State officials distribute $ 200,000 for “bogus” claim
SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) – This was a seemingly routine transaction hidden in the state’s current account. On April 24, 2015, the New Mexico Treasury issued a check for $ 200,000 to an Albuquerque law firm. What was it for? It was a big, expensive secret.
The huge cash disbursement was part of a confidential deal orchestrated by high-level government officials under the Martinez administration. Because the six-figure payment details were so politically explosive, lawyers agreed to keep the deal under wraps until Governor Martinez’s term ended.
Even today, four years later, the clandestine transaction is still shrouded in mystery. Following a request for a public record from KRQE News 13, the New Mexico risk management division produced a record relating to the secret payment. Documents show that after a government employee named Ruben Maynes was allegedly the victim of wrongdoing on the job, he was awarded $ 200,000 to settle his claim.
But the Maynes affair did not conform to the book. In fact, as the settlements disappeared, this one was unprecedented. Unlike other risk management cases, government officials handed Ruben Maynes hundreds of thousands of dollars even though he had not alleged any specific wrongdoing or injustice.
“I would say it’s unusual,” says current General Service Cabinet Secretary Ken Ortiz. Ortiz reviewed the Maynes 2015 settlement record from the previous administration.
“Usually a complaint contains allegations with details. Any type of allegation should have specifics for the state to investigate… and determine how best to approach this matter with the ultimate goal of settling or disposing of this matter at the lowest cost to New Mexico taxpayers ”, Secretary Ortiz said.
So who is Ruben Maynes and why did state officials secretly pay him a ton of money? That’s the $ 200,000 question.
Ruben Maynes was a state police officer assigned to Governor Martinez’s security service. But his tenure there was not without controversy.
Court documents show Ruben Maynes was a player. A fellow officer claims Maynes accumulated huge gambling debts, even while borrowing money from other officers. Next, State Police Chief Pete Kassetas warned Maynes not to play while on duty.
In July 2014, Constable Maynes worked security for a Governor Martinez event at the Route 66 Hotel Casino. A fellow officer later accused Maynes of gambling at the casino in violation of state police guidelines.
Casino security cameras captured Maynes in the hotel elevator towards the casino shortly before 1:00 a.m. He spent hours wandering the gambling hall, playing slots and blackjack tables. Maynes returned to his hotel room around 5:45 a.m.
A few days later, Chief Kassetas informed Maynes that his gambling activities appeared to violate the Chief’s directive. Constable Maynes was removed from the governor’s security service and reassigned to patrol duties. He was informed that the ministry would open an Internal Affairs investigation into the incident.
In February 2015, Governor Martinez was informed that Maynes was planning “legal action”. The notification arrived in a Feb. 26, 2015 letter from Albuquerque attorney Sam Bregman who said he was representing Ruben Maynes. Bregman wrote: “We are currently investigating Mr. Maynes’ allegations against the New Mexico state governor and police for whistleblowing, harassment and retaliation. Bregman did not provide any details or specific allegations of wrongdoing.
On April 23, 2015, Chief Risk Officer AJ Forte sent a memo about the Maynes claim to Governor Martinez’s Chief of Staff Keith Gardner.
“I understand your firm belief that Maynes’ claims are completely unfounded and that the state would ultimately prevail at trial. Based on our investigation into the matter at this point and the fact that many potential witnesses would strongly contradict Maynes’ claims, I wholeheartedly agree with you that the claims made by Maynes are false and would prove to be true. probably wrong in the end, ”Forte wrote.
Forte added, “Based on our experience in these types of cases, we reasonably expect the cost of defense in this case over two years of discovery and a long trial to be in the order of $ 1 million. dollars, if not more… I have had conversations with (Sam Bregman) before about a potential settlement and have succeeded, in my opinion, in exposing the many flaws and untruths of Maynes’ claims. “
Even though Ruben Maynes’ claim was found to be “completely unfounded” on April 23, the state police officer received a check for $ 200,000 on April 24.
There is no document in the risk management settlement file disclosed to KRQE News 13 indicating that risk management staff investigated or verified Maynes’ vague allegations of harassment and retaliation. Ruben Maynes resigned from the state police in October 2015.
If Maynes’ claim was bogus, why did Risk Management give him a big check?
KRQE News 13 has learned that Ruben Maynes has a secret bargaining chip in his back pocket. Confidential sources say the former state police officer claimed to have explicit text messages on his cell phone, he said, were sent to him by Governor Martinez. According to sources with direct knowledge of the case, Maynes’ claim to have potentially embarrassing information about the governor was a factor in the closed-door settlement negotiations.
In a phone conversation with KRQE News 13, Maynes attorney Sam Bregman declined to comment on the case.
From his home in Arizona, Ruben Maynes told KRQE News 13 he knew nothing about Governor Susana Martinez’s explicit text messages. He also said he did not gamble at Route 66 Casino while serving with the State Police.
Former Governor Martinez did not respond to a request for comment on the Maynes settlement.
“This is a problem that the public can easily understand, misuse of taxpayer dollars,” said State Senator Sander Rue who reviewed the recently released Maynes settlement record.
“I think they conspired to embezzle public funds,” said Senator Rue, who is an advocate for openness and accountability in state government. “It’s taxpayers’ money. If people are using this money to buy silence about mischief or embarrassing situations, it should trouble all New Mexico citizens, ”said Senator Rue.
None of the officials involved in the Maynes settlement yet work in state government.
General Service Cabinet Secretary Ken Ortiz said in his custody that there would be no risk management regulation based solely on statements from a lawyer. “We will demand specific allegations so that we can examine, validate and investigate them if necessary in order to make the right informed decision on how best to deal with the matter,” Secretary Ortiz said.
“We have to send the message that this will not be tolerated,” said Senator Rue. “I urge the Attorney General to immediately launch a full and thorough investigation into these matters and bring to justice those individuals who have been found to … conspire to abuse public funds and who have violated public trust,” Rue said. .