In news that surprised exactly nobody at the Santa Fe Reporter—delivered around 5:00 PM Friday, when exactly nobody wants to care about news—the state of New Mexico has denied SFR's records request asking how two security officers spent taxpayer money during a hunting trip with First Gentleman Chuck Franco.
The backstory: In September, 2011, Gov. Susana Martinez' husband went on a hunting trip to Louisiana. Cool, right? Well it turns out that Mr. Franco, because he is the first gentleman, had a security detail accompany him during this particular trip.
This is the same Mr. Franco whose law-enforcement career "spanned over thirty years" as a police officer, magistrate judge and undersheriff. The same Mr. Franco who was working undercover during his courtship of Gov. Martinez. The same Mr. Franco who served in the Las Cruces Police Department where he "worked to protect his community."
Oh, and the same Mr. Franco who recently started working at the federal courthouse in Santa Fe as—wait for this—a "security officer."
Back to Louisiana. Not one—but two—state police officers accompanied him during the trip.
We repeat: two security officers, paid by taxpayer dollars, accompanied Franco—a man who for thirty years worked in law enforcement and is now protecting the public from harm at a federal courthouse—on a road trip.
Curious reporters would be smart to inquire more about this trip. Steve Terrell at the Santa Fe New Mexican was one of those reporters. In mid-April, based on records he obtained on the trip, Terrell estimated that the two officers racked up about $2,225 in taxpayer dollars in overtime pay. That's on top of $1,520 in taxpayer dollars paid to the two officers for working on Labor Day, according to Terrell.
Taxpayers also picked up the $630 gas-tab for the trip.
Gee, wouldn't that be nice.
SFR obtained those same records, which showed the names of the two state police officers, Frank Chavez and Ruben Maynes, their shifts, which gas stations they visited during the road-trip, along with the transaction dates and transaction times for the gas-station purchases.
SFR wanted to learn more. So we requested the expenditures made on the security detail's "procurement card." We requested the records on April 15. It took the Department of Finance and Administration nearly two months to submit a final response denying our request. Nearly two months to say "no." Odd.
"Disclosure of procurement card statements create security risks to the Governor and the Governor’s family," states the response. "Procurement card statements for the Governor’s security detail identify the officer assigned to protect the Governor and/or her family on specific dates and include transaction-level detail, including the transaction date, vendor name (e.g., hotel or restaurant), and city and state of the transaction."
We already know the names of the officers. We already know "transaction-level detail" for gas-station purchases made during the trip, along with "the transaction date, vender name...and city and state of the transaction" for all the gas station purchases.
But we can't know the same for the "hotel or restaurant" the jolly gang patronized during the trip? Maybe it was multiple restaurants. Maybe they spent taxpayer money judiciously. We just don't know, based on this response.
Here's what the records denial has to say about that:
"Disclosure of such information could compromise the physical and identity security of the Governor or her family, thereby compromising the Governor’s and her family’s right to be free from physical harm."