Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas Guvner

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is my annual digital Christmas card offering.
These decorations on the tree in Governor Bill Richardson’s office lobby are representative of New Mexico. On the left is a dream catcher, a Native American art made of willow, sinew, feathers, and other natural items.
The yellow globes are hand painted with the red Zia Sun as used on the New Mexico State flag.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
The picture was taken of Freelance Journalist Peter St. Cyr, center, talking with Santa Fe County Commissioner for District 1, and its Chair Harry B. Montoya, right and fellow Freelance Journalist Bryant Furlow, left, when I traveled to Santa Fe to serve a copy of a complaint and summons for Gov. Richardson and his office’s Official Records Custodian Marcia Maestas.

St. Cyr filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the right to inspect public records, earlier on Thursday in the Second Judicial District Court for Bernalillo County in Albuquerque.

The case is assigned to Judge
Shannon Bacon, of the Civil Court Division XXIII.

St. Cyr brought suit after filing an inspection of public records request on November 11, 2010.
All applications for Executive Clemency received in the past six months, including applications for full pardons, commutation of sentences, conditional releases, reprieves, pardons to restore civil rights and summary reports received from the Probation and Parole Board.
On November 17, Maestas,
On November 12, 2010, I received your request to inspect certain records. Pursuant to the Inspection of Public Records Act, a response will be forthcoming within 15-days of our receipt of your request. “We have determined your request to be broad and burdensome. As such, we will need additional time to respond to your request.”
On December 9, 2010, St. Cyr wrote Maestas stating that he:
…would like to come to the office next Wednesday – in Santa Fe – to simply inspect any open applications that are pending.
On December 14, 2010, Ms. Maestas wrote:
…to your email of December 9, 2010, revising your previous request.
We still believe that your request is burdensome and/or broad due to the fact that many of our records have been boxed and prepared for archiving and retrieving those documents responsive (sic) will take time.... Accordingly, pursuant to the Inspection of Public Records Act, NMSA 1978, Sec. 14-23-10, we are entitled to an additional reasonable period of time to respond to your request.
St. Cyr responded, requesting the “pending” applications asking:
…to review any and all applications (for clemency) presently under review in the Governor’s Office.
On December 17, 2010, St. Cyr’s attorney Paul Livingston wrote Maestas to produce the requested records
The Governor’s Deputy Chief Legal Counsel Stephanie Kiger responded:
. . . as stated quite clearly, the Governor’s Office continues to work on Mr. St. Cyr’s December 9, 2010 IPRA request. It is, however, under no obligation to provide the records requested on November 11, 2010, as that request was superseded by Mr. St. Cyr’s new request of December 9, 2010.
In addition to unilaterally denying St. Cyr’s Nov. 11 request, Kiger claims that the Dec. 9 request was overly broad and burdensome and claimed the office had until Dec. 29 to provide the inspection of records.
The Governor’s office ignores the IPRA requirement to provide inspection “immediately or as soon as practicable”, and attempts to use the fallback 15-day statement.
Fifteen days added to the dates Maestas states she received the requests are:
November 12, plus 15-days is November 27, at which time Maestas had not given St. Cyr access to the documents or a date certain for the Governor’s office to provide the inspection.
Even if one accepts the December 9, clarification as a new request, superseding the November 11 request, a point St. Cyr emphatically rejects, adding15-days is December 24, not December 29.
On December 16, 2010, the Office of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s Communications Director Alarie Ray-Garcia put out a press statement for immediate release:
Governor Bill Richardson to Consider Billy the Kid Pardon Petition
Ironically at the bottom of the e-mailed release is the standard boilerplate warning:
Confidentiality Notice: This e-mail, including all attachments is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited unless specifically provided under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and destroy all copies of this message....
One has to question the notice on a press release, “… is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited unless specifically provided under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.”
The press release recognizes the provision of the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, and is, along with the petition and supporting attachments, are documents that should have been revealed to St. Cyr under his request.
If one literally follows the warning, how are journalists to disclose the contents of the press release? Of course nobody either returns such e-mails or obeys the confidentiality notice, because a press release is anything but confidential.
Richardson’s consideration of a pardon for Billy the Kid is nothing more than a sideshow, a simple distraction from weightier matters of the day. It’s cheap entertainment, brought to you by the politically elite. Randi McGinn a top lawyer in the state takes up a 147 year-old claim for free for a man who had a propensity for killing law enforcement officers.
McGinn is married to the current Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Charles Daniels, left, whom Richardson appointed to the bench.
McGinn’s free time might be put to better service doing pro bono work for some indigent without a lawyer, or convincing her friend Richardson of being more sensitive to open government, even as he leaves office, or some worthy causes affecting people here and now.

