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Fight escalates over appointment of NM education chief


State education chief Christopher Ruszkowski, center, with Sunny Liu, left, a fiscal analyst for the Legislative Finance Committee, and Nina Caranco, the principal executive budget analyst for the Department of Finance and Administration, answer question about their budget during a joint meeting of the House and Senate education committees last month. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — The top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee accused New Mexico’s public education chief, Christopher Ruszkowski, of failing to submit the paperwork necessary for consideration of his appointment as a cabinet secretary.

Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat and chairwoman of the Rules Committee, said Ruszkowski has refused to submit a questionnaire asking about tax liens, conflicts of interest and other past conduct.

And a release allowing him to undergo a background check hasn’t been submitted, she said.

“I find it curious that the cabinet-secretary designate is choosing not to live up to this standard that we require of our educators,” Lopez said in a written statement.

Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration fired back, arguing that Ruszkowski underwent a background check in 2016 when he was appointed deputy secretary.

“With over 100 nominees still waiting for a hearing, it’s clear Linda Lopez is unable to do her job no matter how much paperwork is done,” Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan said. “The idea of the Senate Rules Committee accusing anyone of not fulfilling a constitutional duty is laughable.”