The governor’s office contends a taxpayer-funded account used to host dignitaries and throw parties isn’t subject to open records laws to the same extent other public funds are. Sometimes the subject of controversy, the account catapulted into public view last winter when one of the parties its money was used for ended with police responding to noise complaints from a possibly intoxicated Martinez. Each year, the state Legislature grants $70,000 in taxpayer money to the governor for a contingency fund, which per state law she can use for “purposes connected with obligations of the office.”
The fund is unusual in that, unlike most state government accounts filled with public money, the state Legislature exempts it from required annual audits. But after NM Political Report filed an Inspection of Public Records Act request with the governor’s office this spring for six years worth of expense documents associated with the contingency fund, the office only provided broad summaries of the expenses. Missing were documentation like the checks, purchase orders, reimbursements and purchase requests associated with the fund that we asked for.
Gov. Susana Martinez isn’t properly managing the account she used to pay for her infamous holiday pizza party last year, according to an independent audit released this month. The finding stems from the governor’s contingency fund, which the state Legislature grants roughly $70,000 each year to for “purposes connected with obligations of the office,” according to state law. That’s been interpreted by past governors and Martinez as entertainment expenses for hosting officials and staff. Specifically, Martinez’s office is supposed to revert any unspent money remaining in her contingency account by the end of a fiscal year to the state’s general fund, according to the audit. Instead, her office kept leftover money into that account.
After a bad few days for Susana Martinez, she fled from reporters following an event to welcome home National Guard troops from overseas. A reporter for KOB-TV, Blair Miller, posted a clip on Twitter of Martinez refusing to answer questions and a member of her entourage slamming a door in the cameraman’s faces as someone asks, “Governor, do you mind if we chat with you?” Gov. Martinez, security REALLY didn’t want to comment again on notorious hotel party today. https://t.co/enoUp7v98R pic.twitter.com/L0LWLlKMGd
— Blair Miller (@blairmiller) December 23, 2015
Martinez doesn’t even put on her jacket completely while she goes outside. The event featured Martinez in Santa Fe speaking to 38 National Guard soldiers who returned from a deployment in Kuwait and Iraq.
The Susana Martinez holiday party at the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe that ended with complaints to police after moving to a second location cost taxpayers nearly $8,000 according to a report by a local TV station. The governor’s party took place on Dec. 13 at a ballroom at the Eldorado Hotel and was for the governor’s office. According to KRQE-TV, that party came from the governor’s budget and cost $7,900. That is state money that is allocated by the State Legislature for the governor.
The City of Santa Fe released additional audio from the Eldorado Hotel on December 13 involving Gov. Susana Martinez. The audio released came from Sergeant Anthony Tapia’s belt loop recorder and features a security guard, who says he is called a security agent, speaking to the governor about the complaints. A security agent, speaking to the police sergeant, says it is his first time dealing with such a situation in the month and a half he worked there. “I never expected the first time it would be the governor,” the security agent said. “I can tell she is…”
Gov. Susana Martinez has both apologized and partly defended her actions following a police response to a hotel room she was in last weekend which made headlines throughout the state and country. Though her office didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment from NM Political Report on Friday, her spokesman put out a statement to selected media outlets and Martinez appeared in person on KOB-TV Friday evening. “I apologize to the people of New Mexico for having done that,” Martinez told KOB. “I should have never talked to central dispatch the way I did, and I own it.”
Earlier that day, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office released audio of a 911 call Martinez made—one herself and one through the Eldorado Hotel’s front desk—where she asked what the police complaint was about and repeatedly demanded the identity of the person who complained. Three media outlets—NM Political Report, Santa Fe New Mexican and KRQE-TV—obtained the audio from the Sheriff’s office Friday morning.
If you haven’t heard the audio of the phone calls or are not able to hear audio, we have transcripts of the video as well as each phone call. These transcripts were written by NM Political Report staff from audio obtained on Friday morning through an open records request. First call
Front Desk Agent: “We have guests that have been partying in their rooms. They’ve been warned already and they are still not quieting down. They’ve been told to leave. We were told to call you guys.”
Eldorado Hotel staffers called police in Santa Fe this weekend after a loud party. Then, someone identifying herself as Governor Susana Martinez demanded to know why police were called, insisting she and others were just “eating pizza.”
Related Story: See Gov. Martinez’s response to media outlets following this report. Update: The City of Santa Fe released more audio. NM Political Report obtained audio of three calls to police. One was from the front desk of the hotel, saying those in the room had been warned multiple times and asked for police to come and escort those in the room off the property.