Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jenning's boggle over webcasting

Senate President Pro Tempore and Co-chair of the Legislative Council,
Tim Jennings
, fought hard to table
Rep Janice Arnold-Jones'
motion
to begin webcasting of interim committee meetings.

It was he, despite the fact that Arnold-Jones mailed "the gist" (correction 7/2/10) of her motion to all of the principles, who represented that he didn't know who submitted the motion, and demanded that her identity be revealed, allowing for their collective groan when her name was finally spoken.

Despite the fact that as many as 48 other states webcast their legislatures, and that the technology and techniques are tested and true, Jennings lobbied hard and long during the Legislative Council debate over Arnold-Jones' motion, in favor of a two month delay while the Legislative Council Services did "some more research" about how it could be done without capturing "legislators scratching their ...s".

He also wondered aloud, why the previous efforts to begin interim committee webcasting failed to pass the Senate. He offered that he would have to go back to see what happened. He would have a hard time doing that since there is no archive of webcasts to search; a situation for which he owns no small part of the responsibility.

Makes you wonder what it is he wants so badly to hide.




photo Mark Bralley

Democratic House Leadership press release hypocritical, at best.

The press release from the leadership of the House of Representatives deserves some scrutiny.
It is pasted here in significant part;

House of Representatives
Ben Lujan, Speaker of the House
Ken Martinez, House Majority Leader
Sheryl Williams Stapleton, House Majority Whip
PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release Contact: Bailey Sachs 505-261-2419
June 29, 2010
Webcasting Approved for Interim Committee Meetings
SANTA FE – Today members of the Legislative Council voted unanimously to approve webcasting of interim committee meetings. The decision was applauded by Rep. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces), who helped pass legislation to start webcasting committee meetings during the regular session. Steinborn was also the first to introduce a joint memorial during the regular session to webcast interim committee meetings.
“This is another step in the right direction. We are always looking for ways to make government more transparent and accessible to the public. Webcasting is a useful service for our constituents,” Steinborn said.

...


What it doesn't tell you regarding the folks in the header; as revealed in Mark Bralley's photograph of the moment of the vote; neither House Majority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton, nor Speaker of the House Ben Lujan were even present for the vote. The third, House Majority Leader Ken Martinez, according to one of my allegigators, was central to gutting the webcasting of archiving.

Without archiving, the whole point of webcasting for the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans, is lost.

The Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez also left the room before the vote, as did Minority Floor Leader Stuart Ingle. House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, though allegedly part of the effort to obstruct the creation of a searchable archive, at least stayed around for the vote.

One has to wonder at the commitment of legislative leadership, in either party, to holding themselves accountable to their constituents by means of webcasting anything at all.

They also don't mention that the motion they approved came from Rep Janice Arnold-Jones, the real hero of Roundhouse webcasting, nor do they mention their audible groan heard from the obstructionists when it was revealed to them that the motion was hers.

The only thing they were truly honest about was that this was only a (baby step) in the right direction. Without a searchable archive, webcasting is nearly useless for any practical purpose.

Update; Rep Keith Gardner has taken exception to my description of his part in this process. I have offered him an opportunity to respond, and promised him a retraction and apology as appropriate. My investigation will continue.

Further update; I have done more research and have settled upon House Resolution 1; sponsored by none other than Rep Keith Gardner, here quoted in significant part;

“The live stream shall not be archived.”

and;

The provisions of this rule shall apply when the house is meeting as the committee of the whole and when any standing substantive committee is meeting in the chamber shall not be archived.”

and further; The live video stream shall be produced from cameras configured and operated in such a way that as much of the chamber is displayed as practicable (read; no close ups of their faces, no way to look them in the eyes while they speak)

While there might be nearly inconsequential inaccuracies in my perception of what goes on in secret; I am now confident that my reporting that Gardner is an obstructionist with respect to the single most important aspect of webcasting; archiving, and to webcasting in general (distant cameras a la google earth) requires neither retraction nor apology.

My offer to post his any objection on my blog remains open.

Updated; one last time;
Rep Keith Gardner and I have exchanged a number of emails. I have also learned that the motion was written by the Legislative Council Services, and the denial of archiving was included by them to make the motion consistent with House and Senate Rules.

My use of the word "conspired" was not accurate or fair. I apologize to Rep Gardner for mischaracterizing his involvement in the finally wording.

Though Rep Martinez and I have not discussed it, I owe him the same apology for the same reason. Therefore, I apologize to him as well, for my use of the word "conspired".

Truthtelling a la APS

APS' million dollar Communications Department published a press release claiming to have saved tax dollars, link.

It's title; "APS Saves ... Taxpayer Dollars ..."

The gist of it; a project to install low flow toilets will not only save water but tax dollars as well.

"The project ... generated $338,250 in rebates and should save ... $25,323 annually."
What they didn't tell you; the project cost taxpayers $1,047,271.

Taxpayers won't even break even, much less save money,
for 28 years.

If one accepts the ancient proverb;
A half truth is a whole lie;
then the leadership of the APS has lied to taxpayers, again.

APS continues to deny due process to whistleblowers

APS has a whistleblower program. It has a fundamental flaw;
it is nothing more than a forwarding mailbox that takes
complaints filed against the administration and then forwards
them to that same administration for adjudication.

The "check and balance" provided to address that appearance of a blatant conflict of interest, is a review of the adjudication by the "executive branch" of the APS, the one directly accountable to voters, the School Board.

