Monday, December 10, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: Emails Tell Story of Lupe Martinez's Departure

Note from the Future: Although the date of this column is Dec. 10, 2012, I'm actually posting this column in May 2013. I just realized I must have  forgotten to post it in December. I changed the date so it would be in proper order on the blog. Probably a weird obsession I could do without, but what the heck. Here it is for what it's worth. Better late than never.

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Dec. 9, 2012 
Lupe Martinez

Nobody really believed that former Corrections Secretary Lupe Martinez just decided on her own to resign last year. But now emails to and from Martinez indeed show that she indeed was forced out.

I obtained the emails last week from an Inspection of Public Records request made to the Corrections Department months ago. They are all on Martinez's state email account.

None of the missives she sent on private emails -- obtained and publicized by political opponents of Gov. Susana Martinez -- were included in this voluminous batch. (Lupe Martinez has claimed that she and other Cabinet officials were told to communicate via private email, which the governor's staff has denied. The two Martinezes are not related.)

Lupe Martinez's abrupt resignation came just six days after Larry Flynn, her boyfriend who lived with her on the prison grounds, prompted a police investigation by shooting a gun on the state prison grounds south of the city. Flynn, who was at the time an official with the state probation and parole office, said that he had been firing at a nest of rattlesnakes he had found under a doghouse. At the time, Flynn was on administrative leave because of allegations that he padded his time card.

In his statement to corrections officers who arrived after hearing gunshots, Flynn said he first had tried to kill the snakes with a hoe. When that didn't work, he got his pistol.

"Question will be, 'why a gun and not simply the hoe, ' " Martinez told him in an email. In a follow-up, she said, "You didn't mention about the conversation with police or with [corrections officers] and what they saw." Flynn eventually was fired. Recently, he dropped his wrongful termination action against the state.

On Aug. 30, former Deputy Corrections Secretary Gail Oliver wrote an email to Gov. Martinez and others saying she was concerned, based on conversations with prison staff, that Flynn had received special treatment. Lupe Martinez, who forwarded the mail to another Corrections official, commented, "I cannot believe this. This is BS."

But the governor ordered state police to investigate the shooting incident. That was on a Wednesday. By Friday afternoon the governor called Lupe Martinez for a meeting.

At 3:04 p.m., Lupe Martinez emailed Jim Brewster, the department's general counsel, saying, "Wish me luck at Gov." Brewster replied two minutes later, "Absolutely. Good luck. Are you going there now? And do you know exactly what the meeting is about?"

Lupe Martinez responded, "I got a call directly from her and [was] told to come over right now. Have been waiting for about 30 minutes." She said others were waiting also. Brewster replied, "Well, the fact that others are presumably waiting to see her at the same time could be a good sign -- it's not directed just [at] you. Again, Good luck."

Apparently it wasn't a good sign for Lupe Martinez. At 3:38 p.m. she emailed Brewster again. "Please meet me in office."

We don't know exactly what was said at that meeting with the governor or the exact reason for the resignation. But Lupe Martinez was out.

She emailed a friend in the department at 3:55 p.m. to thank her for her friendship and loyalty. "Please tell me you're not resigning, " the friend replied. "Not by choice, " Lupe Martinez responded.

At 4:43 p.m., she emailed Albuquerque attorney Mary Torres. "Can I please speak to you emergency, " was the message. The subject line was "Help."

Torres responded at 6:12 p.m., "I am charging my cell ... Are you OK???" There was no response from Martinez on her state email.

The Governor's Office sent out a news release about the secretary's departure after 5:30 p.m. The news release announcing her departure never actually said Lupe Martinez wanted to "spend more time with her family, " as the cliché goes. But it was kind of implied.

"Ms. Martinez will return to Las Cruces, near her family and son, and she intends to apply for the warden position at Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility." She didn't get that job.