October 14, 2015

DA wants sheriff’s office to look into new Downs deal allegation

Joe Gratz


Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is asking the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office to investigate a complaint alleging that a state official committed perjury by claiming the governor’s office had no role in the makeup of a committee that evaluated bids for a racino lease.

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

Joe Gratz

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

An EXPO New Mexico spokeswoman dismisses the allegations as “the same regurgitated accusations by a radical left wing activist whose allegations have been consistently discredited.”

The complaint, filed last month to Brandenburg and State Auditor Tim Keller by private investigator Michael Corwin, accuses EXPO New Mexico Executive Director Dan Mourning of lying in a sworn affidavit.

Keller referred the complaint to Brandenburg’s office earlier this month.

Corwin, who’s done opposition research for a number of New Mexico Democrats including former Gov. Bill Richardson, formerly ran a political committee critical of Gov. Susana Martinez and particularly what has become known as the Downs deal.

Mourning wrote the affidavit in question in July 2013 when the State Auditor, then Hector Balderas, was investigating the awarding to the Downs at Albuquerque of a 25-year racetrack and casino lease on state fairgrounds, which EXPO manages.

Corwin alleges that Mourning’s affidavit was written to mislead the State Auditor’s Office during its investigation of the Downs deal. The State Auditor’s report concluded the deal was legal but criticized it for being rushed.

Brandenburg referred the complaint to the Bernalillo Sheriff’s Office for investigation earlier this week.

“These allegations are highly concerning, and need to be thoroughly investigated and reviewed,” DA spokeswoman Kayla Anderson said in a statement.

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Aaron Williamson said his office hasn’t officially accepted the investigation but has been communicating with the District Attorney’s Office about it.

It is not clear when the sheriff’s office will make a decision.

State fair director denies allegations

In his complaint, Corwin takes issue with a portion of the affidavit where Mourning states that he appointed a committee to evaluate bids for the racino lease “with no influence or direction from the Governor or the Office of the Governor.”

Corwin cites public statements from Tom Tinnin, a former State Fair commissioner, as well as comments from Mourning during state fair commission meetings and quotes from the governor’s office in news stories that contradict this part of Mourning’s affidavit.

EXPO did not make Mourning available for an interview with New Mexico Political Report. But EXPO spokeswoman Erin Thompson said the racino selection “complied with all the rules of procurement and has been thoroughly reviewed by multiple oversight agencies which have found no substantive concerns with the process.”

“The affidavit speaks for itself and there is no merit to Mr. Corwin’s assertions,” Thompson said.

Corwin has long alleged that the Downs lease was a rigged, pay-to-play deal to appease Gov. Susana Martinez’ campaign donors.

Corwin is currently one of five defendants in a lawsuit alleging that he “hijacked” private emails from people who showed up in leaked emails related to business in the governor’s office. Corwin has denied the claims.

In an interview, Tinnin said that any assertion that the governor’s office was not involved in selecting the evaluation committee is “incorrect.”

Tinnin said he met with Mourning twice in August 2011. The first time, Tinnin said he was assigned to select a committee to evaluate bids for a new racino lease. After he put together a list of names, Tinnin said Mourning told him that the evaluation committee had been “approved by the executive.”

Tinnin said he was later shut out of the process when Mourning told him that the governor’s office felt he had a conflict of interest. The State Fair Commission, which Tinnin served on, had previously sued the Downs.

When KRQE-TV interviewed Tinnin about the matter in November 2011, Martinez’s then-spokesman told the station that Tinnin “was unhappy because the governor refused to put him on the three-member committee that ended up choosing the winning bid.”

Corwin cites this quote as another example of evidence contradicting Mourning’s affidavit. He also cites multiple public statements from Mourning and then-EXPO general counsel Mark Shoesmith during state fair commission meetings where both say that Martinez appointed the evaluation committee.

In his affidavit, Mourning stated that “any representation made by me or then General Counsel” that the governor’s office selected the evaluation committee “was (and is) incorrect.”

Read Corwin’s complaint below:

Corwin Complaint (1).pdf by New Mexico Political Report