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Senate committee probes State Fair issues

Current and former appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez told members of a Senate committee this morning they are concerned about the handling of the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque.

Today’s testimony in the Senate Rules Committee focused in large part on how a new 25-year racino lease was awarded to the Downs of Albuquerque in 2011.

Kenneth “Twister” Smith of Caballo, a State Fair commissioner, said there was never a thorough public review of the proposed lease contract.

“It didn’t feel right,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, former Board of Finance member Tom Tinnin, who resigned in 2011, said he was “appalled” by the handling of the Downs lease.

Gov. Susana Martinez, her political adviser Jay McCleskey and Expo New Mexico general manager Dan Mourning were all invited to attend today’s hearing but did not show up.


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A Martinez spokesman previously blasted the hearing as a “petty political sideshow.”

Most of the Senate committee’s Republican members also were absent from today’s hearing, though Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, was present for some of the time.

No formal action was taken during today’s hearing, though several senators encouraged Attorney General Gary King’s office to investigate the situation.

There are three Martinez appointees to the State Fair Commission that are awaiting confirmation hearings during this year’s 30-day session.

For more background on the Downs lease, check out my colleague Thom Cole’s column in today’s Journal by clicking here.