Their charge could not be more explicit nor more clear;

"School Board Policy B.07D; The Audit Committee reviews and recommends approval of ... any whistleblower complaints ...", link.
The agenda for their next meeting, tomorrow, link, does not include review and approval of the adjudication of the most recent complaints.

To date, they have not reviewed nor approved the administrative handling of even one single complaint; including my complaints that;

Supt Winston Brooks has
abdicated his responsibilities
as a role model of the APS
Student Standards of Conduct
,
and that, that complaint was
closed without due process.






Audit Committee Chair
David Robbins
response
to my complaint that he is
betraying the public trust
placed in him, by denying
due process to more than
200 complainants
;
"We are not breaking any federal law."




"Open Government Lawyer"
and School Board President
Marty Esquivel
is content to
ignore the whole issue.

As is the Albuquerque Journal.



photos Mark Bralley

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Will Thaddeus Lucero's conduct and competence be investigated?

Deputy County Manager John Dantis is history, link.

What about his boss County Manager Thaddeus Lucero?
Did he know what was going on? Should he have known
what was going on?

An independent investigation, the full results of which are still secret from stakeholders, revealed ongoing public corruption and incompetence in Bernalillo County government. Were it a one time incident, one might argue that it is time to move on.

But it wasn't a one time incident. It appears to be another "that's the way things are done in New Mexico government; state, county, and municipal."

An impartial investigation needs to be conducted to determine who knew about, or should have known about, the problem and what they did to correct it.

Should the County Manager be held accountable for the culture of nepotism, cronyism, bribes and misconduct atop which he sits?

Should the investigation stop short of the top dog?

That seems to be the m.o. in cultures of corruption;
(only) "subordinate heads will roll."

Keep digging. Keep digging until you find someone in the chain of command who couldn't have known, who shouldn't have known, no matter how diligently s/he was doing her job.

Keep digging until we are left with someone we can actually
trust to cover our backs.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Colón's word not worth much apparently.

Lt Gov Candidate Brian Colón said, when asked to talk about the past; his and Lt Gov Diane Denish's relationship with the Richardson administration and its attendant public corruption and incompetence, said they weren't going to talk about the past. Instead, he said, they're going to focus on the future and the issues that are important to New Mexicans, link.

That's what he said. It's not what they're doing.

Instead, they're continuing to run the DA Susana Martinez plea bargains sex offenders ad.

Not only is the ad deliberately misleading, playing on voter's ignorance of the nuances of plea bargaining in the real world, but it proves their lack of interest in the real issues, focusing instead on more negative campaigning, not on the issues that are important to New Mexicans.

Maybe they will behave more honestly if we elect them.

Right, and maybe a pint of Häagen Dazs really does serve four.

Denish "demonstrates a stunning lack of understanding ..."

Lt Gov Diane Denish's campaign ad questions DA Susana Martinez' claim to be taking on the drug cartels operating in southern New Mexico.

In a comprehensive report by Heath Haussamen, link,
Martinez campaign spokesman Adam Deguire writes

“The fact that Diane Denish would even question that members of these cartels are operating in New Mexico’s largest border county, and therefore running into law enforcement in a myriad of cases ranging from misdemeanors to violent felonies, demonstrates a stunning lack of understanding about the situation taking place along the border ..."

I would have to ask, is it Denish's "lack of understanding"
which is stunning, or her willingness to deliberately mislead
voters
in order to get elected?

Bernalillo County's black eye gets blacker

The healing will not begin until the County comes clean.

We now know enough about the corruption and incompetence at the Metropolitan Assessment Treatment Services center, and in the Community Correction Program, both under the "watchful" eye of Bernalillo County Deputy Manager John Dantis, to know that something is wrong - very wrong.

County Manager Thaddeus Lucero's
decision to keep the full investigative report on the problems at M.A.T.S. secret from stakeholders, will only fuel speculation that he is trying to hide something(else).

That or to allow crony Dantis to burn some vacation days before he is finally relieved of his command.

There is no good and ethical reason that the full investigative report cannot be ethically redacted and released forthwith. It has been in Lucero's hands for nearly two weeks; since June 15th.

There is no reason to continue to refuse to release an ethically redacted version, except to hide something the public has a right to know; now.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Martinez steps up on independent reviews

Gubernatorial Candidate Susana Martinez stopped by Rep Janice Arnold-Jones' Saturday morning office hours yesterday.

She was happy to answer questions from the group.

I asked if she would support independent reviews of agencies of state government; allowing "efficiency experts" to come into state agencies and evaluate their effectiveness and efficiency and then report to the public record.

She said; "Absolutely".

It is rare, make that unheard of, for the good ol' boys to agree to independent audits of their conduct and competence; audits over which they have no control, no opportunity to spin or hide the results.

UNM Regents President Raymond Sanchez and President David Schmidly, for example, have no intention of allowing independent reviews of their administration of UNM.

APS School Board President Marty Esquivel and Supt Winston Brooks, for example, have no intention of allowing an independent review of their administration of the APS.

Governor Bill Richardson and Lt Gov Diane Denish, for example, have no intention of allowing any independent review of the effectiveness and efficiency of state governmental agencies.

Martinez has set herself apart.




photo Mark Bralley

Hart-Stebbins to Lucero, talk Dantis into "retiring" or we will find someone who can.

County Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins has little tolerance for criminal and ethical misconduct by County employees.