Billy the Kid’s infamy will not be changed one way or another by the results of this “bread and circus” performance.
On December 22, 2010, New Mexican’ Political Reporter Kate Nash learned that Santa Fe Attorney Carlos Fierro who pleaded no contest to homicide by vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident involving great bodily harm and or death sought clemency from Richardson.
The family of William Tenorio, victim of Fierro’s hit-and-run, were aware of the pardon request, but efforts by at least, St. Cyr, the New Mexican and the Albuquerque Journal, and maybe others to get the same information were futile, none of them were notified by the Governor’s office.
Nash’s front-page, above the fold, lead story, ran on Dec 23, with the headline, “Fierro asks for pardon.”
Had St. Cyr been allowed to inspect the records “immediately or as soon as practicable”, he might have had a competitive advantage over other media outlets by having started early.
Posing for Furlow, this might have been St. Cyr's headline based upon his inspection, rather than Nash's actual headline, based on her access to legal sources.
After serving copies of the suit and summons, the Governor's Communications Director Alarie Ray-Garcia, released a written statement to the press:
Mr. St. Cyr's allegations are ludicrous. The governor's office has been working diligently to complete his request and is in full compliance of the law. It's a shame that he has chosen to the waste the precious time and resources of our judicial system on something so completely unnecessary.
Merry Christmas!
Let’s review their claim, “...the governor's office has been working diligently to complete his request.”
Thanks to the debut of the New Mexico Sunshine Portal earlier this month, a quick check of the payroll records for Governor Richardson’s office shows its authorized strength is 28-exempt-positions, which includes the Governor and First Lady Barbara Richardson.
During a rare public appearance, the State's First Lady spoke in support of then, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, during a campaign visit with working women at Flying Star, June 23, 2008, some six months after her husband abandoned his presidential aspirations.
However, eight of the positions are vacant.
Some of those eight vacant exempt positions are not filled because employees sought classified positions in state government to continue to have jobs.
One such employee was Press Assistant Caitlin Kelleher, center, who is now a Public Affairs Specialist at the New Mexico Department of Military Affairs, since about August when she began writing and photographing for the New Mexico Minute Man the official magazine of the New Mexico National Guard.
Governor Bill Richardson, right, is with Ray-Garcia, left, at a fire fighter protection bill signing in Albuquerque.
Other vacant positions in the governor’s office include: two constituent services positions: a director and deputy director, a deputy chief of staff, a deputy director of legislative services, a special assistant I, a director of boards and commissions, and an administrative assistant I.
The annualized savings of those eight vacant exempt positions is $528,902.40, however, there is no reason to believe the positions have been empty that long.
The claim by Richardson that St. Cyr’s IPRA request is too broad and burdensome may be in part because almost a third of the governor’s staff are no longer on the job. Four or five of those positions: press assistant, two constituent services, a special assistant, and an administrative assistant, are likely to have been the personnel who might have done the necessary research.
Allowing necessary staff to drift away to find safe harbors in classified positions for their once politically insecure jobs, during the lame-duck period of Richardson's term-limited final eighth year in office, doesn't make the continued requirements to carry out the mandatory, non-discretionary, and time sensitive duties, to be used as an excuse to not comply with the requirements of the law.
Had the governor’s staff been up to it’s authorized full compliment then. “working diligently” might take on an entirely different meaning.
The second comment in the Governor’s public reaction: “…and is in full compliance of the law”, is reason enough for a lawsuit to test their assertion.
This is not the first time Richardson’s office has refused to release documents. About a year ago Richardson announced 59 exempt state employee positions were eliminated for a saving of some $8.3 million. Richardson’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director Gilbert Gallegos refused to name the employees released from state service citing they would not be dignified for them to publicly reveal their names. Of course Gallegos’ reasoning fails and “dignified’ does not fall within any of the exceptions to the IPRA act.

According to
New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan, he and his alligators identified more than 20 of the 59 exempts positions terminated:
Department of Public Safety Chief Information Officer Stephen Easley,
Public Employee Relations Board Deputy Director Pilar Vaile,
NM National Guard Lawyer Shanon Riley,
NM Commission on the Status of Women Administrative Assistant Darla Aiken,
Regulation and Licensing Department Director New Mexico Securities Division Bruce Kohl,
Workforce Solutions Department Constituent Liaison Rebecca Vigil-Giron, right. The former Secretary of State was indicted on 50 counts with three others: political consultant contractor Armando Gutierrez, lobbyists Joseph Kupfer and his wife, Elizabeth Kupfer. Charges stem from work the three did for the Secretary of State's office in 2004 and 2006 on $6.3 million to produce vote-education television advertising State and federal audits could only account for $2.6 million. The main allegations pertain to filing false pay vouchers: money laundering, fraud, soliciting or receiving kickbacks, and tax evasion. Vigil-Giron had been allowed to continue her $60,000 job until she was dismissed as one of the 59-exempt employees.
Workforce Solutions Department Administrative Services Director Lloyd Garley,
Workforce Solutions Department Deputy Secretary Theresa Gomez,
Workforce Solutions Department Francis Ray,
Workforce Solutions Department Priscilla Martinez,
Workforce Solutions Department Workers Comp Division Jim Moran,
Workforce Solutions Department Nick Nieto,
Workforce Solutions Department Randy Romero,
NM Expo Attorney Nasha Torrez,
NM Expo former ABQ State Rep. Al Otero,
NM Expo Art Department Bob Cooper,
NM Expo Special Projects Leo Pacheco,
NM Expo Special Projects Harry Pavlides,
NM Expo involved with Expo construction Architect John Hooker,
Economic Development Department Office of Science and Technology Director Stephan Helegson, left, and
Indian Affairs Department Public Information Officer David Harwell.
KRQE TV Investigative Reporter Larry Barker uncovered a deception in job shuffling of exempt position employees into high or equal paying classified state jobs for the Governor's loyal political appointees.

