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King Orders Release of First Gentleman's Travel Records

Political intrigue: A Gov. Martinez opponent seeks information on a hunting trip to Louisiana taken just before a shady racino lease deal.

January 3, 2013, 10:00 am
By Justin Horwath
The office of Attorney General Gary King, D, is ordering the New Mexico Department of Public Safety to release more detailed records on a September 2011 trip to Louisiana taken by the husband of Gov. Susana Martinez, R.

Michael Corwin, head of a union-funded political action committee, Independent Source PAC, submitted an Inspection of Public Records Act request to DPS for the records in April. Corwin's request sought, "[a]ny leave requests, vacation requests and time sheets" of two New Mexico State Police officers who accompanied Gov. Martinez' husband, Chuck Franco, on the trip. DPS has only furnished a spreadsheet showing gas-station purchases made during trip. 

"Disclosure of detailed information regarding the Governor's travel (or that of her family members) and the travel of her security detail creates security risks to the Governor and her family," Regina Chacon, DPS records custodian, wrote to Corwin on June 1  as a reason for denying his request for the information. "Documents regarding the Governor and her family's travel schedule contain details such as travel patterns, security detail information, and frequently used airlines and car rental companies."

Disclosure of the records could "undermine the Governor's security," Chacon wrote.

In response, Corwin filed a complaint with King's office, which has authority over enforcing the relevant public records law. 

In a Dec. 28 determination, King's office wrote that the reason DPS denied the request, a non-statutory exception to disclosing information called countervailing public policy considerations, has been "eliminated by the New Mexico Supreme Court." 

"Under IPRA, disclosure of public records is decidedly favored," says the determination.

The determination suggests DPS has not been cooperating with the AG's office. 

"Repeated efforts by [the Attorney General's office] over multiple months to seek information from the statement regarding the denial have gone entirely unanswered," Assistant Attorney General Sean. M. Cunniff wrote in the determination. "Based on the documentation available to this Office, and as detailed below, this Office determines that the Department's denial of the request was invalid and that Mr. Corwin be provided with the records as requested."

The governor's office said Franco paid for the "hunting vacation" himself and that the two security officers who accompanied him were sent at the direction of the state police chief, the Albuquerque Journal reported

Corwin is seeking the records as a part of his liberal super PAC's ongoing investigation into whether the bid for a  25-year lease to manage the State Fair racino in Albuquerque was rigged. The lease was awarded to the Downs of Albuquerque. Shareholders and players associated with the Downs have donated $85,000 to the governor and her political committee. Downs majority owners William Windham and John Turner have business interests in Louisiana, where Franco visited just before the Downs was awarded a lease that's projected to give the company $1 billion in revenue over 25 years.

Click here to read SFR's cover story on the Downs racino lease.
Click here to read SFR's ongoing coverage of transparency issues.

This post has been amended to reflect that Downs majority owners "and players associated with the Downs" have donated at least $85,000 to the governor "and her political committee."

 

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