She is disappointed that County Manager Thaddeus Lucero has not taken care of business regarding the now thoroughly discredited and disgraced Deputy County Manager John Dantis.

The public's trust in County government, deeply damaged by the scandal, continues to erode while Dantis plans to burn up vacations days before he finally cleans out his desk

She said, if Lucero is not up to the task, the County Commission has the authority to replace him with someone who is.

For his part, Lucero said, he isn't going to answer any questions about Dantis' future.

A public servant who refuses to respond candidly, forthrightly, and honestly to legitimate questions about the public interests, has forfeited their right to our trust.

It is past time to get rid of Dantis and Lucero.




photo Mark Bralley

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Another APS $1M screw up

The "can't seem to get anything right" APS Financial Department has screwed up again, link, this time for spending 1.15 million dollars illegally.

Perhaps this is why APS CFO Dupuy Bateman is on paid leave until the end of his current contract and, for the full term of his next contract. APS Supt Winston Brooks won't tell stakeholders the truth about what is going on, link, so who knows?

All we know for sure is, APS has no intention of allowing independent auditors to come in and look at administrative standards and accountability; not in the Finance Department, and not in any other department. We are to "trust them" that they have things in order, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

That, and that the Journal has no intention of investigating and reporting upon the ongoing ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

Same old, same old.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dantis Investigation; executive summary

I was going to try to write a synopsis of the report, but that seems silly; it's only seven pages long, link.

The report was completed ten days ago, and was only released to the public today. It begins with a qualifier;

the summary "... does not provide all factual findings from the investigation ...".
Apparently, it is Bernalillo County Manager Thaddeus Lucero's intention to keep them secret from stakeholders, at least for several weeks. Whether the delay is justified is unclear, as Lucero said he intends to answer no more questions.

On the face of it, there is no good and ethical reason why an ethically redacted version of the entire report could not, and should not, be released immediately.

It seems apparent from the summary, that Deputy County Manager John Dantis should be fired, and not allowed to burn vacation days before "retiring", imho.

Brooks hiding the truth.

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks isn't saying why he sent APS CFO Dupay Batemen home on administrative leave; breaking the promise APS made to stakeholders; they wouldn't send people on administrative leave on vacation with nothing to do.

The exAPS CFO was part of APS' Financial Division when the Meyners auditors revealed their

  • lack of financially sound policies and procedures, and their
  • lack of accountability to such policies as their were, and their
  • lack of adequate record keeping.
... didn't have them then and never did before.

Likely millions of tax dollars have been lost or stolen. APS refuses to answer when asked if the Meyners Audit revealed criminal misconduct.

When APS Asst. Supt Michael Vigil was put on leave following his arrest for aggravated drunk driving, community outrage that he was being paid so much to sit at home and do nothing, prompted APS to promise they wouldn't do it again.

Then APS Police Chief Gil Lovato got in trouble, link. He was sent home on administrative leave for months until his contract expired. Because APS didn't fire him, he was deprived his day in court. Had that day in court happened, had the truth come out, "there won't be an APS senior administrator left standing", Lovato said at the time.

APS senior administrators, in the Lovato case, were involved in felony criminal misconduct. The misconduct was not investigated by any agency of law enforcement except the APS Police, an unaccredited, uncertificated, publicly funded private police force; a Praetorian Guard that has been "investigating" the case for three years, long enough for statutes of limitation to expire and, is yet to surrender even one shred of evidence to the District Attorney.

Now another APS senior administrator is cooling his heels on the taxpayers dime. Not only will he finish out his current contract while on leave, he is going to get to sign another contract good for another half year of doing nothing for the nearly $500 a day he pulls down; total cost to taxpayers, something north of $75K. For doing nothing.

The always kind to the leadership of the APS Journal, reports that Brooks will remain "quiet" on the details stakeholders own.

No shit!

Just like he, and the Journal, intend to remain quiet on APS' abandonment of the student standards of conduct, simply because Brooks, Esquivel, and the rest of the leadership of the APS, cannot summon the character and courage to step up to honest accountability as role models

Just like he, and the Journal, intend to remain quiet on the fraud in APS' Whistleblower program and the ongoing denial of due process for complaints filed thereunder.


photo Mark Bralley

Dantis will vacation before retiring.

According to the Journal this morning, link, John Dantis will likely burn up some vacation time, at $113K per year, before he retires (in lieu of being fired?).

County Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz said Thursday that he did not know when John Dantis' retirement will begin.

"I know he has some leave, and that would mean he'll want to exhaust that."
wtf?

In the same report;
County Manager Thaddeus Lucero "... will release at least an "executive summary" of the report, which presumably details the investigation ..."
The complete investigation is by any reasonable measure, a public record subject to surrender under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, subject to redaction.

The law on redaction is clear;
the Act requires the applicable records custodian to separate out the exempt information in a file or document before making the record available for inspection. The fact that a file may contain some information that may not be disclosed doesn't protect all the information from public disclosure.
The public has a right to see the entire document subject to ethical redaction, not just the "executive summary".

Hopefully, the NM FOG, link, will step up and express some outrage.

The buck stops where in public corruption?

There are chains of command in bureaucracies.

Within chains of command, the laws of physics seem to conflict;
shit rolls downhill, while responsibility flows uphill.
Gravity seems to favor the first. The second, while eminently
justifiable from a philosophical standpoint, disappears entirely
in the face of entrenched corruption; the little guys heads roll,
the heads of the folks who were supposed to be keeping them
out of trouble rarely do.