Barker, right, also added to the list of names for the 59 exempts:
Tourism Department New Mexico Sports Authority Deputy Director Noah Trujillo,
Tourism Department New Mexico Sports Authority Administrative Assistant Patricia Duran.

Richardson refused to comment on Barker’s investigation, instead having a spokesmen state, “the Governor feels he’s going to be “screwed” on this story and doesn’t want anything to do with it,” Barker said.
Journal Staff Writer Albuquerque Thomas J. Cole wrote in a February 24, 2010, “Up Front, daily front-page news and opinion column,” entitled, “'Vacant,' But Appointees on Job”, points out that at least 17 exempt employees applied for or were in classified positions.
Cole added to the list:
Energy Department Director Oil Conservation Division Mark Fesmire,
Department of Cultural Affairs Janice Spence.
New Mexico WatchDog’s Jim Scarantino wrote an article On June 20, 2010, “Albuquerque Journal Sues Gov. Bill Richardson For Withholding Public Records.”
Scarantino included a copy of the lawsuit:
The Albuquerque Journal and Colleen Heild as a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal sued The Office of the Governor, Marcia Maestas, Custodian of Records for the office of the Governor, and John Does 1-3
The Journal/Heild v Office of the Governor/Maestas lawsuit filed June 3. 2010, is open and pending the legal proceeding leading up to a trial, with the discovery process still to come. The case is assigned to the same judge, Shannon Bacon, as is St. Cyr's.
Final Thoughts
There is little doubt that the governor’s office receives numerous clemency requests for all the listed categories found in the State Constitution Section 6 granting the Governor's power to pardon and reprieve.
Subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by law, the governor shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons, after conviction for all offenses except treason and in cases of impeachment.
The law prescribes a process for handling and vetting such requests through the Probation and Parole Board.
On request of the governor the board shall investigate and report to him with respect to any case of pardon, commutation of sentence or reprieve.
31-21-17. Executive clemency; investigation and reports.
The board’s role is gathering documents, such as: the original indictment, conviction, sentencing records, and generating the report.
Should Richardson announce any grant(s) of reprieves or pardons, it will be proof of his office’s failure to follow the Inspection of Public Records Act request. The question of inspection of those records that were reviewed and denied, like Fierro’s issue, which made its way to the public through Nash, is also proof of the violation.
As I witnessed when serving the complaint and summons, the governor's office made me fill out two logs and the receptionist time stamped the documents. There is no doubt the office's staff can track the whereabouts of every document or file at all times. Gathering up the current files pertaining to clemency requests should not have been a major task for a person familiar with office protocol By no stretch of the imagination, should it have taken more then 50 days.
Unfortunately, contrary to the spin, the real shame is the Governor's decision to not follow the law and causing a journalist, acting as a watch dog, seeking strict accountability on governmental official acts to exercise the Constitutional guarantees for assuring an open government to require using our judicial system to compel compliance.

It is for you, my readers, to decide if one or the other parties in this case is acting “ludicrous,” or is it simply the use of a rash word to distract the publics' attention from judging for themselves when government officials have refused to perform their duties.
The days of St. Cyr getting the short radio interview with this willing Governor are now in the past, yet principles sometimes must take precedence.
The watchdogs from the fourth branch of government must growl, snap, and bark; they may also nip, bite, and even sometimes maul to keep public officials remembering that it is all about, "We the People..." and it is a, "government of the people, by the people and for the people," as President Abraham Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.
Lincoln understood what it took to keep a country together, though he exercised the Constitution as much as any other president, he knew our strength came from government leaders trusting its own people.
In the Supreme Court of Vermont case John Doe, et al. v. Thomas P. Salmon, et al., where recipients of pardons sued to have their records of receiving a clemency kept under seal to protect their privacy, the court wrote:
Since the granting of a pardon is an official act, we turn to Chapter I, article 6 of our State constitution, which provides:

That all power being originally inherent in and [consequently] derived from the people, therefore, all officers of government, whether legislative or executive, are their trustees and servants; and at all times, in a legal way, accountable to them
The Vermont Supreme Court went on:

As a correlative to the right of inspection of public records and documents, the custodian of those records has a legal duty to the public to accord that right. This duty is ministerial in nature and so clear and specific that no element of discretion or of official judgment is involved in its performance.
Clement v. Graham, supra, 78 Vt. at 318.
This is a case on point, meaning in the absence of a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling, another States’ Supreme Court’s finding on the same issue may be offered as persuasion.
So, at a time of giving, the citizens of New Mexico received a lump of coal from their governor.
Otherwise, may the rest of the season be bright.

(Picture from Old Town Friday night is another for my collection in my "share the light" project, as this visitor was struck by a flash while having his photograph taken.)

