Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup:History of Staff Problems at SOS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 8, 2010

Secretary of State Mary Herrera's problems with her staff in the last few months have been well documented. But these problems didn't happen all at once.

In fact, some say her staff problems have been brewing from the beginning of her term. That view is bolstered by a letter of resignation from Herrera's first Elections Bureau director in January 2008 — just a little over a year after she took office.

In case you've missed the most recent development, Herrera late last week fired two administrators who had talked with the FBI about possible wrongdoing in the office. A few months ago, Herrera's election director left, firing off a blistering letter accusing her of breaking laws and policies.

For her part, Herrera in recent weeks asked state police to conduct a sweep for electronic bugs — apparently no such listening devices were found — and filed public-information requests for e-mails of past and present staff members and certain political enemies.

One of those former staffers was Albuquerque lawyer Daniel Ivey-Soto, who resigned in early 2008 as Herrera's Elections Bureau chief.

He said at the time he was quitting to pursue an appointment to a vacant judgeship. It's long been whispered that there was more to that story, and the letter shows that's true.

Ivey-Soto began his "Dear Mary" letter saying he was sending his resignation by e-mail because "communication between us has been strained as of late."

"It is important in any agency to have a sense of teamwork," he wrote. "This is especially true when there is a small team. It has been apparent to me for some lime that I am not integrated into the team here at the Secretary of State's Office. This saddens me greatly, because I really do have tremendous respect for you and I believe that you are capable of showing great wisdom when you rely on you own instincts."

But Ivey-Soto apparently believed Herrera wasn't relying on her own instincts.

"This is your team, and Don Francisco is your coach," he said, referring to Francisco Trujillo, Herrera's top deputy. "I know Don Francisco has asked you repeatedly to fire me, and I appreciate the loyalty you have shown. My staying, however, is only worthwhile if we can work together as a team. Don Francisco's behavior recently confirms for me that this is not possible. Because he is the coach, the honorable thing for me to do is to finish my task, and depart gracefully."

And so he did.

"I do not plan to say anything negative in public and would appreciate the same respect," Ivey-Soto wrote. He has stuck by that. And I've never heard a negative word about Ivey-Soto from Herrera — which is why I was surprised to see his name among those whose e-mails Herrera sought.

As he said in his letter, any time a reporter, including me, asked why he resigned from the SOS, he said it was for that possible judicial appointment, which he didn't get.

On Wednesday, Ivey-Soto, who now works for the state organization for county clerks, verified that a copy of the letter I'd obtained was authentic. But he declined further comment, saying, "I think the letter speaks for itself."

Trujillo didn't respond to a request for comment.

After Ivey-Soto left, the job was vacant for a few months. Herrera then hired Jim Noel, but state Republicans raised a stink because he's related by marriage to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who at the time was running for office. So Noel quit before he even started the job. (I wonder if he's sent a thank-you note to the GOP.) Lawyer Gerald Gonzales only lasted a couple of months.

Then came A.J. Salazar, who left with a bang in March with a fiery resignation letter accusing Herrera of soliciting donations from companies that contract with her office and ordering some of her employees to gather signatures on petitions for her re-election campaign.

UPDATE: This column has been corrected. It no longer contains incorrect information on Don Francisco Trujillo's name. (More details HERE)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It is no secret that Mary's problems started very early in her tenure as Secretary of State. A bit of research into her days as Bern. County Clerk would reveal the same.

    Mary has no idea what she is doing when it comes to being a leader, manager or professional. In her talking points as of late, she would have us believe that she is an "excellent leader," "a worker," and someone who would never ask her staff to do what she isn't "willing to do herself." The fact is, that simply isn't true!

    Mary didn't even bother coming into the office on Statewide filing day back in February. A true leader would have been there greeting the candidates and working to make sure things ran smoothly.

    At the legislature when legislators expected to see the "Madame" she was nowhere to be found. On the one day when she actually showed up, she was such an embarassment to her staff and to the public and legislators, that many wished she had just disappeared.

    On Memorial Day, Mary ordered her staff to come in to work in order to get ready for campaign finance report filing. Mary was out riding a Harley with her boyfriend in Red River. Campaigning.

    Mary Herrera was not created overnight. On paper, her educational credentials look fairly impressive. In person however, one really wonders if those credentials are not simply forgeries or creations of her handler, "The Don."

    Together they have made a mockery of the SoS office of New Mexico. They have created professional division and animosity within the state (county clerks, state agencies etc..) that never needed to be created. They have polarized the entire staff of the SoS and have time and again threatened the staff into submission. "If I don't have a job, YOU don't have a job" is Mary's refrain-not so much in person, as she never shows up to work, but mostly through the "Don" himself.

    What are his credentials? Well, he was a flight attendant for Aero Mexico. Wow, what great credentials to run elections! He would have us believe that he was an "experienced manager" with experience of having personally managed "300-800" employees. Right. No degree. No professional training. Just a history of milking the system and the people. More concerned about being slick, and doing his hair than being professional, transparent or honorable and honest.

    This has all happened on Mary's watch. Do any of us feel comfortable that our votes will actually count this year? How about all those registration forms which showed up in the Don's office this year??? Oh yeah, the forms were from 2008!

    Mary's house of cards is falling and rightfully so. She has no business holding a public office. The Don has no business anywhere near a public office other than perhaps cleaning the bathrooms or taking the trash out. He would truly be in his element!
    They are both the MOST crooked public officials around. No bid contracts, kickbacks, procurement violations, take home vehicles to Albuquerque and Taos, junkets to DC, India, LA, and everywhere else all on the state's dime.

    Will the public ever wise up? I certainly hope so. This is not a political issue, but rather one of what is right or wrong.

    Mary Herrera is WRONG.

    The evidence is clear. People lie. The evidence does not.

    It is time for the people of New Mexico to end the corruption in the SoS office. I feel sorry for whoever has to clean up the mess, but it needs to be done.
    Let's send a message loud and clear to Mary on November 2nd. ENOUGH! You are fired! You don't deserve to represent us...

    Oh, and Don: I hear there is an opening at Jet Blue!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. The hits just keep coming: "Elections chief draws ire of county clerks" KOB news

    And what about Venkatesh Dhagumudi, the Secretary of State's IT Director who took a powder just after the story of her state laptop and HR department computers being infected with porn borne viruses made the news - I expect he'll reappear about the same time that Anthony Correra returns from his hide-out in France and Gary King announces the results of his 'investigation' into the charges made against the SOS.