Take for example the current public corruption and incompetence scandal involving John Dantis, link. Heads will roll, some already have. But what about the person, who did not participate directly in the corruption, but who failed to prevent it?

Is part of the job of any politician or public servant to police the people over which they have direct supervision, or does
"I knew nothing" get them off the hook?

Isn't "I knew nothing", nonfeasance?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sloan makes out like a bandit.

Public Regulation Commissioner Carol Sloan was convicted of a felony on April 8, 2010.

She refused to resign from her office, forcing the State Supreme Court to bounce her; June 23, 2010.

At $90K per year, or about $250 a day, it works out to about
$18,500
"earned" in the interim.

Time to reexamine the issues of paid administrative leave and,
public servants staying on the clock after felony convictions.

Dantis quits.

The embattled Bernalillo County Administrator John Dantis has "retired".

The Journal reports, link, that Dantis has quit amid allegations he was part of a cover up of his son's misconduct as a county employee. If I remember correctly, Dantis the younger was also allowed to "resign" as opposed to being fired.

Apparently "three or four" employees have been disciplined following the scandal, including one who has actually been fired.

The County has promised to release more information, though so far has expressed no intention of releasing the full report from the investigation, an investigation for which tax payers footed the bill, link.

Same old, same old; we are to "trust them" that all the players received the consequences they have earned, never expecting to see the actual report.

APS in violation of the Open Meetings Act, again.

The language in the Act, link, is clear,

Draft minutes shall be prepared within ten working days after the meeting and shall be approved, amended or disapproved at the next meeting where a quorum is present.
If you look at the agenda for tomorrow's meeting, link, you will find that they intend to approve the minutes for the last meeting, 6/16/10, and the meeting before, 6/2/10.

They are violating the law.

Small potatoes of course, except that it is not the first time they have done this, nor will it be the last. If you care to sue them over it, the Modrall Law Firm will be grateful for the opportunity to bill taxpayers for hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in legal fees to screw with you in court, for as long as they possibly can.

This all happens, again and again and again, right under the nose of School Board President Marty Esquivel who bills himself as an "open government lawyer" and hopes to be Attorney General some day, link.

God help us.




photo Mark Bralley

You're an exempt, right?

It is a magic question. When asked of a certain class of state workers, those who can be fired for no reason, it ends their efforts to hold anyone above, or even around them, accountable for public corruption or incompetence.

It reminds them that the consequences for making waves in state government, is to be thrown out of the pool.

During the Public Forums at the Government Restructuring Task Force meetings, I have repeatedly suggested an anonymous survey of state workers, a survey in which they could point to the corruption and incompetence surrounding them without fear of retaliation.

I feel my pleas have fallen largely upon deaf ears.

The Task Force's efforts to address inefficiencies in state
government, including public corruption and incompetence,
will likely not include folding in state workers who by any reasonable measure, know more about those inefficiencies than anyone.

Why not? It could be as simple as wanting to hide the truth.
Once the cat is out of the bag, there is no putting it back.

Look what happened when the PRC surveyed its employees,
and the efforts to cover up the problems it exposed, link.

It looks as though those who are arguably responsible for the inefficiencies, will be the only ones asked to point them out. Need I actually point to the flaw in that logic?

The only response, on the record, on the subject of surveys came from Republican House Minority Whip Representative Keith Gardner who suggested that any such survey would just be exploited by state employees with an axe to grind.




The fact remains; state employees are afraid of retribution and retaliation. The recently passed Whistleblower protection law offers little comfort and encouragement to those who might want to expose corruption, but don't want to spend years suing to get their job back, link.

State Workers Union Steward Glen Carlberg also took the opportunity to step up at the Public Forum to point out that, while there are avenues to file complaints about public corruption, there are no such avenues to file complaints over incompetence.

How bad is the corruption and incompetence among state workers?

It is a fair question that will likely never be asked. And if asked,
will likely not be answered out of fear of retaliation.

I asked the question of a few state workers. My survey was small and unscientific. Responses ranged from two incompetent or corrupt state workers for every honest and competent worker, to two good ones for every bad one.
The average; half bad, half good.

There is no greater indicator of institutional ill health than,
employees who are afraid to point to problems for fear of
retaliation.

The conclusion; there needs to be a full scale scientific survey,
and there needs to be follow up on the results.

The sooner, the better.




photo Mark Bralley

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Colón wants to "look the other way" on Richardson connection.

Governor Bill Richardson himself, pointed to the need for Lt Gov Diane Denish to "separate herself from him", link, in order to win the election for Governor.

Denish's strategy apparently, is to simply pretend she wasn't there when the Richardson Denish administration did nothing to wage war on the culture of corruption in Santa Fe.

It appears that Lt Gubernatorial Candidate Brian Colón will adopt the same strategy; he will simply pretend he was never close enough to Richardson to catch his cooties, wikilink.
Watch the video at Capital Report New Mexico, link.

Rather than explain his failure to stand up to the rot in the Roundhouse, he will instead, "focus on the future"; a classic good ol' boy defense; "never mind the past, let's look to the future".

Colón agrees with Denish;

If people want to run against Bill Richardson,
they should have done it four years ago.
If that specious argument has a familiar ring to it, substitute "George Bush" for "Bill Richardson", and you will remember hearing it from Republicans when Denish, Colón, et al were trying to tie Republican candidates to the Bush administration.

Add hypocrisy to the Denish, Colón credits,
along with hiding from the truth.