One can always hope for a Happy New Year!
Disclosure: I did some Para-legal work on the St. Cyr case and served the documents as a volunteer process server.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It’s About Time!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A demonstration version of the New Mexico Sunshine Portal website was rolled out Thursday by State Senator Sander Rue at a press conference at the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

Showing the ease of the site’s use, Department of Information Technology Cabinet Secretary Marlin Mackey explained the early release of the online version was for the public to use and make suggestions for improvements and additional information that should be put on the site. Mackey wants citizens’ input for the next 30-days so his department can make suggestions at the next Legislative session, which opens January 18. The law requiring the portal doesn’t take effect until July 1, 2011.

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Sarah Welsh, applauded the site, telling how much easier it will be to search information that previously required a time consuming and burdensome process under the inspection of public records act.

She also had the Journals Opinion Guest Column Thursday morning, "Transparency Can Save Bucks.
Steve Schroeder of Real Time Sites, Inc., an Albuquerque based, firm developed the site with the intent for it to rival other states, which are considered to be state of the art. Being interviewed by Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico, Schroeder told the press conference he believes the site matches up well against the site from the state of Oklahoma, which was a 2009 finalist of Best of the Web and Digital Government Achievement Awards.

The media turned out in force: four network affiliated television stations,

Albuquerque Journal Political Writer Sean Olsen, above right, Journal Watch, Tracy Dingmann, seated left in the wide picture two photos above, and Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico. If there were other members of the media I did not recognize them.

Rio Grande Foundation President
 Paul Gessing, at podium, spoke about the benefit of the site towards the overall efforts to bring more transparency to government.

As a matter if disclosure RGF supported Capitol Report New Mexico and I worked on the editorial staff until RGF purchased the name and went on line with Nikolewski at its helm.

First term Sen. Rue, R-Bernalillo County, sponsored the Sunshine Portal Transparency Act during the 2010 regular legislative session. The bill passed the Senate unanimously 38-0.

House Majority Floor Leader Representative Ken Martinez D-Cibola, McKinley, and San Juan Counties, added an amendment to protect the identities of individual classified employees who might hold the same job title, but make different amounts of money.
"other than exempt employee positions, identified only by state agency, position title and salary; and the name of the individual that holds the position;".
The rational was to prevent squabbles amongst classified employees where, for a variety of reasons that are not immediately apparent, like years of service, some employees can make more money with the same job title.

The bill passed in the House 65-1.

Acting Governor Diane Denish signed the bill into law on March 5, 2010.
Denish was a proponent of a Sunshine Portal announcing her support for a bill Rep. Al Park D-Bernalillo County was contemplating sponsorship of the proposal. As President of the Senate, Denish can not directly propose legislation, but like every other proposal from the administration, a sponsor must introduce the bill to their chamber for consideration through the normal legislative process.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Lt. Governor Denish announcing her proposal for ethics reform in State Government. She was flanked by Rep Park, right and University of New Mexico Law School Ethic Professor Antoinette Sedillo López, left, on the steps of the State Supreme Court Building. The event was as much a campaign position announcement as it was that of the Lt. Gov.

The Sunshine Portal has some real limits:

It does not have any information online from past years.

Not accounting for records more than a year ago raises arguments that past practices, of a questionable nature, especially in areas that are now subject to federal and state criminal investigations, into possible awarding sole source bids to donors of Gov. Bill Richardson's gubernatorial and presidential campaigns or donations to his non-profit, Moving America Forward Foundation.

As a 501 (C) (3) non-profit, MAFF donors had no contribution limits and their identities were not subject to public disclosure. MAFF was founded to register new Hispanic and Native American voters.

In the picture above, Richardson receives an envelope at a presidential volunteer and fund raising rally in Albuquerque. There is no reason to believe other than this transaction is legitimate and traceable, but it is shown as a demonstration of the ease of transfer.

The weather for the roll out ironically was a dismal gray day with a steady rain.

“We don’t have any sunshine today it turned out to be a bad day to launch this thing,” Rue said. “If we were in Santa Fe today, we’d be walking through the snow to get here, but the sun will come out.”

This post’s title may have multiple meanings; it’s been a long time since I posted.

I haven’t been slacking.

I’ve been researching, and compiling information to produce a multiple-post series of case studies on governmental actions barring press coverage from: the gubernatorial campaigns, the City’s Public Information Officers, and how the Albuquerque Public School Board is going to great and questionable lengths in eliminating simple coverage of their activities.

This is what a violation of civil rights looks like. APS Police Sgt. T.A. Mora, Interim Chief Steve Tellez, and Officer K.L. Green, block a blogger's entry to a School Board meeting. The officers and even the School Board, president, a self proclaimed civil rights and media law attorney, Marty Esquivel, are totally oblivious of the meaning of the First Amendment’s, “or of the Press.”

There are additional views on how the White House Media Affairs Office handles media for a Presidential visit and we will visit the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s Board meeting to see what they are working on. You will meet the 2010 Dixon Award Winners at FOG’s annual banquet ceremony

Look forward to this series.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

E-mails, Records Requests, FBI, and Firings

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

On August 20, 2010, I had a chance meeting with Secretary of State Mary Herrera in the Capitol Annex.

