Citing "disrespect" to her clients and "an inappropriate use of his office for political gain," University of New Mexico School of Law Professor Maureen Sanders resigned over President Robert Frank's decision to give Republican Gov. Susana Martinez a Presidential Award of Distinction for her "critical contributions to the health and well-being of New Mexicans" a week before the Nov. 4 election.

"While I supported the Governor's decision to increase the availability of Medicaid benefits, the increased health risks resulting from the current Governor's other policies, especially those related to children and vulnerable adults, are real," Sanders wrote in a Oct. 29 letter to School of Law Dean David Herring, President Frank, the Board of Regents and the Law School Alumni Association.

Frank awarded Martinez the distinction, citing her decision to buck Republican Party convention on implementing major provisions of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, like expanding Medicaid and implementing a state-run health insurance exchange where consumers can shop for health care coverage.

Gov. Martinez has come under fire after her administration accused 15 behavioral health providers of "credible allegations of fraud," citing a secret audit by a Boston-based firm that estimated the caregivers overbilled the state up to $36 million for providing services to Medicaid patients. The providers—which treat patients suffering from diseases like depression and addiction—have never had a chance to respond to the allegations, and the state froze payments to them. It then gave Arizona companies millions of dollars in no-bid contracts to take over the New Mexico treatment centers, pending the results of a fraud investigation by Democratic Attorney General Gary King.

Sanders, a prominent civil rights attorney, penned the letter from her Albuquerque-based law firm's letterhead.