"Denish distorts DA's record."

This one comes from Matt Reichback, NMI, link, who reports that FactCheck.Org, link, has determined that Lt Diane Denish has been running yet another misleading ad.

Misleading ads represent a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. If the difference between a lie and an honest mistake is intention, then misleading ads are lies.

How many lies do you get to tell before you are a liar?

Do we really want to elect another liar?

If we are to learn anything at all from history it is,
a politician who is willing to lie to get elected,
is willing to lie to stay elected, and
is willing to lie to get re-elected.

Now is the time to break the chain, before we elect another liar.

No more liars in the Roundhouse.

Is Denish ignorant about the concept of plea bargaining?

Or is she trying to deliberately mislead voters? link

What difference would it make?

Which does not disqualify her to be Governor?

"Shouldn’t the burden be on campaigns to back up their attacks with facts?"

The not so rhetorical as it sounds question, is asked by blogger Haussamen, link, who continues to walk point, wikilink, in the NM political blogosphere on the subject of reform in political campaigns.

The appearance of impropriety, conflict of interest

In the Journal this morning, a report, link, on the hiring of an individual with apparently questionable relevant experience, but lots of political juice.

Whether or not it was the juice that lubed the rails in his appointment, the appearance of impropriety exists, and does damage; faith is shaken in the process.

In New Mexico, statewide and locally, there is a widespread belief that government jobs are allocated according to who you know, not what you know.

All else equal, the appointment of someone with political ties and no, or questionable, qualifications should be avoided, both as a matter of pragmatism and principle.

Brooks continues attack on Charter Schools

APS Supt Winston Brooks continued his attack on Charter Schools Monday when he asked the Government Restructuring Task Force to recommend a moratorium on the creation of any new Charter Schools.

Brooks loathing for the Charters is no secret, link.

The math is straightforward; the more successful Charter Schools are, the more incompetent APS looks in comparison, and there are some hugely successful Charters.

Brooks professes concern over the cost of housing of the Charter Schools. At the same time, he is yet to explain the disconnect between APS' intention to pay $11.3M to buy a facility for a Performing Arts Charter, while at the same time looking at closing Del Norte High School for lack of enrollment.




photo Mark Bralley

Dantis investigation to be kept secret.

When I read that the investigation into corruption under Deputy County Manager John Dantis was going to be conducted by "a private law firm" and not by some firm that specializes in investigations, the first thought that popped into my mind was, it was a dodge that would provide an excuse to hide the report from the public; it would be called "work product" or some such, and therefore enjoy some "legal" exception from the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. OK, color me cynical.

Sure enough, the Journal reports this morning, link, that

"(County Manager Thaddeus) Lucero would not provide a copy of the law firm's report but said he plans to release the findings and detail disciplinary actions against MATS supervisors later this week." (emphasis added)
Once again, the details of the public service of public servanta are secret from the public.

It is time re-examine the issue of transparency in government.

There is no government of the people, by the people, and for the people, that is also secret from the people.

The Government Restructuring Task Force, link, will be forming a transparency subcommittee at their next meeting, July 29, 2010. Perhaps if a few people show some interest, we can end
government; secret from the people.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Denish lays plan on the table, Yates pooh poohs it.

Lt Gov and Gubernatorial Candidate Diane Denish laid a plan on the table to make New Mexico's work force competitive, link.

NM Republican Party Chairman Harvey Yates called the plan; "too little, too late."

Apparently he was unable to offer any substantive argument against the plan.

Score "1" for Denish.

New Whisleblower law to be tested.

It is difficult to imagine a more important question to ask in any oligarchy than;

Do you feel safe in reporting corruption and incompetence?
State employees, when asked that question, are likely to report that they do not feel safe. That fear of retribution and retaliation protects the corrupt and incompetent from the consequences of their corruption and incompetence. It enables the culture of corruption and incompetence to endure.

The NM Watchdog reports, link, on a former employee of the Public Regulation Commission who says he was fired for blowing the whistle on misconduct in the agency destined to become the poster child for public corruption and incompetence in NM state government.

The end of public corruption will follow the end of retribution and retaliation against those who report it.

A recent audit of the Albuquerque Public Schools revealed a culture of fear of retribution and retaliation against whistle blowers. The leadership of the APS is yet to address the problem; their whistle blower protection policy is near worthless, their system for reporting administrative misconduct is nothing more than a forwarding mailbox that sends complaints right back into the administration against whom the complaints are filed.

APS' Audit Committee, chaired by board member David Robbins, steadfastly refused to review whistle blower complaints though their review is specifically and explicitly required by APS School Board Policy.

The only defense offered by Robbins; "(our refusal to follow board policy requiring review and approval of whistle blower complaints) does not violate federal law".

There is no venue in which a complaint can be filed against corrupt and incompetent school board members.




photo Mark Bralley

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eichenberg promises transparency subcommittee.

Those who have been fighting for transparency in state government will have a time, a day, and a place to stand up for what they believe in.

The Government Restructuring Task Force is scheduled to meet again on July 29th and 30th. Task Force Chairman, Senator Tim Eichenberg, link, has promised to put on the agenda, the creation of a subcommittee whose task will be to make recommendations on restructuring state government with respect to transparency. A half hour will be set aside to solicit members from the Task Force who are willing to serve on the subcommittee.

I have long considered transparency to be the fundamental issue in any real reform.

