- CenturyLink clarifies the job of a former official in the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez.
- State legislators get a raise – sort of.
- Government agency keeps memos secret from former employee.
CenturyLink says Katherine Martinez, who resigned in August as head of the state Construction Industries Division, will represent the telecommunications company only at the local government level.
Martinez’s job responsibilities “are limited to local municipalities, county governments, local tribal initiatives and implementing federal government or FCC initiatives at the local level, which are all in compliance with New Mexico’s revolving-door policy,” the company said in a statement.
Like other appointees of the governor, Martinez (no relation to the governor) was required to agree that for two years after leaving government, she wouldn’t appear as a lobbyist or paid representative before any executive agency or the state Legislature.
I wrote a column last week about Martinez’s new job and raised the issue of compliance with the lobbying prohibition that Gov. Martinez issued shortly after taking office.
CenturyLink announced earlier that Katherine Martinez had joined the company and would serve as local government affairs director. However, her LinkedIn Web page and the voice mail message on her work telephone said she was also state government affairs director.
CenturyLink refused to say after its initial news release whether Katherine Martinez would be working at the state level. Its second written statement, saying that her work would be limited to the local level, was issued after my column was published.
Her LinkedIn page and her voice mail message also have been changed since the column. Neither now provides a job title.
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 a director of government affairs for the Home Builders Associations of Central New Mexico and was an unsuccessful candidate for Albuquerque City Council in 2007.
Legislator per diem changes
It’s good news and bad news for state legislators when it comes to their compensation.
When they meet in January for their annual regular session, lawmakers will each receive a per diem, or daily, payment of $159, up from $154 for their last session.
Under the state Constitution, the per diem is based on the Internal Revenue Service maximum tax-free travel per diem for Santa Fe. The IRS per diem is, in turn, based on the per diem rate for Santa Fe set by the General Services Administration for travel by federal employees.
Lawmakers receive per diem for sessions of the Legislature and meetings between sessions that are required by committees.
The GSA recently released its per diem rates for cities for the federal fiscal year that began Tuesday.
The per diem rate for Santa Fe was set at $159 year-round. The rate had been $154 for the months of November through May but $176 for the months of June through October to reflect seasonal increases in lodging costs.
So, legislators will receive more per diem for their regular session this winter but less per diem for committee meetings in Santa Fe over the summer.
The average total per diem for lawmakers, including those who served only part of the year, was nearly $11,000 in 2012.
Per diem is sometimes referred to as a travel stipend. Under Internal Revenue Service rules, a legislator who lives 50 or more miles from the Capitol doesn’t have to pay taxes on per diem because of an assumption that all the per diem was spent on expenses, while a lawmaker who lives within 50 miles has to pay income taxes on any per diem not actually spent on expenses.
Per diem is the only compensation lawmakers receive besides their juicy retirement benefits.
Government doesn’t always play fair.
Take the case of Phyllis Bowman, who has alleged she was forced last year from her job as a lawyer at the state Department of Regulation and Licensing because of her knowledge of incompetence and wrongdoing at the agency. The department says her allegations are inaccurate.
Bowman is trying to get her hands on two memos purportedly critical of her and written by a former colleague at the department to Bowman’s boss.
Under state rules, employees have a right to see anything in their personnel files and nothing can be placed in a personnel file without the employee being given a copy.
But the Department of Regulation and Licensing didn’t place the memos about Bowman in her personnel file and has refused to provide copies to her.
So Bowman filed a lawsuit arguing the memos were public records under the state Inspection of Public Records Act and that she, like other members of the public, has a right to copies of the memos.
But the Department of Regulation and Licensing argued the memos were matters of opinion like those generally found in personnel files and, therefore, didn’t have to release them to Bowman.
Under the Inspection of Public Records Act, there is no public right to inspect “letters or memoranda that are matters of opinion in personnel files.”
At a hearing Tuesday, state District Judge Sarah Singleton in Santa Fe sided with the Department of Regulation and Licensing in dismissing Bowman’s case.
To summarize, the department didn’t put the memos in Bowman’s personnel file, which would have allowed her access to the documents, but argued the memos were matters of opinion like those generally found in personnel files, which allowed the department to again keep Bowman from seeing the memos.
Bowman contends the memos were used by her supervisors in an investigation of her and relied upon by her bosses in transferring her to another job. An attorney for the Regulation and Licensing Department says the memos may contain matters of opinion about employees other than Bowman.
Bowman still might obtain the memos through evidence discovery in other litigation over the loss of her job at the Department of Regulation and Licensing. Before the Human Rights Commission, she has a pending complaint alleging gender and race discrimination and retaliation for telling her superiors about wrongdoing and incompetence within the department. Bowman hasn’t filed a lawsuit in state District Court.
Bowman has said she resigned from the department after being stripped of most of her duties, had her office taken away and was ordered to communicate with only her immediate supervisor and then only in writing.
The Department of Regulation and Licensing has said Bowman was never transferred to any job contrary to her wishes.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.