The company responsible for oversight of the 15 behavioral health providers that lost funding for alleged Medicaid fraud is now itself facing lawsuits over alleged fraud. OptumHealth faces three lawsuits over alleged malfeasance in its contract with the state to oversee the state’s Medicaid program. Of the 15 companies that the state Human Services Department, citing an audit by Public Consulting Group, said had “credible allegations of fraud” already 13 have been exonerated by the state Attorney General after investigations. It was Optum’s efforts to root out alleged fraud and waste that led to the shakeup. The shakeup included the state bringing in Arizona companies to take over for the New Mexico providers that no longer had funding to continue, some of which have went out of business.
Two former fundraisers for Gov. Susana Martinez are demanding answers on why the federal Department of Justice dropped an investigation into Martinez’s top political operative. Earlier this month, both Andrea Goff and Cecilia Martinez wrote letters to U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez detailing their cooperation with the FBI investigation into Jay McCleskey and the retaliation they said they experienced as a result.
New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan first reported on and published the letters earlier today. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed receipt of the letters but would not comment further on them, citing a policy that the office doesn’t comment on investigations. When asked if that policy includes closed investigations, the spokeswoman said, “correct.”
NM Political Report also sent voicemails and emails to McCleskey and a spokesman for Gov. Martinez. We’ll update this post if we receive a response.
A prominent state senator is calling for Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration to be investigated for shutting down Medicaid funding from 15 behavioral health providers in 2013. Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, made the statements following an investigation by Attorney General Hector Balderas’ that cleared 10 of the providers of fraud this week. Three others had already been cleared by Balderas’ office. “The public deserves some answers of what took place, why did it took place and the justification of this tremendous impact to the state of New Mexico,” Morales told NM Political Report Tuesday. The state Human Services Department shut off funding from the 15 providers in 2013 after an audit from Boston-based Public Consulting Group found “credible allegations of fraud” in an audit that year.
The end of 2015 brought explosive news that the FBI were conducting investigations on New Mexico state government and Gov. Susana Martinez’ top political operative, Jay McCleskey. The first report, by the Santa Fe New Mexican, mentioned that federal authorities were looking into campaign spending by Martinez during her first gubernatorial campaign in 2010 and also spending from her first inaugural committee in 2011. We are counting down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team. Tune in each morning to see what the next story is. Previous: Stories 10-6.
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.
A federal grand jury wanted information related to potential wrongdoing in the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s office when current governor Susana Martinez was DA, according to a report by The Santa Fe New Mexican this weekend. The news is the latest in a series of revelations about federal investigators looking into the Martinez administration and campaign side. Martinez’s office has repeatedly said there is no wrongdoing. A spokesman for the governor told The New Mexican that the governor is not being investigated. The latest, in part, follows headlines in 2014 when the Santa Fe Reporter wrote about allegations that the Martinez used the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database for opposition research during her 2010 campaign for governor.
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.
New Mexico candidates and political action committees have paid more than $7 million in consulting fees and media buys to Jay McCleskey and his company since early 2011, an analysis of state campaign finance records shows. McCleskey, Gov. Susana Martinez’s top political adviser and viewed as the mastermind of her 2010 election and 2014 re-election, received another $110,000 in 2014 from a top GOP group Martinez is set to lead next year. It is no secret what McCleskey has pulled down in recent years as a top political consultant, but the money now appears to be under the microscope of an ongoing federal investigation. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Friday night that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into money the Martinez campaign spent on McCleskey’s services. The influential GOP consultant created McCleskey Media Strategies in 2011 after Martinez took office. Using a database from the Secretary of State’s office, New Mexico In Depth analyzed campaign and political action committee dollars paid to McCleskey, his firm and his wife’s firm since 2011.
Another day, another revelation about federal investigators looking into the goings-on of the Susana Martinez administration. After NM Political Report reported that the FBI was looking into the Martinez administration itself, The Santa Fe New Mexican added more details to the story, reporting that the FBI was looking into the embattled State Taxation and Revenue Department, citing “a person familiar with the investigation.” The newspaper says that federal investigators subpoenaed documents from the department while looking into whether or not audits were performed in retaliation of former members of Martinez’s administration. The newspaper says that three former members of the administration and a former fundraiser for Martinez, who all fell out of favor, confirmed they had been audited. One was Brent Eastwood, a former division director of international trade for the New Mexico Economic Development Department.
A former official in Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration said he has been interviewed by the FBI on several occasions in the past two years. Related Story: Report: FBI looking into Tax and Rev audits
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.