What other reform amounts to a hill of beans in the absence of real transparency in its creation and implementation?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Denish protecting state workers jobs?

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFSCME, has sent an email to state employees. The email was apparently forwarded by Department of Health employees. The Journal reports, link,

"In an e-mail sent to state employees, an AFSCME political coordinator, Josh Anderson, wrote that Republican governor candidate Susana Martinez would lay off 5,000 state employees — read: union members — if elected."
Susana Martinez has not expressed any such intention.

It is of no small concern that state employees used state resources to influence an election. Republican Party of New Mexico spokeswoman Janel Causey said;
"It is completely inappropriate to use taxpayer resources to perpetuate a special-interest scare tactic."
The implications of the AFSMCE argument are interesting. I would suppose that AFSMCE expects that Lt Gov Diane Denish, if elected, will protect the state workers jobs that Martinez allegedly threatens.

The real question of course is, should state workers jobs be protected even if they are unnecessary to fulfill the legitimate missions of state government?

In an election campaign where issues are trumped by negative ads, an issue has emerged upon which candidates can be compared and contrasted.

One candidate would be expected to eliminate at least the unnecessary jobs while the other would enjoy AFSMCE support based on the promise to protect state workers jobs whether necessary or not.

One serves the interests of all New Mexicans, the other the interests of those state workers holding unjustifiable or unnecessary jobs in state government, and who would like to see their employment continue.

Restructuring Task Force to discuss education

The Government Restructuring Task Force will spend two days studying public education and listening to reform proposals.

The budget for public education amounts to a full half of the state budget.

They will meet in Room 307 in the Roundhouse Monday 10:00 - 4:30, and Tuesday 8:30 - 3:00. Agenda, link.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of attention and attendance.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Denish spends 71,050 tax dollars; nothing to show for it.

Lt Governor Diane Denish is spending $71,050 a year to employ a "scheduler". When asked to surrender the schedules we paid $71,050 for, she says there are none, link, link.

Where else but in the Richardson/Denish Roundhouse, would a scheduler be paid, even though they never created a schedule?

The question is not entirely rhetorical.

Violent criminals back on the street; is Darren White responsible?

According to the Journal, link, nearly 1 of 10 of the criminals who have been let out of jail under the Community Custody Program, have gone missing. According to Metropolitan Detention Center Capt. Heather Lough, that is not "abnormal".

The Journal reports; though warrants are supposed to be issued when released criminals go AWOL, apparently some have not. The effect is when police officers confront these folks out on the streets, they might be letting them go for lack of a warrant to arrest them. The community is less safe as a result of the failures.

The program, which replaces jail bars with ankle bracelets and promises, is not supposed to allow violent criminals back on the streets, but does, including a convicted rapist.

Judge Albert S. "Pat" Murdoch defended CCP this week, saying:

"As far as we're concerned, the program is working fine."
though it is unclear who "we" are; the rest of the Judges voted to suspend the program, at least temporarily.

The story is not without its amusing aspects. Vincent Peele, who sits on a committee that decides who gets a bracelet and who stays in jail, is charged with accepting bribes in order to gain releases. Through his attorney, Lisa Torraco, he said;
"The community needs to know and be assured that no one got out of jail and onto CCP without approval from (his) committee ..."
Well yeah, that's the kind of the problem in a nutshell, isn't it?

So what role does Public Safety Director Darren White play in all of this?

White is the butt of a long standing joke that goes like this;

Q. Where is the most dangerous patch of ground in Albuquerque?
A. ... between Darren White and a TV camera.


Darren White seems to be in the TV news on a daily basis.

We pay TJ Wilhelm a good salary as a Public Information Officer for the Public Safety Department. He used to be a crime beat reporter for the Journal, and now spins the truth for the other side.

You see him most frequently, standing behind Darren White, watching, as his boss basks in the limelight.

So the question is this, if instead of searching for TV crews and cameras, White was sitting at his desk, searching for corruption, incompetence, and the practices that enable them among his subordinates, would we now have violent criminals buying get out of jail cards from one of them?

Does the buck stop on White's desk, or not?

And if not, then where? Who is the highest ranking public servant with responsibility for making sure that criminals are not set free for no good reason?




photos Mark Bralley

Friday, June 18, 2010

Heads should roll, but they won't.

Our government has just spent $800M of our tax dollars
"securing" the border; roughly $15M per mile, link.

The border is still insecure.

For less than$2M per mile, we could have had a brand new
Undivided 2 Lane Rural Road with 5' Paved Shoulders ($1,713,007.35
), link.

I'm pretty sure we've been screwed.

I'm pretty sure we will be screwed again.

And again, and again, and again, ...
until we are willing to fight for control over our power and
our resources; beginning with a battle over transparency.

The next battle will be fought Monday next, in Room 307,
in the Roundhouse.

Likely, no one will show up.

Which is why we can expect to be screwed again.

And again, and again, and again, ...

Bullies cannot be appeased, as a matter of principle.

When a bully is appeased, s/he will continue to bully.

While one person might have the strength and conviction
to choose to turn the other cheek, the bully's next victim
may not turn the other cheek by choice.

People who cannot defend themselves against evil,
deserve the support of those who can.

"Qui tacet consentiret." Silence gives consent.

Bullies cannot be appeased, as a matter of principle.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Richardson sez "(Denish) is going to have to separate herself from me."

Governor Bill Richardson,
in an interview for Stateline.org,
link, joined the chorus of
those pointing to the need for
Lt Governor Diane Denish
explain her relationship
to one of the shadiest
administrations in memory.




