May 23, 2019

NM GOP calls out former administration for secret payouts

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Andy Lyman

New Mexico’s Republican Party condemned the Gov. Susana Martinez administration Thursday for reportedly paying out $1.7 million in confidential settlements to former state officials.

“We are deeply troubled by the recent breaking news about secret payouts to state employees that appear to have violated state procedures which are supposed to protect taxpayers from paying out frivolous claims,” a press release from the party said.

The party’s announcement came after KRQE-TV reported that not only did the state settle with a handful of former state employees, but that the specifics of the settlement are confidential for almost five years. Normally, New Mexico statute requires all settlements that go through the state’s Risk Management Division be kept confidential for 180 days. It’s still unclear why both the former state employees and Risk Management agreed to an unusually long confidentiality period.

The party also called on state Attorney General Hector Balderas to step in.

“In order to create and maintain transparency, we call upon our state government leaders, that include the Governor and the Attorney General, to take action to unseal these secret agreements,” the statement read.

The lawsuit against the state included a who’s who of former state officals, alleging employment discrimination and harassment by former State Police Chief Pete Kassetas. In an email obtained by KRQE, Kassetas pleaded with the governor’s office to not settle and accused the former employees of trying to extort the state. The case was reportedly settled late last year, just before Martinez left office.

NM Political Report previously reported on other legal settlements, one involving the University of New Mexico and another involving the state Corrections Department.