There had been news reports that Herrera filed a request under the State’s Inspection of Public Records Act for e-mails between and among several state, county and city employees along with five current employees: Office Administrator Manuel Vildasol, Uniform Commercial Code James Pérez, Bureau of Elections computer specialist Steve Fresquez, Bureau of Elections Maria-Elena Rodella, and Administrator for the State Bureau of Elections Kelli Baca, formally Fulgenzi, and at least one former employee, Herrera’s first Elections Bureau Chief Daniel Ivy-Soto, who is now the Executive Director of NM Clerks and works with County Clerks around the State.

I asked Herrera what the inspection of public records request was about.

Herrera said that she was aware that two of her staff had received an e-mail and was told of its contents.

Herrera asked that the e-mails be forwarded to her, but they were not forthcoming so she, as an ordinary citizen, filed the inspection of public records request.

I asked her if she thought she would get them in a timely manner.

She laughed and said she would get the three-day notification and it would take the entire 15-days (as allowed by law) to receive them.

She did not elaborate about what she was told was in the e-mails.

The public records request Herrera sought were e-mails of: President of the State Association for County Clerks Affiliates Sheryl Nichols, who is also chief deputy clerk of Los Alamos County, Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza, Santa Fe County Deputy Clerk Denise Lamb, Bernalillo County Chief Deputy Clerk Robert Adams, and Doña Ana Deputy County Clerk Mario Jimenez.

Espinoza considered running against Herrera in the June 1 Democratic primary, but chose not to challenge the first term Secretary of State.

Espinoza is openly supporting Herrera’s GOP opponent, State Senator and former Otero County Clerk Dianna Duran, right.

“Don Francisco (Trujillo II,) has convinced her (Herrera) to believe that she cannot survive without him,” a former employee who spoke on conditions of anonymity because of fear of retribution said.

Deputy Secretary of State “Don Francisco systematically attempted to separate the people that Mary Herrera had brought with her when she came into office more than three and a half years ago from her,” the former employee said.

“Don Francisco micro manages everything and with the firing of Vildasol and (Public Information Officer James) Flores, Don Francisco has captured the crown jewels,” the person said.

Republican State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, below, of Albuquerque’s mid-height’s district 24 said on her new talk radio program on AM 1550 KVIA, “New Mexico Now,” that the office of the Secretary of State has the highest turn over of any department or agency in State Government.

Another former employee who also wishes to remain anonymous because of fear of retribution said the turnover rate was just over one hundred percent; that there were 34 full-time employees in addition to one or two part-time positions.

There are three categories of employees who have cycled through the office: those who were civil service workers who had been in the office when the prior Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron left office and 11 have since left, those workers who had come to work with Mary Herrera and have left, and those workers who had come to work since Herrera took office and have left; the total number in these two categories is 28.

Herrera denies that she has the highest turnover rate of state agencies, but has not provided any numbers to disprove the allegation or to point to any agency with a higher turnover rate.

There are two ways to look at these numbers. Being a small agency, some 33 employees, it is reasonable that some large agency could easily have more employees leave their workforce. The other way to look at the numbers is, the number of turnovers as a percentage of the total number of employees. Both statements could be accurate.

A contributing factor is the size of the SoS's office and the intimacy that it provides in working very closely together is not common in larger agencies, making the internal politics much more pronounced than in the rest of the state’s government.
Arnold-Jones has been critical of the Campaign Finance Information System. During the legislator, Trujillo called her up to ask her to come to the SoS office to test the system.

She asked for a computer link, but Trujillo wouldn’t provide it saying she needed to come to the office to test it. Arnold-Jones explained that the system was funded and provided for to specifically keep her from ever having to physically go to the SoS's office, but to make all reports by computer via the internet. Arnold-Jones wanted to test it in a real-world environment.

Trujillo was never able to provide a link for her to test, Arnold-Jones said. The system has since gone on line. No log on required, click public reports.

In three and a half years, there have been six full-time or interim Information Systems Directors: Gabe Duran, who was on contract, Phyllis Vigil, Edward Sigman, Jose Hernandez, Kelli Fulgenzi, Venkatesh Dhagumudi, and most recently Hari Singh now holds the position temporarily.

At one point, when there was a major computer problem, New Mexico Environment Department’s Chief Information Officer and Information Technology Director Lynn Harris came into the office; Salazar described her as, "IT Director on loan,"

Senior Research Scientist with ICASA (Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis) Srinivas Mukkamala of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Computer Science Department and members of his team from Computational Analysis and Network Enterprise Solutions, LLC (CAaNES) accompanied Harris and discovered that an employee had breached the SoS’s computer’s security firewall without authorization, causing it to crash.

In his February 26, 2010 resignation letter, Salazar explains his role in trying to uncover the cause of the crash and Herrera’s response to his un-welcomed information.
You also pointed out that I had previously "gone over your head" when I reported Mr. Paul Flaherty to you and our previous "IT Director on loan," Ms. Lynn Harris the fact that Mr. Flaherty violated State IT and SoS policy by breaching the security of our computer network by giving himself unauthorized access---essentially "hacking" into the administrative portion of the network. Ms. Harris indeed recommended that Mr. Flaherty be terminated for his actions.
Salazar noted that Flaherty had come into his office, moving things and photographing his computer. Though Herrera promised Salazar that Flaherty’s actions would be investigated, nothing has happened. Flaherty remains in the office.

