November 7, 2015

Former official: FBI asked about issues in Martinez administration

Badge on FBI agent, wikicommons

A former official in Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration said he has been interviewed by the FBI on several occasions in the past two years.

Brent Eastwood

Credit: Brent Eastwood

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Brent Eastwood, who served from 2011 to 2012 as the New Mexico Economic Development Department’s division director of international trade, told NM Political Report that the FBI interviewed him about issues in state government.

Eastwood said his questioning wasn’t related to Martinez’s campaign spending or her top political advisor Jay McCleskey, which the Santa Fe New Mexican reported early Saturday morning. Eastwood said he is not privy to any investigation into McCleskey or campaign spending.

“I can confirm to you that I’ve been questioned by the FBI on governance issues with the administration,” said Eastwood, who now heads GovBrain, a Washington D.C.-based firm that analyzes political events and how they affect the stock market.

Eastwood estimated that he’s communicated with the FBI between 10 and 20 times in person, phone conference and email over the past two years. He said his most recent communication came in August.

Eastwood would not divulge specifics about what state departments or issues the FBI questioned him about, but did say that he turned over evidence to federal agents.

Citing an unnamed Republican source, the New Mexican separately reported that the FBI is looking into McCleskey and money related to Martinez’ campaign and inauguration.

Eastwood is co-plaintiff to a whistleblower lawsuit against his former workplace, the state Economic Development Department, and Cabinet Secretary Jon Barela and Deputy Cabinet Secretary Barbara Brazil.

The lawsuit, filed last year in Santa Fe District Court, accuses Barela of corruption, retaliation and mismanagement. Among the lawsuit’s allegations are that Barela paid the web company Real Time Solutions $30,000 without a state contract, which would violate the state procurement code. The company’s web developer is the wife of Albuquerque attorney and lobbyist Pat Rogers, a Republican National Committeeman and a close advisor to Martinez’ administration.

Another allegation in the lawsuit accuses Barela and department General Counsel Wade Jackson of extramarital activity that could expose the state to sexual harassment charges.

Barela and other defendants have denied the allegations. The case is currently before court.

It’s unclear whether Eastwood’s contact with the FBI is related to the allegations in his lawsuit. Last year, the progressive magazine Mother Jones cited an anonymous source who said both Eastwood and co-plaintiff Kurt Saenz, the state Economic Development Department’s former chief finance officer, spoke to federal authorities about their allegations.

“I can’t comment further,” Eastwood told NM Political Report.

Eastwood’s comments reveal a likelihood that the FBI’s inquiries into Martinez’ operations are broader than her campaign actions.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher wouldn’t confirm or deny Eastwood’s assertions.

NM Political Report left voice messages and emails with governor’s office spokesman Chris Sanchez Saturday afternoon.

Before Eastwood was hired in the Martinez administration, he previously worked as a defense analyst in science and technology at the RAND Corporation. He also worked on constituent services for Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and served on the event staff at the Republican National Convention in 2008. Eastwood was a member of Martinez’s Department of Veterans’ Services Review Team during her transition after she was elected in 2010. Eastwood’s wife was a scheduler on Martinez’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Matthew Reichbach contributed to this report.

Updated with statement from FBI spokesman Frank Fisher.