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SANTA FE — Our new governor has been accident prone recently. At least that is the way members of her administration have explained it. There were oversights, a typo, and a foggy memory.
A big uproar was created over the governor’s chief advisor, Jay McCleskey, obtaining a list of non-union teachers from the Public Education Department. That act created a number of controversies. First was preferential treatment. How did McCleskey get a request filled without putting it in writing?
Second, how did he get a list compiled by department staff when the rest of us are told if a document does not exist, they don’t have to go to the trouble of compiling one.
Third, why were some of the email communications on private accounts and the rest on Gov. Martinez’s political account? They should all have been on state government accounts.
Fourth, is it allowable to release names of teachers’ union membership status, along with their school email addresses?
It didn’t take long for lawmakers to start calling for investigations of state business being conducted through private email.
Then came the revelation that legislators often use private email for state business to avoid public scrutiny. After that someone noticed that Sen. Tim Jennings used state email to announce his bid for reelection. (Using public email for private business.)
At that point, Gov. Martinez decided to accept an invitation from the Foundation for Open Government to discuss the matter of when emails should be on state accounts and therefore open to public scrutiny.
The law says that preliminary discussions of state business can be conducted by private email. But FOG encouraged the governor to conduct all state business by state email to produce maximum transparency, which is what the governor promised during her campaign.
Gov. Martinez accepted the advice and issued a directive that only state email accounts should be used for any state business. My guess is that action will eliminate any further hassle from the Legislature, which has not reciprocated with any rule to stop legislators from using private email to avoid transparency.
While Gov. Martinez has gained the upper hand on transparency, we in the news business will continue to remind state agencies that we should be as special as Jay McCleskey when it comes to compiling reports in the format we need. I don’t think any of us have any problem with putting requests in writing instead of doing it verbally, as McCleskey did, because there is less chance of misinterpretation.
The governor has come out of this dustup on transparency quite well, at least for now. She still has problems with her political activity and her ties to McCleskey. Having McCleskey’s favored state employees on the SusanaPAC’s email account is difficult to comprehend.
It lends credence to the Democrats’ charge that state government still is in campaign mode. By looking at the state employees who use the SusanaPAC email account, it tells us who the McCleskey people are in state government.
And then there is the problem of getting involved in Democratic primary campaigns. Reform New Mexico Now, another of Gov. Martinez’s political action committees, made donations to several Democratic incumbent legislators whom Gov. Martinez thought were more favorable toward her programs than their challengers would be.
At the same time, that same PAC was running campaign ads against the Republican opponent of her endorsed candidate in Clovis charging him with making donations to Democrats. Many in Clovis charge the governor with hypocrisy.
Last week, Republican state Senate candidate Aubrey Dunn, Jr. denounced Gov. Martinez and asked that she return $5,250 in campaign contributions he had made to her. His problem is that her PAC supported Dunn’s Democratic opponent in the June primary.
The final straw came when the governor wrote Dunn seeking money for Susana PAC so it could support Republican candidates in the general election. Dunn called Martinez’s letter disingenuous at best.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist based in Santa Fe.