Report says emails, hard drives and documents destroyed under DA leadership of close Susana Martinez associateLocal NewsTuesday, September 23, 2014
Emails, hard drives and documents vanished under the leadership of one of Gov. Susana Martinez’ close associates, according to an investigation released Tuesday by the Third Judicial District Attorney in Las Cruces, and those are just preliminary findings of a probe that’s already ensnared the governor herself.
Democratic District Attorney Mark D’Antonio says a request made to his office under the Inspection of Public Records Act in April by the Democratic Party of New Mexico spurred an investigation into why emails and computer hard drives went missing under his predecessor, Republican Amy Orlando, the beneficiary of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from political action committees associated with the governor during her 2012 race against D’Antonio.
Martinez appointed Orlando as the Third Judicial District Attorney when she took the governorship 2011, but Orlando went on to lose the election to D’Antonio, a former federal law enforcement official, in an unusually heated race.
D’Antonio released emails showing Orlando attempting to prevent his incoming administration from obtaining federal grant money. The office supervisor, according to the report, tells Orlando that the incoming D’Antonio administration will receive between $200,000 and $300,000 in grant money from what appears to be the US Department of Justice’s Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative. Orlando urges the supervisor in a November 12, 2012 email to engage “in a conspiracy to actively deny Dona Ana County and related law enforcement agencies with much needed grant money,” says D’Antonio’s report.
"Don't leave ANY notes about how to do it!!" Orlando asks the employee, referring to the grant. "Please."
“You know if I end up staying there he will make me do it,” replies Robin Bruck, the supervisor, in a reference to the incoming D'Antonio administration.
Another email shows a conversation between Orlando and the financial specialist in the office, Kandi Calzada, in which Calzada tells Orlando that she had to forge Martinez' signature on hotel bills.
In another 2010 email, Orlando writes to other DA officials that “I need the people that have access to my calendar changed.”
“And we will need to say that a virus or something happened,” she says, which D’Antonio’s report says shows that “Ms. Orlando suggests that her employees should blame the change on a fictitious virus or another lie.”
D’Antonio says he hasn’t leveled any criminal charges, and his office is still investigating more missing emails. Martinez’ campaign, her office and Orlando all have not returned requests for comment. "This inquiry was not a criminal investigation and its findings and conclusions do not make any claims of criminal wrongdoing," says the report.
D'Antonio tells SFR it would be unethical for the DA's office to investigate itself for criminal activity.
These were the few emails investigators could retrieve from hard drives stored in the office. Other hard drives were missing, says the report, leaving investigators “to conclude that the hard drives containing the stored emails had been removed from the office and/or destroyed by the prior administration.”
Investigators in D’Antonio’s office even had to solicit help from the FBI computer forensics lab, which found “no email files” after analyzing hard drives that had been left behind from Orlando’s administration.
“Of the few file folders that were located by investigators,” says the report, “it was determined that the folders belonging to Ms. Orlando had all been erased, with the exception of very few ‘sent’ files,” which are harder to delete."
The emails quoted here were among the sent files.
Investigators also unearthed evidence of what the report characterizes as “massive shredding of documents just before the change in administration.”
A senior investigator in the office, Aaron ‘Kip’ Scarborough, instructed an IT supervisor to not repair 16 security cameras in the office that had been inoperable for a month, according to the report.
The report also says IT employees found “irregularities” in the office’s computer network, including keystroke monitoring software, and email cloning software “that would duplicate any email sent or received without the author’s knowledge, on certain office computers.”
"In addition to the missing emails,” says D’Antonio’s report, “information was uncovered that showed that employees were being secretly monitored and that the previous administration was trying to make the transition difficult.”
The state Democratic Party’s IPRA request asked for communications involving Scarborough, the senior investigator in the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office during Martinez’ tenure there, among other correspondence related to the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
The party’s records request followed reports published by Mother Jones and SFR that questioned whether Martinez’ 2010 gubernatorial campaign unlawfully accessed law enforcement databases to run license plate numbers of suspected Democrats on the gubernatorial campaign trail, which would constitute a federal crime punishable by prison time, fines or both.
For more than a year, SFR has been investigating those allegations, and after numerous records requests made by SFR, Martinez’ Department of Public Safety said it “purged” records related to queries made in one FBI database, called the National Criminal Information Center.
Last spring, Orlando took the position as the top lawyer for DPS—which is responsible for maintaining records that show use of that database.