Friday, March 03, 2006

Tarnished Jewell: Can Big Bill Save This Cabinet Secretary? Should He? Exclusive And New Details On A Special Edition Friday Blog 

Judge Jewell
The plot thickened Thursday in the Tommy Jewell saga with the woman who was involved in the 1999 domestic violence case in which Jewell was named telling KRQE-TV news that she is available to discuss the case with the Governor, and insiders supportive of Jewell contacting this blog to claim the secretary-designate of the NM Children Youth and Families Department (CYFD) may be the victim of a set up. Meanwhile, Governor Richardson's office issued a statement saying they will "evaluate" the situation and then issue a "decision."

Based on the KRQE report and sources for this report, it is apparent that the woman involved in the case is not Jewell's wife, Angela Jewell, a Second Judicial District family court judge with the Domestic Violence Division. Which takes us to the set-up claims.

(Here's the latest for my weekend readers from the ABQ Tribune.

A friend of the Jewell's, an ABQ attorney, claims the woman who made the charges, which are under court seal by agreement of both parties, was upset with Tommy Jewell and knew domestic violence charges against him could end up in the courtroom of Judge Angela Jewell.

"She was pissed off about something and knew exactly how to hurt Tommy the most. She filed a domestic violence complaint knowing full well it would go to Angela. It was terrible. Tommy and Angela were counseled by their parents and there was a lot of soul searching. They were determined to keep their family together and they did. I wish they had not sealed the record. I can not imagine a person more qualified to take leadership of CFYD," e-mailed the attorney.

KRQE reported that Jewell was served with a temporary restraining order in 1999 after being accused in the domestic violence case that allegedly somehow involved children. Sandoval County District Judge Louis McDonald did not move the charges forward calling the allegations "unsubstantiated" and sealed the case file.

Both the Governor and Lt. Governor Denish, chair of the Children's cabinet and who recommended his appointment, have asked Jewell to explain the charges and he has agreed.

But even if details of the case break his way, Jewell and the administration are still faced with the fact that Jewell failed to disclose the incident when he was vetted for the post. The vetting issue has haunted the Governor who has run into similar problems in the past. He said the process for vetting high ranking appointees would be changed to insure thoroughness. Apparently the new procedures have also come up short.


Guv & First Lady
Insiders at the Capitol pointed to the obvious as they weighed the political fallout saying the charges would not be quite as sensitive if Jewell was being tapped for any other agency but CYFD which deals directly with the domestic violence issue.

They pointed out that First Lady Barbara Richardson has been in the forefront of the fight against the abuse of New Mexican women. Two months into his administration, Big Bill announced the creation of a domestic violence task force, of which Barbara Richardson is a member. Two months later, he created a Domestic Violence Control Commission and named his wife as the chair. In 2004, he appointed Sandra Gardner as domestic violence "czar" and proposed law changes, including new and tougher penalties for offenders, expanded treatment for offenders and more resources for victims.

This aggressive approach to a problem that Denish has called "an epidemic" in the state has earned the First Lady accolades and won the Governor widespread support among groups battling domestic violence as well as children's advocates. But if Jewell can not lift the cloud hovering over his head, and the appointment goes forward, there could be significant political damage.

A member of the State Senate Rules Committee was just catching up with the story when I spoke to him late Thursday. He said he did not know what to make of the charges against Jewell who he praised as highly qualified. But when informed that the retired children's court judge failed to inform the Governor of the domestic violence case, he sighed: "That's bad." The Rules Committee presides over confirmation hearings for cabinet secretaries.


Various e-mailers checked in here with the theory that others who sought the cabinet post were responsible for leaking the Jewell story. A few said there was a published report of the 99' incident and that it was widely known in the legal community. After speaking with several attorneys, the notion that the matter was well-known does seem to hold water.

But that's the insider Alligator talk. What matters now is the leadership of a state agency charged with the well-being of thousands of New Mexican women and children who face an uphill struggle in the game of life. It is now up to Governor Richardson to make the right call on their behalf.

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