Did Denish have guilty knowledge of the corruption swirling around her?

The words complicit or complacent have been suggested.
They resonate in the vacuum of a contradictory response
from Denish.

Denish is yet to explain, defend, deny, or even acknowledge
her failure to declare war on public corruption in Santa Fe.

Did she know about the scale of the public corruption and incompetence in Santa Fe?

If Denish didn't know, why won't she admit it and explain why she did not? What has changed that she will be able to ferret out corruption and incompetence now, that she could not before?

If Denish did know, why won't she admit it and explain why she did not blow the whistle on the squandering of our trust and treasure? What has changed that she would now be willing to protect the public interests now, that she would not before?

Instead, she stonewalls the issue because,
the only defense of an indefensible position is to hide it.

Lt Gov Diane Denish;
complicit in, or complacent about,
the Rot in the Roundhouse.

If not complicit or complacent,
then what,

... exactly?





photos Mark Bralley

Graduation rates increasing? or smoke and mirrors?

State and local (APS) graduation rates are increasing, link.
Or are they?

Recent changes in the manner in which graduation rates are calculated, raise the rates independently of any actual change in graduation rates.

Take for example, the APS. They have decided to drop from their cohort (the group of kids who start the 9th grade together and who are then tracked through graduation), those students who fail the 9th grade on their first attempt, link.

By dropping from the cohort, the students least likely to graduate, the graduation rate statistic is improved though nothing has really changed.

The NM Public Education Department is using a similar mathematical machination to improve graduation rates statewide; they have decided to adopt a five year cohort in order to include students who graduate in five years instead of four. Again, the graduation rates they report go up, when in fact, actual graduation rates could have actually gone down.

Whether these approaches are appropriate is debatable. A number of students need an extra year to graduate due to circumstances far beyond their control, so that approach seems at least reasonable. However, if NM gives students five years while other states afford them four years, comparisons state to state lose validity. Comparison becomes meaningless, truly apples and oranges, though that hasn't stopped them from continuing to point to "improving" comparison statistics anyway.

APS' decision to drop the least likely to graduate from their cohort is considerably less justifiable. It appears to be nothing more than an effort to hoodwink stakeholders into believing that they are doing a better job of meeting student needs, when in fact, they are not.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

There is a correlation between public corruption and transparency.

The correlation is inverse and causal; the more you have of the one, the less you have of the other. As transparency increases, corruption decreases.

If there is enough transparency there will be no corruption.

It can be made impossibly difficult to hide public corruption and incompetence.

Whatever else we do in order to end the culture of corruption in state government, the one thing we must do is to deny the corrupt and the incompetence the opportunity to hide their corruption and incompetence.

Perhaps the Governmental Restructuring Task Force could appoint a sub-committee on transparency.

Though they have that authority, link,
there is no indication that they have that intention.

So far.

The next meetings are June 21st and 22nd, link.

The battle ground against the culture of corruption is
the issue of transparency.

If we lose that battle, not one of the rest will make
one wit of difference.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

APS to give TIG a contract worth $50M

The APS School Board will vote Wednesday night to let a contract potentially worth $50M over four years. The contract provides for; "Desktops, Laptops, Servers, and Services on Demand", NTE $50M.

There was a competition for the contract;
long time APS favorite TIG, link, won, link.

The APS TIG relationship does not come without baggage. link.

At one point it drew the attention of KRQE and Larry Barker, link.

Mark Bralley dug deeper, link.

Information about competing bids is being kept secret, link.

The APS TIG relationship dates to a time when an independent audit revealed that the APS Finance Division

  • lacked financially sound policies and procedures, and
  • lacked adequate accountability to such policies and procedures as there were, and
  • lacked adequate record keeping.
This at a time when APS senior administrators were spending more than $50K at a whack "without involving purchasing", link.

Likely, millions of tax dollars were lost or stolen.


School Board President Marty Esquivel (l) and Superintendent Winston Brooks (r) steadfastly refuse to allow an independent review of APS' standards and accountability.



The Albuquerque Journal steadfastly refuses to investigate and report upon the ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS.

Whew!

Update; looks like TIG will get a different contract for $13M worth of "whiteboards" as well, link, though I could not find in any of the references offered, where they actually admit that TIG is the vendor, link.




photos Mark Bralley

Denish owes voters an explanation.

Does Lt Gov Diane Denish
intend to run for Governor
without ever sitting down and
discussing her relationship to
the culture of corruption and
incompetence in Santa Fe?

Are we to pretend it doesn't exist,
or simply that it doesn't make any
difference whether it exists or not?

There are those, I among them,
who believe "complicit or complacent" applies in her relationship to the rot in the Roundhouse.

The Denishers, heretofore, have not offered another term.

When the discussion comes around to Denish's accountability in the atmosphere in state government, the discussion ends; abruptly and usually in company of an attack on the person who brought it up.

Does she seriously expect to conduct her entire campaign without ever coming clean, without ever talking about this issue candidly, forthrightly and honestly?

And if she does, why will we let her get away with it?

Why are politics in New Mexico so dysfunctional?

Why can't we change them?

Why won't we change them?




photo Mark Bralley

Scaratino taking flak

Jim Scarantino is taking more flak from the left leaning bloggers, link, and link; a situation from which he should draw some satisfaction. After all, if your taking flak, it means you're over your target.

