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Campaigns spar over Doña Ana emails

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King said Thursday that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez should respond to allegations that her successor as district attorney in Doña Ana County in 2011 destroyed official but unidentified email records.

“It is reported that Martinez’s handpicked district attorney has destroyed possible incriminating records from when Martinez was DA,” King said in a news release. “… We may never know what was in those records, but their destruction alone raises new, serious questions about Martinez’s work as well as that of the people she’s put in positions of power.”

The King campaign news release said “Governor Martinez and her successor in the Las Cruces District Attorney’s Office have some explaining to do.” The campaign also cited the email controversy in a separate fundraising email Thursday.

Martinez campaign spokesman Chris Sanchez said King’s attack was misguided and hypocritical.

A recent report from the current DA in Doña Ana County on alleged email destruction “has nothing to do with the governor,” Sanchez said. “… Now that (King’s) campaign has hit the desperation stage, he is feigning outrage that a DA’s office has a similar email retention policy as his own office.”

“We follow the same (email) retention policy as the AG’s office,” said Amy Orlando, the Martinez successor in the Doña Ana County DA’s office.

King campaign spokesman Phil Sisneros defended the email retention policy in the Attorney General’s Office, saying that only records deemed not pertinent to the AG’s operations are deleted from servers after one year. All others, such as records similar to those allegedly erased in the Doña Ana County DA’s Office, are retained indefinitely, Sisneros said.

The allegations that records were destroyed made headlines earlier this week after the current District Attorney, Mark D’Antonio, issued a report saying the Orlando administration erased hard drives and emails before leaving office.

Orlando was appointed DA by Martinez in 2011 when Martinez became governor. Orlando, a Republican, lost an election in 2012 to D’Antonio, a Democrat, and left the office.

Orlando said allegations of records being covered up on her watch amounted to “baseless innuendos and black-helicopter conspiracy theories.”

D’Antonio’s report suggested no motive for the destruction of the emails and said no criminal charges were being considered because “there are too many unanswered questions” about the missing records.

A liberal advocacy group on Wednesday tried to raise additional questions in the email flap.

ProgressNow New Mexico cited email records obtained through the Inspection of Public Records Act showing Orlando in 2010 forwarded documents related to a voter fraud investigation to Martinez’s political adviser, Jay McCleskey. Martinez was a candidate for governor at the time.

ProgressNow director Pat Davis said the communication amounted to a tip-off.

McCleskey and Orlando rejected that characterization. Both said the records exchanged were the same records provided to media after a news report on the investigation was published.

“The press started asking about the case and Jay McCleskey got the same public documents that were given to the press and at the same time,” Orlando said in an email.

McCleskey said, “When someone falsely claimed that the District Attorney’s office had declined to investigate a voter registration fraud case, we simply requested the public records proving that the case had been referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency and those same documents were provided to the media.”