Governor Martinez speaking to police
SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez came under fire Friday after audio recordings surfaced of her testy, late-night telephone exchange with police dispatchers after officers responded to a desk clerk’s complaint about noise and rowdy behavior during a holiday staff party last weekend at a four-star Santa Fe hotel.
In a Journal interview late Friday, Martinez apologized for both her behavior and that of certain staffers.
“I want to apologize for the conduct of my staff on the night of our holiday party,” Martinez told the Journal. “There apparently was a party in a hotel room earlier in the night that was disruptive. None of that should have happened, and I was not aware of the extent of the ruckus and the behavior until just recently.”
Martinez said she is looking into possible discipline of involved staffers, though she did not provide specifics.
Her spokesman said she had had about one cocktail. Asked by the Journal whether she was intoxicated at the time of the calls, Martinez said, “Absolutely not.”
The desk clerk had asked that police escort the occupants of a fourth-floor room out of Eldorado Hotel & Spa, but officers who eventually responded found no disturbance and did not file a police report or ask anyone to leave.
The governor talked by phone to a Santa Fe police dispatcher when she and her State Police security detail went to the front desk and the clerk handed her the telephone.
She is heard in the phone conversation, which occurred around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, telling a police dispatcher to “call off” any officers who had been dispatched. And she repeatedly insists that the dispatcher tell her who made the noise complaint with the hotel’s front desk.
At one point, the dispatcher tells the governor: “I can’t give you that information, ma’am.”
“Why can you not?” The governor responds. “It is public record. Give it to me.”
The hotel clerk, who identified herself in the call as Shelly Garcia, called Santa Fe police and said the hotel had received complaints about a noisy party on the fourth floor that reportedly included someone throwing bottles off the balcony.
The clerk told the dispatcher that occupants of the room had ignored warnings and asked that officers be sent to escort the occupants out of the hotel.
The governor, who was in that room after the large staff party in the ballroom, talked to the police dispatchers from the hotel desk – the phone was apparently handed to her by the hotel clerk – and told the dispatcher they were “eating pizza and drinking Cokes.”
The Democratic Party of New Mexico blasted Martinez for her handling of the situation.
“The way she behaved was unacceptable,” said Joe Kabourek, the state party’s executive director. “She used her status as governor to try to intimidate an officer doing his job to ensure public safety, and she sought to bully the concerned citizen who made the complaint.”
Martinez, who identifies herself in the recorded conversations as New Mexico’s governor, can also be heard telling a different dispatcher there was no need for police to respond to the scene – though at least two officers apparently did.
The calls occurred after Martinez held her annual staff party at Eldorado Hotel on Saturday night. More than 200 guests attended the party, and the governor spent most of the evening dancing with her husband and with children who attended the gala with their parents, the spokesman said.
Martinez spokesman Chris Sanchez said the governor and her husband, first gentleman Chuck Franco, then went to an unnamed staffer’s private hotel room to eat pizza with several other guests.
He said the governor did not know there had been complaints earlier in the evening about noise coming from the room, along with reports that someone was throwing snowballs (the recording says “bottles”) off the fourth-floor room’s balcony.
After being told of the complaints, Martinez went to the hotel’s front desk – along with members of her State Police security detail – to assure hotel staff the situation was under control, Sanchez said. She spoke with police dispatchers from a phone at the front desk and left the hotel shortly afterward, he added.
In the earlier phone call when the front desk first called 911, Garcia said she was calling because of complaints that rowdy partiers in the fourth-floor room had been throwing bottles, not snowballs, off a room’s balcony and had not complied with requests to be quiet. She asked the dispatcher to send police to escort the partiers off the hotel’s premises.
When a dispatch supervisor told Martinez that police were sent to the hotel for a noise complaint, Martinez identified herself as the governor again and said she was with several others, including her developmentally disabled elder sister, Lettie, eating pizza.
“I’m the governor of the state of New Mexico,” Martinez can be heard saying. “And we’re in there with my sister, who is disabled, along with about six other people who are having pizza.”
When the dispatcher tells Martinez that the front desk called in the complaint, Martinez once again demands to know who lodged the complaint to the front desk.
The dispatcher responds by saying, “OK. Well, we got a complaint from the front desk, and (they) asked us to send units out, so we did.”
The governor then asks from whom the front desk received the complaint, to which the dispatcher responds, “I don’t know. They didn’t advise us of that.”
“They didn’t advise you of which other room complained about that?” Martinez then asked.
She said that she did not intend to bully police dispatchers but that she wanted the information about who had lodged the complaint because the room was quiet at the time and she was not aware of the events earlier in the night.
“I just wanted to resolve the issue because of the complaint,” the governor said. “I wanted to just resolve it.”
“Absolutely, I will be addressing it with my staff, because I think it’s important that they respect the folks that were in the hotel,” the governor said.
The governor also said she has apologized to interim Santa Fe Police Chief Patrick Gallagher and has spoken with the hotel’s owner.
“I also want to admit I made a mistake when I went to speak to the receptionist and asked her about the complaint,” Martinez said. “I should not have gotten involved in trying to solve the situation, nor should I have spoken to the dispatcher on the phone. I was wrong to speak to them like that, and I apologize.”
No report filed
Martinez, a former prosecutor, was elected governor in 2010 and easily won re-election in 2014.
She was also elected last month as the Republican Governors Association’s chairwoman, a high-profile post that’s expected to boost her national profile and lead to her traveling around the country to support GOP candidates and help them raise money.
The Republican group’s Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, released a statement Friday saying that any aspirations Martinez might have harbored regarding a spot on a 2016 presidential ticket – Martinez has insisted she’s not interested in such a post – would be squashed by the incident.
“We look forward to the nation’s Republican governors and candidates campaigning with an RGA chair who attempted to use her power to intimidate local police,” DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold said.
Santa Fe city spokesman Matt Ross said no incident report was filed because there was never a “formal” police investigation. He also said officers found no evidence of bottles being thrown from the room’s balcony outside the hotel.
“When (police) arrived, there was no formal investigation that was launched,” Ross said. “The determination was made at this time that there was no disturbance. They did informally walk around the exterior of the hotel, but they didn’t find anything, though. That was the end of it. ”
He said hotel employees later decided that it was unnecessary to remove Martinez and her guests from the property.
“Once police arrived, they modified that request,” Ross said. “That’s when employees declined to take further action.”
The Santa Fe city spokesman also disputed a detail in the Governor’s Office statement about the incident, saying, “At no point in the evening did the Santa Fe police call Gov. Martinez for any reason.”
The governor’s spokesman had asserted that Martinez “took a call” from police in response to the noise complaints.
Meanwhile, Ken Martinez, director of the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center, a multiagency dispatch center that handles emergency calls in the capital city, said the center typically doesn’t release information on who called dispatchers.
Ken Martinez declined to comment on the way the governor spoke with employees at the dispatch center.
Doug Libby, the general manager at Eldorado Hotel, also declined to speak with the Journal about the incident.
“We’re not making any comment about that,” Libby said. “This is a private property, and the privacy of our guests is of utmost importance. Therefore, we’re not making any statements at this time.”