Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Attorney General Gary King gave notice Friday that he planned to fire his chief government corruption lawyer, who months earlier alleged King wrongfully asked him for personal information to solicit money for King’s campaign for governor.
Assistant Attorney General Chris Lackmann, director of the Attorney General’s Government Accountability Division, was notified Friday that his employment will end April 11, King and Lackmann confirmed.
“That’s a personnel matter, and so there’s very little we can say about it,” King told the Journal on Friday. “I can tell you we had good cause to do what we did.”
King told the Journal that Lackmann’s firing has “absolutely nothing” to do with a complaint Lackmann sent to a district attorney in November. And he denied the allegation that his request for personal information violated state law.
Lackmann in November sent a letter to District Attorney Kari Brandenburg of Albuquerque, alleging King violated the state Governmental Conduct Act.
Lackmann said that King in August asked him to provide his private email address and that he subsequently received at that address an invitation to a fundraiser for King’s campaign for the June 3 Democratic nomination for governor.
Lackmann said he received in September a second request for his personal contact information from the secretary of his direct supervisor, Chief Deputy Attorney General Albert Lama, and that he again received an invitation to another campaign event.
“I think what (the Governmental Conduct Act) says is there’s 2 million people in the state of New Mexico, and as a public employee you can ask any of those 2 million except the ones that work for you,” Lackmann said in an interview on Friday.
Lackmann, in his letter to Brandenburg, cited King’s own Governmental Conduct Act compliance guide. He specifically cited an example saying that violations of the law include requests from supervisors for personal information used for political fundraising.
“The supervisor’s request amounts to ‘advising the employee to take part in political activity or similar activities,’” King’s compliance guide says in the example Lackmann cited.
The letter was addressed to Brandenburg because King, who typically handles such allegations, had a conflict of interest, Lackmann’s letter said.
Brandenburg could not be reached for comment late Friday.
King said he did request Lackmann’s personal email address, but said the request did not violate the Governmental Conduct Act because Lackmann previously had expressed interest in supporting King’s gubernatorial campaign.
“He indicated that he wanted to support me in this campaign. I said if we do that, I should get your personal email address,” King said. “We added him to our list of people who got invitations to campaign functions.”
Lackmann’s letter does not address whether the request for personal information was unsolicited. Lackmann said Friday that he does not recall expressing support for King’s current bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. However, he said, “I would suppose any employee would say, when asked would you support your boss, sure.”
King said his office received a letter from Brandenburg’s office saying the allegation of a Governmental Conduct Act violation was unfounded. Lackmann said the letter only said the DA would not pursue a prosecution at the time.
King said employees of the AG’s Office are not penalized for supporting other candidates in the gubernatorial race and that only employees who have requested information about King’s campaign were contacted regarding the political effort.
“They all get treated fairly in our agency, so for someone to get terminated, they would have to do something that was a terminable offense,” King said.
Lackmann said he committed no terminable offense under AG’s policies, and said he was given no notice why he was being fired.
Lackmann’s dismissal from the AG’s Office isn’t his first. He also was fired from the office in November 2006, two months before then-AG Patricia Madrid left office. Lackmann said he doesn’t know why he was fired in 2006.