Challenging Gov. Susana Martinez' authority may be the legal quagmire du jour, but the rumblings within the ranks of New Mexico's state government aren't any less loud—or, for that matter, any less common.
Diane Moore, the New Mexico Department of Health employee who filed a whistleblower suit last October, is due for a pre-trial hearing on May 27; and her lawyer, Diane Garrity, says the DOH has crossed the line again.
Most recently, Moore was handed a three-day, unpaid suspension for "insubordination and inappropriate and unprofessional behavior," according to an April 8 letter addressed to Moore and signed by Roberta Duran, a manager in the Developmental Disabilities Supports Division of the DOH.
Moore received a suspension, according to Duran's letter, because she emailed a supervisor about potential issues with a DDSD provider after other supervisors had told her not to discuss the situation.
"If you had genuine concerns…you should have followed your chain of command," Duran writes. "You have continued to disregard directives by supervisors while feeding inaccurate or false statements to individuals outside your chain of command."
Garrity, however, says the letter is payback for Moore's persistence in identifying concerns within the DOH.
"She filed a complaint with a deputy director over what she thought was a contract discrepancy…and her bosses suspended her for that," Garrity says. "We think it's more retaliation."
During the pre-trial hearing, 1st Judicial District Court Judge Barbara Vigil will weigh DOH's motion to dismiss two of Moore's allegations, including one that the department retaliated against Moore when she raised concerns about alleged nepotism and financial irregularities.
Garrity says she and Moore are in the process of appealing Moore's suspension administratively, but that she also plans to add the issue to the lawsuit.
"[Moore] lost three days of pay, basically because they said she was being insubordinate by contacting the deputy division director to file a complaint, which is otherwise allowed under their policy," Garrity says. "She was whistleblowing again, and they suspended her for it."
Duran did not return a call requesting a comment for this story.
The suspension, Garrity says, is proof that even under recently appointed Health Secretary Catherine Torres, "things haven't changed at all."