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Game and Fish chief resigned after improper texts to employee

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

The state Game Commission voted unanimously after a closed-door meeting in October 2013 to accept Jim Lane’s resignation as director of the Game and Fish Department.

Neither the commission nor Lane, who went back on the public payroll in March as assistant commissioner for surface and special projects at the State Land Office, has ever explained publicly his abrupt departure from the job he had held for two years.

LANE: Hired in March at salary of $92,000

LANE: Hired in March at salary of $92,000

But documents recently obtained by the Journal show that Lane’s resignation came nine days after the office of Gov. Susana Martinez received a letter accusing Lane of sexually harassing the human resources director for the agency he headed.

The letter written by Diane Garrity, an attorney for HR director Sonya Quintana, accused Lane of making repeated sexual overtures, both in person and via cellphone text messages.

According to the letter, while Lane and Quintana were in Grants in August 2013 for a Game Commission meeting, Lane used his government-issued cellphone to send 22 text messages to Quintana between 11:45 p.m. and 3:59 a.m. The letter said one of the messages read: “I really want to wake up with you tomorrow.”

Purported copies of Lane’s text messages to Quintana that night were among the documents recently obtained by the Journal. Other text messages identified as being sent by Lane to Quintana over the more than four-hour period:

  • “You will enjoy.”
  • “I am infatuatated!” (Infatuated was misspelled in the text.)
  • “I know 2 things. You are awake. And. We need some face time.”
  • “I have been waiting for this for 2 plus years.”
  • “These texts could sink me.”
  • “You totally blew me off. Crushed.”

Quintana didn’t respond to the texts, according to the documents obtained by the Journal.

Garrity said in the letter to the Governor’s Office that Lane retaliated against Quintana after that night, making her work intolerable, threatening to have her “crushed” and forcing her to take leave from Game and Fish, where she had worked for 19 years.

In a settlement reached in February 2014, Game and Fish and the state Risk Management Division agreed to pay $65,000 to settle Quintana’s claims. She left the agency as part of the deal and now works for Santa Fe County.

Sonya Quintana didn't respond to the texts sent to her by former New Mexico Game and Fish director Jim Lane, according to documents obtained by the Journal. Lane resigned in Oct. 2013. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Sonya Quintana didn’t respond to the texts sent to her by former New Mexico Game and Fish director Jim Lane, according to documents obtained by the Journal. Lane resigned in Oct. 2013. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Lane didn’t respond to a phone message or an email seeking comment for this story. State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn hired him in March at an annual salary of $92,000. Dunn couldn’t be reached for comment. The State Land Office is part of the executive branch but is headed by an elected commissioner and not under the governor’s authority.

Through her attorney, Quintana declined to be interviewed. Garrity said her client has moved on and wants to put the “nightmare” behind her.

The Game Commission, which oversees the Game and Fish Department and whose members are appointed by the governor, voted in October 2011 to hire Lane as the department’s director. He earned about $101,000 annually. Lane was chief of the agency’s Wildlife Management Division when promoted to director.

Lane worked for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife before moving to New Mexico in about 2008. According to Garrity’s letter to the Governor’s Office, Lane told Quintana and other managers at Game and Fish that he had been demoted in Kentucky due to a sexual relationship with a subordinate.

Garrity’s letter says Lane began making sexual overtures to Quintana after his appointment as department director.

The letter says Quintana told Lane that she didn’t have relationships with people at work but that Lane began propositioning her in June 2013. Lane ordered Quintana to travel to Grants for the Game Commission meeting in August 2013, setting the stage for his repeated text messages to her on the eve and day of the meeting, according to the letter.

The Journal obtained an audio recording identified as being from a nearly one-hour meeting between Lane and Quintana in his office after the trip to Grants.

Quintana told Lane that she was concerned about her job and wanted to have a professional working relationship. Lane told Quintana that he trusted and needed her, that she was part of his inner circle and that he could groom her for promotion at Game and Fish.

“You need to not let your little ol’ mind get worried about me,” Lane said, later telling Quintana, “Don’t go crazy on me.”

Lane said in that conversation that he had “stepped over a line I shouldn’t have stepped over” and that he was “trying to control my personal insane attraction for you.”

Garrity’s letter to the Governor’s Office on behalf of Quintana also made claims separate from the alleged sexual harassment of Quintana.

Lane directed Quintana to consider only female candidates for the position of secretary to the director, according to the letter. Also, Lane allegedly directed that a “pretty woman” be hired as the department’s spokesperson.

“In Kentucky, we call that the token ovary position,” Lane said, according to the letter.

The letter also accused Lane of misusing a state vehicle, improperly using undercover motor vehicle license plates, pre-selecting candidates for merit-based classified positions, ordering staff not to attend training classes mandated by the State Personnel Office, interfering with equal employment opportunity complaints and secretly recording employees’ conversations.

The Risk Management Division has repeatedly declined to release the settlement reached in 2014 with Quintana. The Journal obtained a copy elsewhere.

Under state law, such settlements are subject to public inspection 180 days after being reached, but there are exceptions. The Risk Management Division has refused to specify the exception or exceptions it is relying on in refusing to publicly release the Quintana settlement and related documents.

In other cases, the division has taken the position that the exceptions allow it to withhold settlements when similar claims have been filed but not yet been settled or when there is the possibility of similar claims being filed.

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