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Official takes government affairs job despite ban

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A former official in the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez is now working in government affairs for a telecommunications company.

The issue: Martinez’s two-year ban on former officials working as registered lobbyists or paid representatives before any executive state agency or the Legislature.

Katherine Martinez, appointed by the governor in 2012 as director of the Construction Industries Division, recently left the administration for a job at CenturyLink.

According to a CenturyLink news release, Martinez (no relation to the governor) joined the company as local government affairs director and will interface with local government officials in New Mexico. But Martinez’s LinkedIn Web page and her work voice mail say she is also state government affairs director.

Martinez referred questions to a CenturyLink spokesman, who declined to say whether Martinez would be working at the state level.

Like other appointees of the governor, Martinez was required to agree that for two years after leaving government, she wouldn’t appear “as a registered lobbyist, agent, or other paid representative of another person or entity before any executive agency, department, or board, or the New Mexico Legislature.”

Enrique Knell, a spokesman for Gov. Martinez, says the prohibition applies to lobbying before agencies under the governor’s control and the Legislature. That means Martinez apparently could appear before the Public Regulation Commission, an independent agency that oversees telecommunications companies like CenturyLink. The company also recently hired Johnny Montoya, a former chief of staff at the PRC.

Gov. Martinez, who has made ethics in government a priority of her administration, instituted the lobbying ban for her appointees in 2011, saying she wanted officials motivated by a desire to serve, not a desire to cash in on their contacts after leaving government.

Knell says Katherine Martinez “relayed that her new position will focus primarily on local governments.”

Official jailed

In checking on Martinez’s departure from the Construction Industries Division and on her new job, I stumbled across this:

She was jailed overnight in Albuquerque in March for failing to appear in court on a traffic citation, and her boss at the time, Regulation and Licensing Superintendent J. Dee Dennis Jr., another appointee of the governor, posted the $130 bail to get her out.

The Governor’s Office says the jailing of Martinez was a “mistaken arrest,” that she had paid the traffic citation and that a judge dismissed the case after Martinez explained the situation.

The court file shows this: That she opted, when cited, to appear in court rather than admit guilt and pay the penalty assessment for the speeding ticket, that a judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest after she failed to appear for arraignment and that a judge dismissed the speeding citation in April because the citing officer didn’t show for trial.

Martinez still was assessed a bench warrant fee of $100, and that was paid out of the bail posted by Dennis.

Court records show it was at least the second time that a bench warrant had been issued for Martinez for failing to appear on a traffic citation. She avoided jail the first time.

Martinez declined to comment on her arrest and jailing, saying that because of her job with CenturyLink, I had to contact a public affairs officer for the company. I did; he said CenturyLink doesn’t comment on employee situations that don’t involve the company.

Dennis did not return telephone calls seeking comment about Martinez’s arrest and his posting of the bail for her release.

Dennis, 59, appointed by Gov. Martinez in 2011 to head the Regulation and Licensing Department, founded and headed an electrical contracting company in Albuquerque.

Katherine Martinez, 40, was an administrative manager for the Construction Industries Division before she was named head of the agency in March 2012. She previously worked as director of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico and was an unsuccessful candidate for Albuquerque City Council in 2007.

According to the case file in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, Martinez was cited last Nov. 5 for going 88 mph in a 75-mph zone on Interstate 25. The citing State Police officer wrote that she claimed she was doing 80 mph.

Because she contested the citation, Martinez was ordered to appear in court, first on Dec. 5, then for arraignment on Jan. 25. A judge issued the bench warrant for her arrest and jailing after she failed to appear for the arraignment.

A Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy executed the bench warrant about 11 p.m. on a Friday night in March during an apparent traffic stop in Albuquerque. The deputy also cited Martinez for lack of proof of financial responsibility, but that ticket eventually was dismissed.

The bench warrant required that $130 cash-only bail be posted for Martinez’s release. Dennis posted the bail the Saturday morning after her arrest.

A nonjury trial for the speeding ticket was scheduled for April 19 before Magistrate Richard Padilla, but Padilla dismissed the citation because the citing officer failed to appear, according to the case file.

The magistrate dismissed the citation without prejudice, meaning the state could refile the case.

In 2011, a bench warrant was issued for Martinez for failing to appear in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court on citations of speeding and driving without a license plate.

A judge dismissed the citations after Martinez complied with court-set conditions, and the bench warrant was canceled.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

 

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