WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico one of the worst governors in America. Gov. Martinez’s administration is facing multiple investigations. The state attorney general is investigating her office’s use of a state agency for political purposes, while federal and state authorities appear to be investigating the process by which she awarded a major contract to a campaign contributor. Gov. Martinez’s administration has also faced repeated allegations of deliberately using private email accounts to shield official business from the public. Her actions have earned her a spot in the latest edition of CREW’s Worst Governors in America report, an examination of shady and unethical conduct by the nation’s governors.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s office is investigating whether Gov. Martinez’s administration violated state law when her political advisor asked the Public Education Department to compile a list of non-union teachers to counter union material regarding the administration’s proposed education reforms. After devoting substantial resources toward compiling the list, the department’s spokesman circulated it to officials in the Martinez administration using private and campaign email addresses.
The use of private and campaign email addresses to shield official business from the public has been a recurrent problem in the Martinez administration. In an affidavit, a former Martinez administration employee said the governor’s chief of staff, Keith Gardner, told staff, in Gov. Martinez’s presence, to use personal email accounts whenever possible to avoid disclosure. Mr. Gardner denied this, but in a recorded conversation said he routinely uses a personal email account to shield sensitive information.
Additionally, the FBI and state agencies appear to be examining whether Gov. Martinez improperly awarded a state contract to a combination racetrack and casino whose executives and employees have made substantial donations to her campaign and political action committee. In December 2011, the state awarded a 25-year lease to the Downs at Albuquerque to continue operating on state fair grounds. After an unusually hurried request for proposals, a selection committee appointed by Gov. Martinez chose the Downs’ bid, despite a history of problems with the company’s performance. Some state fair commissioners criticized the selection process, and an audit by the state legislature found the process was rushed because the state could not afford to lose the Downs’ lease payments. After talking with Gov. Martinez about his uneasiness with the process, one member of the state board of finance resigned before the board voted to approve the deal, saying the governor warned him not to criticize the deal publicly. The losing company filed a protest with the state, which was denied. However, leaked emails show Gov. Martinez’s staff made contact with lawyers for the Downs while the selection process was ongoing.
“Where there is smoke, there is generally fire. Gov. Martinez is doing all she can to conceal her administration’s actions from public view,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Hopefully, federal and state investigators will be able to discover whether the governor and members of her staff have been violating the law for political gain.”
This is the second edition of CREW’s Worst Governors report. Click here to read the 2010 report.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Lauren Farber at 202.408.5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org