Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Susana Gives Some Ground In Email Scandal; Says State Employees Need To Use Official Email Accounts, But Major Questions Still Lurk And More Emails Are Set To Surface, Plus: Our Readers Have A Lot To Say About The Big Story 

The torrent of criticism that has rained down on the Martinez administration over what we've dubbed the shadow government" has her giving a bit of ground. She came with a directive that state employees use only state email when conducting state business. This after the uproar over her, her political advisor Jay McCleskey and other top officials for using their Susana PAC email accounts to conduct state business, apparently to avoid public scrutiny. But even as she was trying to tamp down the flames of this scandal, it was revealed that a former cabinet secretary said under oath that Martinez's chief of staff told her and other cabinet secretaries to communicate state business with him by private email so they could avoid public records requests. (More below).

While her directive gets at the abuse of email, it does not get into the role of McCleksey and other outside political figures in her administration and how much state business in the administration's first 18 months has been conducted via private email. That saga goes under the heading "to be continued."

Here's a look at Martinez's directive:

I am directing all state employees under the governor's authority to utilize official state email when conducting state business via email. This includes discussions preliminary in nature to final decisions or actions that have occasionally been sent via personal email because they are not required to be maintained under state law. There is no state law that requires this to be done, but utilizing only state email to conduct state business in connection with public employees' duties is another important step to ensure continued confidence in government....

This directive goes beyond what has been required or practiced in the past..In addition, given that numerous other public officials, including legislators, discuss public matters on personal email addresses, I am urging the Legislature, other executive branch agencies, and local governments and municipalities to also adopt a similar policy that requires official email to be used when conducting state business and retained according to state regulations...

So we have the Guv coming clean on subrosa emailing, but still hanging out there is what other business--besides what already has been disclosed--has been conducted in the past 18 months via Susana PAC email or other private accounts and just what was that business? One wag joked, "They were busy pushing the "delete" buttons in Santa Fe over the weekend." Expect more news on this very soon. In fact, news is breaking today.

Lupe Martinez, the former corrections secretary, says in a court deposition that at a cabinet meeting "Keith Gardner told the cabinet secretaries, Governor and others in attendance to, whenever possible, use our private emails when communicating because by doing such would prevent them from being discovered through public records requests."

Martinez says she communicated numerous times with Gardner via private email.

Martinez was forced to resign as corrections secretary last September amid several controversies,but her statement regarding the administration's email policy should be able to verify or shoot down since she says it was made before multiple cabinet secretaries. The Guv's office told the New Mexican Lupe is lying:

"Her statement is simply false, and she knows it...And it's being peddled by a partisan attorney looking to bolster a termination appeal of her fired boyfriend."

If Lupe's charges are true, it will be yet another blow to Martinez's claim of being a "reform" Governor and one who would set new records for open and transparent government.


We have seen emails from Gardner and deputy chief of staff Ryan Cangiolosi discussing state business via email but using yahoo.com email addresses--not their state email accounts. Ryan Cangiolosi used "rmkcang@yahoo.com" and Keith Gardner used "gardners90@yahoo.com."

Also, an ABQ TV news source says he expects about 1,000 emails from Susana PAC accounts to become public soon and that some of them will deal with state business.

Now attention is on Attorney General Gary King and how aggressive he will be in pursuing the scandal. He has subpoena power if he thinks a violation of the law has occurred. He is also, by the way, talking about seeking the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

The Dems are pouncing, as one would expect. From the party HQ:

Today's Executive Order--issued only after she was very publicly busted--never addresses the business that has already been done outside of the reach of the public eye. For a year and a half, Jay McCleskey has been using the Governor's office as a political operation. No one voted for McCleskey, and he's not accountable for his job to anyone but the wealthy Republican donors who pay his hefty salary at Susana PAC. New Mexicans have no idea just how far his influence goes and they deserve answers. "Every indicator says the Public Education Department isn't the only department that was hijacked by the Martinez/McCleskey political operation, and today's Executive Order doesn't change the fact that for a year and a half Martinez and McCleskey were operating a shadow government in Santa Fe...We're calling on Susana Martinez to come clean with New Mexico: What other departments has your "senior advisor" been using for political purposes?"

That executive order resulted, in part, from a meeting the Governor had with the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG). My top political sources say it was tense and took place in ABQ on Saturday. We are told among those in attendance were Matt Stackpole, Martinez's assistant general counsel, Kent Walz, editor of the ABQ Journal, Gywneth Doland, director of NMFOG, attorney Charles Piefer and Terri Cole of the ABQ Chamber of Commerce. Walz, Piefer and Cole all serve on the executive committee of NMFOG whose history is closely tied to the ABQ Journal. The meeting is said to have ended without much progress but then late Monday Martinez came with the directive on state employee use of private email accounts.