Salazar also pointed out:
The appearance of impropriety overshadows the decision to do nothing, as Mr. Flaherty's wife (Lou Baker) is a political supporter of yours.
In late 2009 Flaherty and wife Baker held a fund raiser for Herrera.

The crash happened June 18, 2009 while several of the senior staff attended a National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference.

On March 25, 2009, Herrera was elected NALAO’s President. She was the organization’s Vice President and was voted to fill the unexpired term of Adolfo Carrión, who resigned to become Director of Urban Affairs in the Obama administration.

Herrera ran for a full term as president, but was defeated when the Board of Directors unanimously elected Harris County, (Houston), Texas Commissioner, Sylvia R. Garcia.

Deputy Secretary of State Trujillo was elected to serve as secretary and currently serves on the 2010-2011 Board of Directors as NALAO’s Vice President.

There were concerns around the office during the crash that a number of senior staff went to Los Angeles for the NALAO conference during the middle of the computer crash and the crisis it caused.

Trujillo took a week long vacation after the conference to Denver, according to one source.

Fulgenzi, above, lower right, was a former Albuquerque assistant city clerk and an assistant clerk in the office of Albuquerque City Council, she was not known to have much education, knowledge, or experience in the information technology field at a level necessary to fulfill the role.

There have also been five Administrators of the Bureau of Elections: Ivy-Soto who served 15 months, until March of 2008; Jim Noel, right, who was hired August 28, 2008, but never served, Gerald Gonzalez, who served two and a half months from Sept. – Dec. 2008; then the position was vacant 10 to 11 months until A.J. Salazar, who resigned February 26, 2010, with his fiery letter, and currently Trujillo claims a dual role as Dep. Sec. of State and Director, Bureau of Elections, he was interim director during vacancies in 2008 and 2009.

Noel didn't take the job. There was speculation that because he was married to Amanda Cooper, Congressman Tom Udall's stepdaughter and his run for the US Senate seat vacated by Sen. Pete Domenici; insiders say he got to know Trujillo a bit better and returned to his post at the of Executive Director and General Counsel at New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission. Noel now is Cabinet Secretary for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Salazar’s un-redacted resignation letter was first published in the Rio Grande Sun.

Vidasol turned over a video to KOB TV Eyewitness News Reporter Gadi Schwartz after talking to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Public Information Officer James Flores, left, also spoke with the FBI.

KOB aired Schwartz’ reporting in a story, “Virus infects Sec. of State's computer.

Schwartz later reported Sept. 7, 2010 on KOB, “Secretary of State fires top staffers, ” Vildasol and Flores.

On August 26, 2010, Rob Nikolewski Posted on New Mexico Watchdog, “How weird are things getting at the Secretary of State’s Office? This weird.”

Nikolewski shot a couple of his flip-cam-videos of Herrera explaining why she thought the allegations had come about. Her answer was rambling and started to get interminable, it ran long so Nikolewski could get to Herrera’s punch line.
…I am very proud of my staff and I don’t know why all of the accusations, I don’t know why all of this is happening, it’s election year, I am very proud of this office, and I stick by my employee who are great workers and are committed and that are loyal.
On August 28th, 2010, Nikolewski reported on his Capitol Report New Mexico blog, “Update on Secretary of State flap: The AG’s office looking into allegations,” repeating an Albuquerque Journal article,

If one looks at her re-election campaign website’s photo page you can see many pictures of her and her campaigners wearing red shirts touting voting for Herrera; the problem is some shirts are emblazoned with the Great Seal of the State of New Mexico and that would violate her duty as "the keeper of the Great Seal of the State of New Mexico, and affixes the seal to all commissions issued in the name of the Governor."

It is the duty of the Secretary of State to protect the seal against any improper use, which includes it being used in political campaigns, as Herrera is doing.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Why would Herrera have to ask for an IPRA to obtain an e-mail from her own staff?

Isn’t her request an order that, if not complied with, constitutes an insubordination?

If the staff weren’t forthcoming, why would she have to go outside her own agency with an IPRA request, why not go to her office's information technology person and pull up the e-mail of her employees?

The most important question, as related to Office Administrator Vildasol’s having secretly videoed the computer virus, is not that it provided pornographic material, but that the Secretary of State’s computer system was so insecure as to allow any virus to attack it.

The Secretary of State’s computer system contains more than 1.3 million records, which include: legal names, secured addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers.

Is the Secretary of State’s computer system a totally self-contained secured computer that is not accessible from the Internet?

If not, then why not?

The final question is what is the culture in the Secretary of State’s office that makes a senior employee feel it necessary to resort to secretly videoing problems, such as pornographic site icons on Herrera’s laptop. The laptop had not been in her office for a couple of years.

The anonymous sources both confirmed that employees found it necessary to document activities that might be viewed as negative because Herrera and Trujillo routinely lied to cover up problems in the office. So, when this matter came up, apparently Vildasol decided he needed to protect himself by collecting video evidence.

