Tuesday, August 11, 2009
PRC Chairman Reinstates Assistant
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
LAS CRUCES Public Regulation Commission Chairman Sandy Jones on Monday reinstated his executive assistant, a twice-convicted felon whose hiring has come under question by a former commissioner.
Las Cruces resident Tony Schaefer has filed complaints with the PRC and the Attorney General's Office asserting that Jones' hiring of Elizabeth Martin violates a state law prohibiting a state official from hiring "as a deputy or assistant any person convicted of a felonious or infamous crime, unless such person has been pardoned."
After Schaefer raised concerns July 31 about Martin's 2006 hiring by Jones, Jones placed his executive assistant on administrative leave with pay while the matter was referred to the office of Attorney General Gary King.
Martin pleaded guilty in 1984 to embezzling $18,000 from an Albuquerque hospital where she worked as a controller. Gov. Bruce King, on whose staff she worked, pardoned Martin in late 1994.
But in August 2003, Martin pleaded guilty to stealing $68,743 from two Albuquerque-area trade unions.
A news release issued Monday said Jones was "firm in his decision" that state law does not prohibit Martin's hiring. Jones previously cited a 1974 statute that says criminal convictions are not an automatic bar to public employment.
Jones said Monday that a decision from the AG's office could take weeks, and he decided to reinstate Martin rather than keep her on extended leave.
Schaefer called Jones' decision "rash," noting that Jones will face the consequences, including possible removal from office, if Martin's hiring is deemed illegal.
"I have to question his judgment," Schaefer said.