Gov. Susana Martinez has a public-relations problem that could become her political nightmare if she doesn’t come clean on simple records requests.
Martinez needs to disclose details of an expensive security detail in 2012 that cost taxpayers more than $33,500 to pay for more than 1,600 hours of overtime worked by state police.
And while she’s providing those answers, she should provide proof of who paid for a six-day alligator-hunting trip by her husband, Chuck Franco, in 2011.
She should lay it all out there in the interest of full transparency.
The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government recently entered the fray by filing a request under the Inspection of Public Records Act. FOG seeks documents detailing the overtime paid and travel expenses, including lodging and meals, incurred by officers assigned to the governor’s security detail.
“FOG does not believe the denial is supported by recent New Mexico court cases interpreting IPRA,” FOG said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Recent court rulings have come down on the side of full public access to records, including financial records involving expenditure of public funds.
The governor’s office so far only has released totals, but not the line-item details explaining the expenses.
FOG’s statement said it “took the action after state officials denied parts of an identical request from The Associated Press. The state’s response to other parts of the request has been inadequate.”
As for her husband’s gator-hunting trip, Martinez has been equally tight-lipped. She said that trip cost New Mexico $123.94 for the security detail that accompanied Franco into the bayou. The other costs were paid for by private parties. But there are no supporting details to verify her claim.
New Mexico’s governor — who earns $128,700 annually, plus expenses — is never not the governor. She’s on the clock 24/7. Part of serving the citizens of New Mexico is that a well-compensated public servant’s spouse’s activities also can be open to public examination. That is what is happening with Franco.
Some Martinez foes or doubters suspect a connection exists between this trip and the winner of a bid to run an Albuquerque racetrack. Some of those bidders just happen to live in the state Franco visited, Louisiana. That is why the public has a right to know whether a connection exists and words without documents are not good enough, Gov. Martinez.
Both matters are drawing attention throughout New Mexico. It is a distraction to the governor and her team as long as the questions and potential suspicions linger.
Martinez can eliminate any appearance of impropriety, whether it involves security detail costs for the governor or for members of her family, by responding fully and providing any necessary supporting documents.
Full disclosure is the price people must pay when they hold a well-compensated job paid for by taxpayers.
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and Editor David Stevens.