Herrera, through Trujillo, told the press that her laptop did not have anti-virus software protection. However, one of the former employees revealed that an IT employee had personally installed such protection well before this problem occurred.

According to the sources, this is not the first time Herrera and Trujillo told the press that there was no problem when in fact there were problems and they lied to cover them up.

A.J. Salazar and Vildasol had come to the conclusion that there are possible violations of law in the Secretary of State’s office; Salazar resigned as Administrator of the Bureau of Elections and put his concerns in his resignation letter and reported his concerns to the Attorney General, according to Espanola based Attorney Rudy Martin who represents: Salazar, Vildasol, and Flores.

After several months when the Attorney General’s office took no action, Vildasol took his concerns to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Vildasol publicized the fact and Flores’ contact with the FBI also became known.

Salazar wrote:
During my tenure in your office it has become abundantly clear to me as to why my predecessors have left the office.
Salazar wrote that he didn’t have direct control of the people assigned to work for him because Trujillo would take operational control of his staff.
In fact, there are different organizational charts which he has created which seem to be contradictory and confuse the chain of command within the office. I cannot be an effective Director when my decisions are constantly undermined. The Bureau itself cannot be effective when we have such cronyism, insubordination and undermining behavior taking place by its employees, to include management.
Salazar warned Herrera:
… I have repeated(ly) advised you to not violate the New Mexico Governmental Conduct Act. In order to support the upcoming Elections Seminar, you have insisted that we obtain "sponsorships" or donations through targeted communications with firms or businesses with whom we currently contract. As the Bureau of Elections Director, I sought advice from our office counsel at the Attorney General's office regarding the legalities of this action. This is well documented via email. Rather than acknowledge that my actions potentially kept our office from engaging in illegal behavior, you accused me of "going over your head" by contacting our counsel and stated that I was not involved in this decision. You stated that sponsorships are not donations and I should focus on other tasks.
Salazar alleged improper political activities in support of Herrera’s own campaign:
… For example, when your campaign manager appeared to be doing campaign business from your office on filing day, I asked that he step outside the office and remain with other filers in the halls of our building. Further, I remind you that all Governor's Exempt ("GOVEX") employees were called into your office in October, 2009 during work hours and were ordered to get 1,000 petition signatures each for your reelection campaign.
The accusations also included:

The forcing of office workers to donate time on weekends without pay to attend small town parades and even the State Fair parade where some other costs were paid at taxpayer's expense associated with manning the floats, the wearing red and white T-shirts of Herrera's campaign, under the guise of being a voter education effort.

The floats used the red and white color scheme and print type face of Herrera's campaign while also pushing voter education, registration, and get out the vote messages while reinforcing the campaign effort.

Herrera expected exempt staff to participate in these around the state parades and until this year engaged in the dual office and campaign mix, but his year has made the floats about campaigning.

Herrera denied there was any wrongdoing in her office according to an article by Associated Press Writer Barry Massey.

September 07, 201, Herrera “talked late Monday,” with Blogger Joe Monahan who broke the story, on the reasons she fired Vildasol and Flores; after an investigations into making audio and video recordings of fellow employees in the office who complained.

She had placed Vildasol on paid administrative leave after he publicly announced he had spoken with the FBI. When Flores went to the FBI she placed him on administrative leave with pay until the investigation was complete.

Also on Tuesday, September 07, The New Mexican’s Political Reporter Steve Terrell in an article, “Secretary of State Mary Herrera axes critics: Ex-exempt workers may sue, citing whistle-blower law,” posting:
On Aug. 24, Trujillo wrote Flores saying, "the Secretary of State has received a complaint about a hostile work environment and is concerned with what appears to be an altered media distribution list. You are the subject of the investigation."

The reference to the "altered media distribution list" might support a claim by some Secretary of State's Office sources that Herrera suspected Flores of sending e-mail news releases to Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza — who is a critic of Herrera — and to Salazar, who resigned earlier this year, sending Herrera a scathing letter accusing her of several possible violations of law or policy, including having her staff do political campaign work in the office during work hours.
In Jim Baca’s September 08, 2010, “Only in New Mexico” blogpost, he wrote:
I see where two political appointees, who serve at will of the elected Secretary of State, will sue her for their dismissals despite having no rights under the personnel system. This is something that should be squashed immediately, or soon an elected official, no matter if they are competent or not, will never be able to hire or fire their own team. I know this sounds counter intuitive but it is the way things should work.
Baca is right about the fact that political appointees are not covered by personnel rules that require just cause and due process to fire them.

He is also right that it, not only sounds counter intuitive, but is counter intuitive.

The age-old thinking is that the king selects his ministers; in this country when Thomas Jefferson turned out John Adams the spoils system took hold and by Andrew Jackson’s administration, the phrase by U.S. Sen. William Learned Marcy, N.Y., Jacksonian, “to the victors go the spoils,” was well entrenched.

Administrations would wholesale clean out the entire prior administration’s work force and replace it with their own loyalists.

It was recognized that the practice washed away corporate history with each change.

However, it wasn’t until July 2, 1881, when a disgruntled office seeker, Charles Guiteau assassinated President James Garfield, that the concept of a merit based system of hiring and retaining governmental employees took hold through the 1883 Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.

