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Ex-state employees claim corruption in lawsuit

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SANTA FE – Two former New Mexico Economic Development Department employees have filed a lawsuit against top-ranking agency officials, alleging public corruption and other misdeeds.

The lawsuit was filed in February in the Santa Fe-based 1st Judicial District by former EDD appointees Kurt Saenz and Brent Eastwood.

The suit was filed in part under Fraud Against Taxpayers Act and was unsealed last week after a motion by Attorney General Gary King’s office.

Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela denied the allegations Thursday, saying employment discrimination complaints filed by the employees on some of the same issues raised in the lawsuit already have been dismissed.

“These are baseless and malicious rantings from disgruntled employees who were fired years ago for threatening workplace violence and numerous instances of sexual harassment,” Barela said in a prepared statement.

Saenz and Eastwood allege in the lawsuit that they were fired after bringing forward allegations of state procurement code violations and money laundering against Barela and the agency’s deputy secretary, Barbara Brazil.

Among other claims, the two allege Barela and Brazil offered state tax credits in 2011 to individuals willing to invest in Cerelink, a local technology company that Barela helped to launch. Barela has said he’s had no involvement in the company since 2009, when he resigned from the board and reduced his stake in the company to less than 1 percent.

Both Saenz and Eastwood were fired from their appointed – or “exempt” – positions in 2012.

Their attorney, Nathaniel Thompkins of Santa Fe, said Thursday he was surprised his clients’ allegations were described as baseless, saying, “(The defendants) don’t have any documents that would support that claim.”

A hearing for the case is scheduled for June 10 in state District Judge Sarah Singleton’s courtroom, according to online court records.

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