Quite a bit of reader reaction to our in-depth Monday blog where we laid out the connections of what we refer to as the "Shadow Government" in Santa Fe. Lets go straight to the email bag:

A reader writes:

Joe: Regarding your Monday blog: Wow. You are right on target. You are so right about the shadow government. (Political advisor) Jay McCleskey and (lawyer/lobbyist) Mickey Barnett have been running this administration from day one. Susana and her folks could make Big Bill blush. We feel that McCleskey, Barnett and the rest...take advantage of Susana and her lack of knowledge of Santa Fe politics. She is in so over her head and they know it. 

The one thing that bothers us and should bother the rest of New Mexico is that the Governor and her Chief of Staff Keith Gardner were kept in the loop from the very beginning and never once told McCleskey, Larry Behrens or Hanna Skandera to stop doing this, and if they are going to conduct state business to do it using state computers and email, which in my mind makes them (the Governor's offfice) just as guilty. 

If Susana continues to be a part of this underhanded business the Romney campaign may do the same to her as Obama did to Big Bill and drop any thoughts of her being  a part of the Romney administration. Its pretty sad that she isn't even halfway through her administration and the wheels are beginning to wobble badly.

Reader Stephanie L. DuBois writes:

Joe, What about the list of schools with union contracts that the Governor's operatives requested from the Public Education Department? And the list of teachers with their e-mails? Do teachers have any rights? A right to privacy on their personal information? I would guess this was a move to bust the teacher's unions. 

This "shadow government"  spying on teachers smacks of "McCarthyism." What is this administration going to do with the info acuqired? "Out" teachers that are union members? Or pressure those who are not union members to bust the unions? This is government at its worst. I thought Governor Martinez ran on rooting out corruption and making her administration the most transparent... 


From Philip in California, we get this:

McCleskeygate? Emailgate? SusanaIsToastGate? Whatever.  Any hope Susana had of being on the Romney ticket is gone--though there probably wasn’t much anyway.

From blog reader and Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima:

Good Morning Joe, I just want to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog, Monday through Friday. I especially appreciate the accuracy and fairness in your articles. Very impressive! Great Job! Regards, Ken Miyagishima

Thanks for that note, Ken. You don't last around here if you don't do your best to get it right. On this email scandal story, we don't know where it goes, but we feel we've done our job in laying out the connections and framing what is at stake.

And look at the way the Mayor signs off his email. You think he's been following the email scandal in Santa Fe closely? 

For city correspondence: Please use: mayor@las-cruces.org; For personal matters: Please use: miyagi@zianet.com


Reader Jon Hendry, president of the NM Federation of Labor, writes:

As an avid reader of your column, Monday's edition was the most insightful and informative that I’ve ever read. Not only good commentary but good journalism. Thank you for greatly adding to the discourse. Jon

Thanks much for that, Jon. It's good to know we can still hit a nerve once in a while.

Some of our critics like to forget that we started in journalism in the early 70's. One of our professors was a producer for the NBC evening news and one of our academic advisors was the famous author Tony Hillerman, who started as a news reporter and gave us a number of critiques of stories we wrote for the UNM Daily Lobo. We are also a winner of the Associated Press Spot News Award, have contributed news reports to CBS, NBC and the AP and served as a radio news director for several major ABQ radio stations.

We've hosted radio and TV talk shows, covered sporting events and done public relations for congress and mayors. We were once the assignment editor for the local CBS affiliate here and continue to anchor the longest running Election Night program in the state (on KANW-FM). We also continue to contribute to a variety of national media, striving to be both fair and penetrating in our analysis.

Today, as we near nine years of non-stop blogging of New Mexico politics, we mix our journalism with blogging, analysis, context and perspective...and sometimes our own opinion. We've been around newsrooms since before we shaved and we've worked with the best. So when the politicos (and even a couple of (jealous?) "journalists") start beating up on us for not doing it their way, we take it with a smile and the proverbial grain of salt. In short, we're darn proud most days of what we do, or we wouldn't be doing it. We believe we bring to bear on the news of the day deep and meaningful experience not only in journalism, politics and public relations, but in that all important school of life. In other words, we've been humbled along the way and made enough mistakes to have learned a thing or two.


The NYT comes with an in-depth look at why New Mexico has gone from swing state to a safe Obama enclave. It includes quotes from two UNM poly sci professors.

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