The act created a means of hiring most federal government employees through a testing, selection, residency, and probationary process, but it did not address the top tiers of government to be appointed to serve at the pleasure of elected officials.

This is an archaic practice, as now employee professionalism requires them to perform to the highest standards and to serve the duties of their job; yet the thinking still is the elected official may appoint a limited number of people they trust.

The requirement that top appointed officials get the approval of the State Senate doesn’t apply to all appointees and their qualifications are not always sufficiently or thoroughly examined or tested.

An elected official has the prerogative to prosecute the agenda upon which they were elected, as long as they stay within the bounds of their constitutional and statutory obligations.

Normally, any appointed employee can be terminated for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason, but they can’t be terminated for an illegal reason.

In this case, Vildasol and Flores fall under the protection of the State’s Whistleblower’s Act; they had a duty to report suspected illegal activity to the proper authorities.

The FBI is such an authority. The Albuquerque FBI Field office is seen here at Luecking Park Ave N.E. along Pan American Freeway next to Interstate Highway 25.

My Take:

The Secretary of State Herrera, in a campaign stunt threw beanbags, like horseshoes, simulating Kraft Cheese Singles, in a promotional game, onto a tarp with hamburgers printed on it, at the August 31, 2010, Iowa Cubs vs. Isotopes baseball game.

She had on her campaign t-shirt and was accompanied by her sister, Lori Salazar; they tied with an opposing team with two cheeseburgers each.

Herrera waved to the crowd, but no comments...

My question was; where's the beef?

Monahan called me about another unrelated issue and I asked why he hadn't used the picture; he'd acknowledged receipt of it. I told him what I had learned about his work for the SoS's office and asked if he wanted to make a comment. He said he had done some public relations work and had to make a living. I told him I had not seen a disclaimer. He said he made one, but if it was time to make another, he would. Monahan asked for a second shot that was cropped tighter and he ran this one below. These are actually still frame grabs from video.

Monahan wrote this caption:
The photo posted of Herrera today was taken by photog Mark Bralley at a recent ABQ Isotopes baseball game. He's been snapping Herrera since her days as Bernalillo County Clerk and before. We've also know her for years and did some professional PR work for the SOS office in '08 on a get-out-the-vote project.
Clearly Herrera’s stated requirement of (personal) loyalty overrides the duty of employees’ to uphold professional and ethical standards, to do their jobs properly without undue political influence, and now Vildasol and Flores can no longer serve her.

This however, does not relieve Herrera and Trujillo from exposure for illegal firings and damages that may be awarded.

Herrera’s charge against Flores altering the media distribution list is absurd on its face.

The purpose of the media distribution list is to send out press releases for the purpose of having widespread dispensation of information the SoS office wants out.

There should be no problem if there is a list of more than just media on it; anyone in the public should be able to receive releases and the SoS should be grateful for the interest.

The idea that maybe the Santa Fe County Clerk is on the list should not be looked at as a political enemy, but as an office with a symbiotic relationship. The SoS is not putting out any state secrets; they are putting out information that they think the public should have.

In Journalism school, one is taught how to write a press release and are informed about the number of press releases that editors receive each day, how difficult it is to catch their attention, and the percentages of those that get the message published.

By example, I am on the City of Albuquerque’s mass media mailing list, I get releases from: the City’s Communications Director, ABQ BioPark Zoo, Aquarium, Botanic Garden and Tingley Beach, animal shelters, Economic Development Department, Cultural Services, Public Service Public Information Officer, the Police Department’s Public Information Officer, the Crime Stoppers coordinator, the Fire Department’ Public Information Officer, and others.

Some of theses and Crime Stoppers in particular have long lists of interested citizens and peripheral groups who asked to be added to the list.

If the goal is to have the widest possible dissemination of information, then being so controlling of the list, not allowing the public information officer to use his discretion in adding people's names to an e-mail list to send out a blast of press releases is considered a firing offense, then altering the media distribution list without the strict permission of Herrera or Trujillo smacks more of fear of general knowledge being spread to specific people who are thought by them to be political enemies.

I believe any reasonable person could see around this pretext.

If Vildasol and Flores were fired for creating a hostile work environment, then lets examine what the atmosphere was their fellow workers found so toxic.

Vildasol, as office manager, videoed fellow employees doing the job they are paid to do. The "evidence" doesn't fall on the employee, in this case Jose Hernandez, the one-time IT director who had gone back to his non-exempt job because of the heavy work load. only parts of Hernandez were visible in the KOB story and a voice, which might or might not have been recognizable.

In an atmosphere of deep paranoia, as not only my sources said, but several others close to this situation, have described of Herrera's state, it is very likely that the employees who were scrubbing the laptop clear, did not want to be identified. If as indicated, should the employees be called at some point, should Herrera and Trujillo be untruthful about the circumstances of this or other perceived embarrassments, then being recorded would not allow the employees to equivocate.


I photographed Rep. Arnold-Jones during her recent campaigns and was made an importune guest when I went to photograph her inaugural radio broadcast.

She can be heard on, "New Mexico Now," Monday – Friday 4 pm -6:30 pm on AM 1550 KIVA.