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Ex-Gov. Says AG's Office Knew About Vigil

By Jeff Jones
Journal Politics Writer
    Former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson says Attorney General Patricia Madrid should have been aware years ago of problems festering at the state Treasurer's Office.
    "It is an irrefutable fact that representatives from Patricia Madrid's office were involved in multiple meetings where clear questions about impropriety in the state Treasurer's Office were raised," Johnson said in a letter released over the weekend by Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.
    Madrid, a Democrat, is challenging Wilson for the 1st Congressional District seat in the November general election. The letter from Johnson is the latest development in a battle between Madrid and Wilson on what Madrid, the state's top lawyer, knew or didn't know about possible problems in the Treasurer's Office.
    The Treasurer's Office issues led to federal indictments last year against then-Treasurer Robert Vigil and his predecessor, Michael Montoya.
    Madrid campaign spokeswoman Heather Brewer on Monday called the latest move by Wilson "100 percent, politically motivated baloney."
    Johnson, like Wilson, is a Republican and Brewer said, "You don't just parade ... Republican partisans out at the 11th hour with vague recollections over something that happened five years ago and tell me New Mexicans don't smell a political move."
    The battle started last week when Wilson began airing a TV ad accusing Madrid, who has been attorney general since 1999, of doing nothing to stop the problems in the Treasurer's Office.
    The FBI's investigation into corruption and kickbacks involving the Treasurer's Office has led to several guilty pleas, including an extortion plea from Montoya and a mail-fraud plea from former investment adviser Kent Nelson.
    "A whistle-blower wrote Madrid a letter with details on the scheme. Still Madrid did nothing," Wilson's TV ad claims.
    The letter the ad refers to was prepared in January 2002 by then-State Board of Finance director Jan Goodwin for the signature of Johnson's Department of Finance and Administration secretary, Harold Field.
    The letter was discussed during the recent federal trial of Vigil, which ended in a mistrial. A retrial of Vigil is scheduled to begin next month.
    The Attorney General's Office insists it never received the Goodwin letter asking for an investigation of apparent violations of state investment policy.
    Last week, the Madrid campaign released a letter from the current Department of Finance and Administration secretary, Katherine Miller— whose agency oversees the board of finance— saying it has no record of ever sending the letter.
    Field, in an Associated Press interview late last week, said he is confident the letter was in fact sent to Madrid.
    Johnson, who served as governor from 1995 to 2002, said in the letter released by Wilson on Saturday that he also believes the 2002 letter would have gone out.
    "I can't imagine him not sending it," Johnson said of Field in a telephone interview on Monday. "He is under no pressure to say anything to anybody. Harold is a registered Democrat, if that means anything."
    Questions were raised publicly about the Treasurer's Office about a month before Goodwin's letter was written. In a December 2001 Journal story, Johnson assailed an investment deal involving Montoya and Nelson, calling it the "stinkiest" thing he had come across while serving as governor.
    In the new letter, Johnson said, "My administration uncovered problems in the Treasurer's Office with three months to go in my term."
    Johnson said in the interview that he was referring in the new letter to other, larger problems at the Treasurer's Office that developed in the fall of 2002, just before he left office.
    In his letter, Johnson said, "There were three meetings of the state Board of Finance, which I personally attended, where we discussed our concerns and the need for further investigation. The Attorney General's Office is represented at each and every meeting of the state Board of Finance."
    The letter adds, "My personal feeling is that Attorney General Patricia Madrid should have been aware of our concerns regardless of whether or not she ever received Harold's letter. AG officials representing Patricia were present when the contents of the letter were developed and discussed."
    Attorney General's Office spokesman Paul Nixon in an e-mailed response to the Journal said an assistant attorney general does attend Board of Finance meetings but serves as the board's state-appointed counsel, not Madrid's representative.
    Nixon said the assistant attorney general serving as the Board of Finance's counsel in 2002 "was not involved in any discussions regarding the draft letter dated January 2, 2002."
    Brewer said Madrid has never tolerated corruption.
    "The hazy recollections of the Republicans might say different— but the facts say there is no letter," she said.

E-MAIL writer Jeff Jones