To John J. Lumpkin
BY Recent stories
by John J. Lumpkin
$$ NewsLibrary Archives search for
John J. Lumpkin '95-now
June 17, 1998
Former DA Says Wilson Broke No Law Over File
By John J. Lumpkin/
Journal Staff Writer
1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Former District Attorney Bob Schwartz said Tuesday that Republican congressional candidate Heather Wilson did not break the law in 1995 when she had a confidential file concerning her family moved while she was head of the state's Children, Youth and Families Department.
Schwartz did criticize Wilson's actions but said an investigation found the file was intact and hadn't been tampered with, therefore, nothing illegal had occurred.
Wilson said Tuesday all of her actions were "aboveboard."
FROM ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL ARCHIVES
August 9, 1996: DA Plans Check on Wilson Records
Bernalillo County District Attorney Robert Schwartz said Thursday he plans to send an investigator to the Children, Youth and Families Department offices in Santa Fe to check on foster parent records involving department Secretary Heather Wilson. full story
June 17, 1998: Former DA Says Wilson Broke No Law Over File
Former District Attorney Bob Schwartz said Tuesday that Republican congressional candidate Heather Wilson did not break the law in 1995 when she had a confidential file concerning her family moved while she was head of the state's Children, Youth and Families Department. full story
July 19, 1998: Friends Say Wilson's Husband Content on Sidelines
People who know him say Jay Hone is happy to watch his wife, the new 1st District congresswoman, have the spotlight. full story
Her actions have been the subject of an ad aired by the campaign of Phil Maloof, her Democratic opponent for the 1st District seat. The ad uses footage from a 1996 KOAT-TV broadcast and also says "Wilson abused her position of power."
Wilson has called the Maloof ad "false" and accused him of "attacking my family."
Maloof's ad doesn't accuse Wilson of breaking the law, nor is it the position of the Maloof campaign that she did. But one campaign staffer said as much on a recent local radio program. A Democratic spokesman said later that the staffer made a mistake.
At issue is a state foster-family file about Wilson, her husband and their foster son. The file is confidential.
Wilson told the Journal on Tuesday she's never seen the contents of her family's file. In general, she said, such files contain copious, detailed amounts of personal information about foster families, such as directions to their houses and even which bedrooms the foster children live in. "It's usually about 2 or 3 inches thick," she said.
Wilson has said that shortly after she was appointed by Gov. Gary Johnson, she asked her staff at Children, Youth and Families to protect the file because she feared it might be stolen or given to people who didn't have a legal right to see it. The staff then moved the file to a secure location.
In 1996, Larry Barker with KOAT did a story about Wilson's actions. His report primarily used confidential sources.
According to a transcript of the report, Barker confronted Wilson and asked her, "Did you order this, a record removed?"
Wilson responded, "No."
Maloof's TV ad charges that Wilson lied with that statement. Wilson spokesman Todd Harris said that she did not lie because she ordered that the file be "safeguarded" and never removed it from the custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department.
Wilson said in an affidavit in August 1996 that she never "requested to see, review or have access to (the file)" and "never directed that (the file) be removed from the custody of the department." She also says in the affidavit that she never sought to deny access to the file to people who legally had the authority to examine it.
Before Barker's story aired, Wilson called a news conference and said she wanted to protect the file.
Also in August 1996, Schwartz began an investigation. He said his concern was whether the file itself had been altered or otherwise tampered with, which would have been illegal.
The Children, Youth and Families Department immediately produced the file when his investigator asked for it, Schwartz said Tuesday.
"We knew what was in that file and what was supposed to be in that file. We had an investigator examine the file and conclude it was intact," Schwartz said.
But the Republican former prosecutor also said, "The file should not have been removed. That was improper."
Schwartz said Wilson should have gone to a judge or the Attorney General's Office to have the file protected, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest because the file involved her family.
Wilson said Tuesday she did consult with a department attorney, who spoke to the Attorney General's Office. They told her that there was nothing wrong with having the file moved as long as it stayed in the possession of the department, according to Wilson.
"It was all aboveboard," she said.
Attorney General's spokeswoman Kay Roybal said Tuesday that her office did advise Wilson that the state's record-keeping laws don't specify where such files must be kept.
Wilson said she didn't know if the lawyers approved her action before or after the file was moved.
Maloof ads aired over the weekend hammered Wilson on the file matter.
"She abused her power by moving that file," Josh Block, a Democratic Party spokesman at the Maloof campaign, said Tuesday. "It was wrong. It was unethical. She lied about it. That's the point we're making in that ad."
KOAT, meanwhile, has taken issue with the Maloof campaign's use of news program footage without the station's permission. The ad has aired on three local stations.
Block initially said Tuesday that the campaign never has accused Wilson of breaking the law.
However, Harris provided a recording of campaign consultant Tom Hujar speaking with a KOB-AM (770) talk-show host on the air Monday.
"Why aren't you talking about the illegal acts of Heather Wilson in taking a file that no other normal citizen could take and hide it because it was a family matter that she did not want made public?" Hujar asks the radio host.
After hearing the recording, Block said, "Tom misspoke. We do not accuse her of doing anything illegal."
Wilson has condemned Maloof for running the ad, even saying that his father, the late state racing commissioner George Maloof Sr., would be "ashamed" of him. Maloof and his family have asked for an apology for that statement.
The fight spilled over into a candidate's forum Tuesday, when Wilson repeatedly called on Maloof to "admit you are wrong" in the ad. Maloof later said he stands by the ad.
Also on Tuesday, Maloof and the Democratic Party promised to pull their negative advertising from the airwaves by noon today. Harris said the Wilson campaign plans to pull its negative advertising as well but will air rebuttals to Maloof's ads.
Wilson and Maloof, along with Green Party candidate Bob Anderson and Libertarian Bruce Bush, are seeking the 1st Congressional District seat in a June 23 special election. The seat was left vacant by the death of Rep. Steve Schiff in March.