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State treasurer accused of sexist, racial comments

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Martinez administration is canceling a deal it made in June to provide personnel services to the office of state Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, saying Eichenberg has ignored its advice, made sexist and demeaning comments to administration staff and remarked about the race of employees in the Treasurer’s Office.

In a letter to Eichenberg dated Sept. 14, State Personnel Office Director Justin Najaka said the agreement to provide human services assistance to the Treasurer’s Office would be terminated Oct. 15. The Personnel Office has never before canceled such an agreement with a government agency, Najaka wrote.

Eichenberg said in a written statement that the allegations against him in Najaka’s letter were a personal attack. “However, I recognize that as a public official I am exposed to personal attacks and sensationalism,” he said.

Eichenberg, a Democrat, is in his first year as treasurer. Like the attorney general, land commissioner and secretary of state, the treasurer is part of the executive branch but elected separately.

Appointees of Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, oversee the Personnel Office, which is responsible for operation of the merit-based system of classified government workers and also provides HR support services to other agencies. The Personnel Office had agreed to provide HR services to the Treasurer’s Office at a monthly cost of about $1,600.

Najaka wrote to Eichenberg that he had made inappropriate remarks to and about staff and contractors for the State Personnel Office, or SPO.

“For example, you have referred to younger appearing staff and contractors as looking like ‘babies,’ and have made sexist remarks in response to HR and legal advice provided to you by them. … Additionally, you have made comments regarding the race of certain (Treasurer’s Office) employees to SPO staff.”

The Personnel Office declined a request to provide more detail about the comments allegedly made by Eichenberg.

Najaka wrote that he was canceling the HR services agreement largely because of the treasurer’s failure to communicate and collaborate with the Personnel Office on significant personnel matters.

“Specifically, you frequently take HR actions that impact State classified employees, without consulting SPO. Sometimes your unilateral actions are in direct contradiction to best HR practices, and in this regard, go against SPO’s core mission,” Najaka wrote.

He added: “When you do happen to contact SPO regarding potential HR actions, you frequently do not follow SPO’s HR or legal guidance, but yet you communicate to others that SPO ‘approved’ of your chosen actions.”

Najaka said he also understood that the Treasurer’s Office had contracted with an Albuquerque law firm to provide advice on employment law and HR services – some of the same work that was to be provided by the Personnel Office under its agreement.

“While you have emphasized on several occasions that the State Treasurer’s Office (STO) has an abundance of money, it is unclear why you would utilize taxpayer dollars to enter into two separate contracts for overlapping services,” he wrote.

The Treasurer’s Office released the written statement by Eichenberg in response to a Journal request to interview the treasurer about Najaka’s allegations.

“While the SPO is within their right to cancel their service contract with the State Treasurer’s Office, I am disappointed with the manner in which the Director chose to do so,” Eichenberg said in the statement. “Rather than discussing staff’s concerns on HR matters, he chose to attack me personally with allegations to discredit me in a letter that was released to the press. I expected a higher standard of ethical conduct and professionalism.”

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