Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Debugging the SOS

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
September 2, 2010

Is someone bugging Secretary of State Mary Herrera?

I don’t mean bugging as in “bothering.” In recent weeks, a lot of people — reporters, some of her staffers, county clerks and who knows who else — have been bugging her in that respect.

I’m talking about bugging as in electronic surveillance.

Apparently Herrera sometime in recent weeks thought that someone was pulling a Watergate on her.

I asked Department of Public Safety spokesman Peter Olson about a tip that Herrera’s office had called in state police to do a “sweep” for electronic listening devices.

Olson in an e-mail confirmed it. Kind of.

“I believe there was a sweep,” he wrote. “I don’t know what the outcome was. We often search state buildings for stuff like this and other safety issues. ... It’s not common but we do it on occasion.”

Did the sweepers uncover anything suspicious? “I don’t believe anything was found,” Olson said.

Is Herrera, who is running for a second term against Republican state Sen. Dianna Duran of Tularosa, getting a little paranoid? It was just two weeks ago that this column revealed that Herrera had done a public records request for e-mail correspondence involving various political enemies, staff members and others.

Thinking that someone might be secretly recording her might not be that far-fetched of a fear for Madam Secretary. Don’t forget that one of her own staff members recently secretly videotaped Secretary of State’s Office technicians working to get pornography viruses out of Herrera’s laptop computer. (That employee, office administrator Manny Vildasol, is one of two staff members recently suspended by Herrera.)

Or perhaps Herrera feared the FBI was listening in. Vildasol, public information officer James Flores and former elections director A.J. Salazar all have talked to the FBI about what they think might be violations of law in the Secretary of State’s Office.

Olson referred further questions to the Secretary of State’s Office. Deputy Secretary of State Francisco Trujillo didn’t return my phone calls or an e-mail Wednesday.

Eat this: Here’s my favorite state government news release of the week. It’s from Expo New Mexico, or the state fair, or whatever they’re calling it these days.

“World Burrito Championship Returns to 2010 NM State Fair” was the subject line. No, it’s not a cooking contest. This is an eating contest.

The event, scheduled for Sept. 11, will feature “a host of the world’s best competitive eaters, including #1-ranked Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut,” the news release said.

“Chestnut, who counts asparagus and pizza among his numerous eating records, won his fourth consecutive hot dog eating title last month at Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island. He now looks to add burritos to his resume of world records. Chestnut will also seek to set a new world record in the burrito discipline. Last year’s World Burrito Eating Championship, Bob ‘Notorious B.O.B.’ Shoudt, consumed 38.5 burritos in 10 minutes to set the benchmark.”

One of America's Finest SportsThe release quotes Richard Shea, president of Major League Eating — yes, there is such a thing.

“Having proven himself the best eater in the world, Chestnut is favored in every competition he enters,” Shea said.

“However, there’s a chance we will witness an upset in Albuquerque, especially since many local competitors have deep knowledge of the burrito, its composition, how the beans play off the tortilla, et cetera.”

The 10-minute event — with green chile beef burritos provided by Garcia’s Kitchen — begins at 2:30 p.m. at the State Fair Pavilion. There's $3,000 in prize money. That'll buy a lot of Alka-Seltzer.

Now I’ve got to search through my e-mail for state Health Department releases on the importance of good nutritional habits.