Thursday, March 31, 2011

Duran Puts SOS Employee on Leave For Racist Joke

Secretary of State Dianna Duran put an office employee on leave for a racist joke that was found on a spreadsheet form for political committees that could be downloaded from the SOS Website.

Duran also said she'd called two African-American legislators -- Reps. Jane Powdrell Culbert, R-Corrales and Sheryl Stapleton-Williams, D-Albuquerque -- who appeared to be the target of the offensive material. She said she had a conversation with Powdrell-Culbert and had left a message for Stapleton-Williams.

A news release from Duran Thursday afternoon said:

“I was shocked and disappointed to learn that a state employee apparently posted what can be interpreted as racially offensive language in a sample finance report,” Duran said, “I find these actions deeply offensive and I immediately ordered the materials removed and I initiated an investigation. The individual involved has been placed on administrative leave while the matter is being reviewed.

"... It is critical that New Mexicans have faith that the Office of the Secretary of State will protect the rights of all New Mexicans equally and that I will not tolerate any form of racism or bigotry in this office. Violations of this policy will result in swift and decisive action.”

Duran just told me that she can't release the name of the employee put on leave has not been released because of state personnel laws.

The material in question, which has been removed since this morning, was on a spreadsheet for use by Political Action Committes in filing their 2011 reports.

What apparently was supposed to be a sample entry listed a fictitious organization called "National Organization of the Beer Drinkers and Guzzlers."

The last name of the "contributor" was "Sheryl Powdrell-Culbertson" while the first name was "Jefferson Davis."

Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States of America.

I spoke with Powdrell-Culbert earlier today. She told me she didn't want to comment on "something so stupid." She also said she knows Duran is not a racist. "Dianna's one of the nicest people you're going to find,"  the lawmaker said.

I'm still waiting on a call from Williams-Stapleton.

The matter was first reported by The Justice League, a liberal PAC, which immediately called for Duran's Resignation.

"Secretary Duran should be ashamed of herself," PAC Treasurer Eli Il Yong Lee said in a news release. "We expect more from elected officials. There is no place for racism in New Mexico, much less in a state office."