August 28, 2019

State says they paid $1 million to settle claims against DPS

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The state of New Mexico released the specifics of another settlement on Monday from the final days of the Susana Martinez administration that showed the state paid $1 million to settle claims related to a discrimination lawsuit filed by former state employess.

The state paid $900,000 to settle claims from three former Department of Public Safety employees against State Police chief Pete Kassetas and the state Department of Public Safety.

The state also paid $100,000 to settle alleged violations of New Mexico’s Inspections of Public Records Act.

The DPS employees, Lt. Julia Armendariz, Deputy Chief Michael Ryan Suggs and Sgt. Monica Martinez-Jones, filed a lawsuit alleging discriminatory and retaliatory behavior from Kassetas after sexual harassment and other behavior. 

Kassetas has denied the allegations.

The state previously released settlement details for three other former employees involved in the same suit.

Kassetas said in a KRQE-TV report from earlier this year that there was not a proper investigation into the allegations. The KRQE report also said investigators weren’t assigned to look into the allegations.

The settlement initially said the agreement would be held confidential until the end of June in 2023, because the statute of limitations on the claims ran out in December, 2022. State law, known as 15-7-9, says settlements are kept secret for 180 days after a settlement.

The secret settlement provision is controversial and legislators may address it in the upcoming legislative session

General Services Department spokesman Thom Cole told NM Political Report the state released the settlement information because of “intense media interest.”

The DPS settlement did not include an admission of wrongdoing by DPS and included a provision that the three who received the settlement could not take further legal action against the state.

Earlier this year, the Republican Party of New Mexico condemned secret settlements under the Martinez administration. Martinez is a Republican.