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Commissioner Seeks Downs Lease Inquiry

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A state fair commissioner has asked the Office of the State Auditor to investigate the Downs at Albuquerque racino lease the commission awarded in November.

In a related development, a Martinez administration critic released additional emails showing attempts by the Downs’ attorney, a prominent Republican, to discuss issues related to the bid with top Martinez staffers and an Expo New Mexico official.

Commissioner Charlotte Rode, who was appointed to the State Fair Commission by Gov. Susana Martinez last August and who has been a vocal critic of the deal, said she filed an 18-page complaint with the state auditor on Thursday.

Rode, a Republican, said she’s asking Auditor Hector Balderas to look for violations of the procurement code when the State Fair Commission awarded the 25-year lease at the fairgrounds in Albuquerque to the Downs.

Rode said her complaint accuses the Governor’s Office of manipulating the deal through private contact between administration officials and Downs representatives.

She refused to release a copy of the complaint, saying Balderas, a Democrat, asked her to keep it secret.

More emails

The alleged private contact includes recently publicized emails showing Downs attorney Pat Rogers, a Republican National Committee member, urgently asking to discuss matters related to the bid with Martinez’s deputy chief of staff Ryan Cangiolosi and her political adviser, Jay McCleskey, before the commission approved the lease on a 4-3 vote on Nov. 21. Rogers represented the Downs, the longtime leaseholder, in its successful bid for a new 25-year-lease.

Five additional emails sent by Rogers to Cangiolosi at Martinez’s 2010 campaign email account were released Monday by the Democratic group Independent Source PAC.

The Governor’s Office said Cangiolosi never received the emails — neither those released Monday nor those released earlier — because the Susana2010.com account was no longer in use and was inaccessible at the time the Rogers emails were sent.

Martinez’s office also has said the emails — and others previously released by the political organization — were illegally obtained and has asked the FBI to investigate.

Michael Corwin, head of Independent Source PAC, which has received most of its funding from unions, declined again Monday to say how he obtained the emails, but said the source had the “legal right” to access the messages.

“I can assure from what I’ve been told that nothing was hacked or illegally obtained,” Corwin said.

Two of the emails released Monday appear to include advice from Rogers to Expo New Mexico General Manger Dan Mourning, day-to-day overseer of the state fairgrounds, regarding the state’s open meetings laws.

In another email sent to both Cangiolosi and McCleskey, Rogers cites the name of then-Chairman of the State Fair Commission David “Hossie” Sanchez of Belen.

“My position is that Hossie needs to run everything,” Rogers’ email reads.

That message was sent Sept. 1, 2011, shortly after the deadline for submitting bids for the new lease, which includes approval for building a new multimillion-dollar casino on the state fairgrounds at Expo New Mexico.

The Downs at Albuquerque was one of just two entities to submit bids and ultimately had its bid recommended by a three-member evaluation committee over one by Laguna Development Corp.

Both Rogers and McCleskey declined to comment on the emails Monday.

However, Downs of Albuquerque Vice President Traci Wolf said in a statement provided to the Journal that McCleskey was not doing public relations work for the Downs in addition to his work for Martinez’s political action committee Susana PAC, as alleged by Corwin in a telephone interview Monday.

“As we stated last year, the allegation that Jay McCleskey was hired by the Downs is false,” Wolf said.

Rode, whom Rogers referred to as “dragon lady” in a previously released email, said she repeatedly attempted to bring the issues in her complaint to the governor’s attention, but requests for a meeting were ignored.

“I’m not on a witch hunt. I seriously just want good government. I tried, almost begged, to see the governor many times to discuss this and to discuss my concerns, to reach out to her and try to convince her that this is not going well,” Rode said. “I don’t want to undermine her; I don’t want to undermine my party.”

Martinez spokesman Greg Blair said Rode’s claim of being ignored by the governor’s administration is false. He said Rode has met with Cangiolosi and the administration’s legal counsel to discuss the Downs lease.

“Rode has proven to be an extremist who will say and do anything to block the winning bid for a racino at Expo, even if it means shutting down the state fair. Her recent complaints, like her old complaints, are without merit,” Blair wrote in an email.

The Office of the State Auditor said Monday that it received the complaint and that it is being reviewed internally. That is standard practice for all complaints filed with the Auditor’s Office, spokesman Antonio Corrales said.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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