hotel guests had complained for a long time. Hotel staff had repeatedly warned the group. When the cops went up to the room, a woman sitting outside said it had been very noisy for a long time. The security guy also said he'd heard the noise. I've never stayed in a hotel where staff repeatedly warned folks, then called police to throw them out, for no reason. (“Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know we couldn't talk in our room,” Martinez remarks at one point.)

Ex-D.A. Martinez criticizes the cops. She should understand that police endanger themselves by not taking calls like this seriously. Although Martinez says there were no weapons and no danger, the police couldn't rule out either based on the available information. They didn't know how many people were in the room, how intoxicated those people were, or whether or not they had weapons. 
Ex-D.A. Martinez should know that 911dispatchers shouldn't give out a complainant's name to the subject of the complaint. She was asking for special treatment. She also should not have tried to bully the desk clerk into identifying the complainant(s). 
Ex-D.A. Martinez knows that 911 dispatchers' time is valuable. Citizens should keep their calls short. But our Governor kept dispatcher and supervisor on the line for a collective six minutes plus – not to report an emergency but to complain about being complained about, and to seek the names of the complainant(s). 
Let's assume that Martinez wasn't influenced by alcohol: that means that when completely sober she's a vindictive bully, she isn't very truthful or considerate, and she has the bad judgment to confront a desk clerk in person, letting her bullying, condescension, and sarcasm be recorded for all to hear. 
How's that better than getting smashed now and then? Next time, blame it on the bubbly.

[This column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 27 December, and will appear later in the day on KRWG-TV's website, under >News>Local ViewpointsOr at least, so I assume: nobody's delivering newspapers out our way this morning, given the snow; the Sun-News recently hasn't posted my column Saturday night, but gets it up Monday or Tuesday; and I'm not going out to buy a paper.  It looks like this here:

We think it's called "snow"
It looks like this

and I think that's a pickup truck

maybe i'll just sit awhile and wait

[Everyone should listen to the tapes and make up his or her own mind, of course.  Initially there were three tapes: (1) of a call from the hotel desk clerk to 911 reporting loud guests "partying in their room" who've "been warned already"; (2) of  a second call in which the desk clerk says that "Actually I have someone here who wants to talk to you" and Martinez comes on the line; and (3) of the second part of that call, after Martinez has been connected, at her request, with a supervisor.   A day or two later another recording, apparently from the responding police officer's belt, became public.  This one features the officer, a hotel security employee, and Martinez; and it's this one on which the security guy says he knows "she's . . .", the officer inserts "inebriated," and the security guard agrees. This should take you to a transcript of the three calls  This is Joe Monahan's blog coverage.]

[A couple of points I omitted: 
(1) was it right that we paid nearly $8,000 for the party that this incident followed? 
(2) there's a move to impeach Martinez over this.
I don't yet know the answer to the first.  It may surprise readers to know that I also don't know how I feel about the second.  Of course I voted against Martinez.  I've written about possible corruption and about her petty vindictiveness.   I understand she dislikes me.  
But something bothers me about rushing to impeach her over this.  Maybe it's that there have been more substantive issues that people were too chickenshit to impeach her over.  Maybe it's how inclined I am to say "So what?" about someone getting a bit tipsy.  Maybe I feel sorry for her.  At the same time, as a lawyer I could sure write a set of charges that sounded serious enough to warrant impeachment.  She did try to use her influence to get preferential treatment and even to enable herself to take revenge on the folks who complained about her.  She probably lied to a police officer.  
Her contact was obviously unappealing.   But except for not being very smart, it was rather in line with what we already knew about her.  Did I want her to be Governor? No.   Do I think New Mexico would be far better off if she retired?  Hell, yes.   But do I want us to spent time and public money increasing our political polarization by impeaching her?  If I were a decision-maker I'd want to think about that one longer than I have so far, and maybe know a couple more things.  And read over the relevant laws once or twice.]

[But I do, obviously, disagree with Heath Haussamen, whose recent column expressed delight and gratitude that Martinez had apologized.  First of all, her apology contained obvious untruths.  (I've wondered, by the way, whether or not she's apologized to the hotel desk clerk, who deserves a gubernatorial apology in person.)  Secondly, it's easy to apologize when you're not under indictment and not too likely to be, so don't compare her with Duran, for example.   Third, it was less an apology (though she said she shouldn't have handled the situation as she did, and that she would "own it") than a damage-control statement issued to try to improve her appearance in the public eye.  Toward that end, it never actually admitted trying to abuse her position, being a bit tipsy, or that anyone ever actually made any noise; but it did make self-serving statements and a vague apology (without really owning up to the conduct that warranted an apology).  In fact, she tries to distance herself from what she said and did and even shifts blame to staff-members:  "I want to apologize for the conduct of my staff on the night of our holiday party. There apparently was a party in a hotel room earlier in the night that was disruptive. None of that should have happened, and I was not aware of the extent of the ruckus and the behavior until just recently."  Both during the incident and later, she has tried to conflate the post-midnight noise she and her companions were making for an hour or two and earlier conduct in which someone dropped bottles from the balcony (although her office later claimed that only snowballs were thrown).  That took place six hours earlier, as she points out to police in an effort to suggest that the hotel staff who'd warned her several times thn called the police at 1:30 a.m. were complaining about the earlier incident, not about any later ruckus that she could have been personally involved in.  But the staffers didn't try to con or intimidate police or obtain special treatment, which is what really needs apologizing for.
I respect Heath and consider him a friend; but I hope he'll rethink his gratitude for the "apology."]

[I'm also concerned about her pattern of petty vindictiveness,  Two years ago, I wrote about  it in earlier columns (one on the Albuquerque Downs deal, another called Politicians Can Trip When They Look Vindictively Backward, and this update on her "petty vindictiveness" ) and interviewed some very nice folks on my radio show who testified to it first hand.  It was also no secret among Third Judicial District lawyers.  Many others have written about it. 
 As Joe Monahan put it:
"Rather than the compassionate but tough middle-aged lady who relishes reading to third graders and who reminds you of your favorite aunt, you have this dark, vindictive, petty personality seeking out whoever dared challenge her authority with the clear implication that they will suffer retaliation."

And as noted in the column, that same trait has sparked an investigation into allegations (and let's keep in mind that so far these are only allegations) of improper behavior in checking out license plates of and information on political opponents.]   


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