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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  Health Reform
DOHCABNEW

Health Reform

Unanswered Questions Pile Up at DOH

May 12, 2010, 12:00 am
A key figure at the center of several Department of Health conflicts has resigned, SFR has learned.

Deputy Secretary Dorothy “Duffy” Rodriguez, an exempt employee with a salary upward of $104,000, resigned at the end of last month. She was at the center of two whistleblowers’ allegations first reported by SFR last January.

Business Operations Specialist Diane Moore alleged that Rodriguez led a so-called “Circle of Trust” that preferentially hired and promoted its members’ friends and relatives. Robert Ortiz, a former deputy director in the Administrative Services Division, claimed that Rodriguez had ordered him to inappropriately move money from the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program in order to correct an accounting error.

The DOH continues to deny these allegations but, on April 30, Rodriguez left the department to, as Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil puts it in a letter to DOH employees, “devote herself full-time to her family and her future career.”

The comments on SFR’s original blog post regarding the DOH, “Feet to the Fire,” have been nothing short of jubilant: “Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is gone,” one commenter writes.

In addition to Rodriguez, Donna Trujillo, the deputy director of the DOH’s Administrative Services Division who was deeply involved in the WIC program’s finances, also has left, according to DOH spokeswoman Deborah Busemeyer, who notes that “personnel rules prevent us from being able to talk about reasons why employees leave.”
(For now, former Administrative Services Division Deputy Director Michael Mulligan—with whom Ortiz also had conflict over the WIC matter—will take Rodriguez’ place.)

While Rodriguez has departed, whistleblower Moore says the DOH continues to ignore her complaint. Over the course of the past few months, Moore and her attorney, Diane Garrity, have filed formal grievances within the DOH.

On March 29, Secretary Vigil responded to Moore’s request for a formal investigation and the return of her former job with a letter stating that Moore’s relocation “continues to be in the best interest of the Department” and was not punitive.

As for her nepotism allegations, Vigil writes that “an investigation was completed and your allegations were not substantiated.”

Any record of that investigation is elusive.

“Diane Moore was never questioned,” Garrity says. “We don’t know what [Vigil] is referencing. And they won’t give us a copy of [the investigation]; we’ve asked.”

SFR also asked for a copy of it; Busemeyer replies in an email that “any investigation involving a personnel matter is not public record.”

On April 27, Garrity went outside the DOH and filed a formal complaint with the State Personnel Office.

“They’re the official interpreter of state personnel rules,” Garrity explains. “We’re asking them to take a look at this and tell us: Has there been a violation here, or what’s the excuse for all this?”

Garrity says the SPO has acknowledged the complaint but at press time had yet to respond.

Ortiz’ allegations, on the other hand, should soon be answered. In December, officials from the US Department of Agriculture, which administers WIC on the federal level, told Ortiz that an audit of the New Mexico WIC program (which the Department of Health manages on the state level) will be completed this June.

Following SFR’s cover story, State Auditor Hector Balderas also promised to look at an independent audit of the WIC program that found no wrongdoing but was conducted by a company owned by Gov. Bill Richardson’s former campaign treasurer, Bruce Malott. (Malott also was named as a defendant in a separate whistleblower lawsuit.)

Though Balderas told SFR in January that his review would be done in 30 to 60 days, spokeswoman Caroline Buerkle tells SFR via email that the review still isn’t finished.

“Even if it was complete, as a legal matter it most likely would not be subject to public release,” Buerkle adds.

The federal audit should be public, however; SFR has requested a copy under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

 

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