Scarantino is rarely taken to task on the facts. Normally, his detractors rely almost exclusively on name calling; "mouthy mouthpiece, blatant partisan, an industry-funded, partisan hack, ..."

If any one of them had an real interest in discrediting Scarantino, the most effective path would be to point to factual inaccuracies, not his credentials, his financial backing, or his personal political history.

In their latest anti-Scarantino rant, Democracy for New Mexico, points to the "smeary antics" of the Rio Grande Foundation, while at the same time hosting one of the most narrow minded, hate filled and bigoted backsides in NM's blogosphere.

Their hypocrisy is bone-crushing.




photo Mark Bralley

Monday, June 14, 2010

"We want to prevent this from happening again."

Another public servant has betrayed our trust; bribes have been solicited and accepted (allegedly) KOB TV, link.

An assurance has been offered by Acting Bernalillo County Manager Julie Baca. She said;

Obviously we want to prevent this from ever happening again ...
Obviously, we would rather that "they" would have prevented it from happening at all.

Baca's assurance is based on the premise that "they" have the skills and determination necessary to prevent a recurrence.

Which begs a question; if they have those skills and determination today, why didn't they have them yesterday?
If they can prevent the next instance of public corruption,
why didn't they prevent the last?

That is why we elected them, that is why we hired them.

It isn't enough that they prevent the next betrayal of our trust, they should have prevented this one. "They" must be held accountable for failing to prevent his one. The horse has left the barn; it is too late to close the door.

Look for an "investigation" that stops short of investigating those whose responsibility it was, to prevent public corruption and incompetence in the Community Custody Program. Look for an investigation that falls short of naming the highest ranking politicians and public servants who should have prevented this corruption and did not.

Whatever happened to the "investigation" into the corruption under John Dantis, link. Where are the results; will there be a candid, forthright and honest public disclosure?

What is a "negative ad"?

Heath Haussamen has picked side on the issue of negative campaigning, link. To date no one on the backside has wondered; what is negative campaigning?

There is no comprehensive answer. The more people you ask,
the more opinions you will get, much like the word, ethical.

I once argued that we should not even try to compile a comprehensive definition of the word ethical; that we should satisfy ourselves instead with agreeing upon the most important few.

The most important ethic of course, is truthtelling.

The most important aspect of campaigning must also be truthtelling. Whatever else might constitute negative campaigning, any campaign ad that is untruthful is negative.

What is "truthful"? There is a mindset who will rush immediately to "the law" in order to define the term. It is precisely the wrong direction to look. The law is the lowest standard of conduct acceptable among civilized human beings, and not nearly a high enough standard to protect the public interests in government and politics.

In defining truthful, as reasonable a place to begin as any is
the standard we set for our children, link. It reads;

(Truthtelling) precludes all acts, including half-truths, out-of-context statements, and even silence, that are intended to create beliefs or leave impressions that are untrue or misleading. (emphasis added)
We are going to have to look to our guts in defining truthtelling. If in our guts, in our consciences, we feel that an ad or a campaign is manipulative; then we must follow our gut. We must act upon it.

We must hold accountable, those who have attempt to mislead us.

There an inexorable correlation between the honesty of a campaign ad and the honesty of the candidate who runs it.

Someone else first wrote; the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

If candidate will deliberately mislead you in order to get elected, why would you be surprised they would deliberately mislead you after they are elected?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Denish will continue the nastiness.

Susana Martinez offered Diane Denish a truce on negative campaigning. Denish declined, link.

There doesn't seem to be much doubt among the "experts" that negative campaigning "works". By "works" they mean the candidate who uses it, is more likely to win.

There is even less doubt, that there is no legitimate agenda served by negative campaigning. Nor that the overwhelming majority of voters would ban them if they could.

How can Denish pretend any respect for voters at all, while announcing her intention to continue to bombard them with negative campaign commercials against their expressed wishes?

I stand corrected;

It has been pointed out to me that the previous paragraph is not fair; Denish did not express any intention to continue to run negative ads, rather, she declined to promise to stop running them. There is a difference; the criticism is fair, and I would like to take this opportunity to point to my error, and correct it.

According to the model of Democracy, the candidate's job is to explain issues to voters in order that they know the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That, in the hope that voters will conclude from the truth that, the public best interests are served by electing that candidate.

As an example; Susana Martinez' job is to explain to voters, using the truth (at least as she believes it) about the advantages of capital punishment and then electing her as a supporter. Diane Denish's job is to explain to voters, why capital punishment is not in the public best interests, and why it makes sense to elect her as its opponent.

Rather, because she has millions to spend on negative ads,
she will endeavor to win by that route instead.

Anything a candidate says instead of the truth, in order to
get elected, is a perversion of Democracy, and not only
should we disallow it, we should hold them accountable for it,
by denying them our votes.

If we cannot make it clear to candidates that,
the terms of public servitude are the prerogative of the public and not of the public servant,
then the terms of politics and public service are not the our prerogative at all.

And, they never will be.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rooting out public corruption and incompetence, or not.

The Journal reports on the public corruption and incompetence in River City's maintenance yard, link. Mayor Richard Berry's response is to "... instruct all department heads to review their purchasing procedures ..."

Yeah, that should work; have them review their own procedures to see if they can find any evidence of their own corruption or incompetence that they would like to expose.

In other words, same old, same old.

State Auditor Hector Balderas has said that, on the state level, if he was given one percent of the budget to hire the staff he needs, he could audit corruption and incompetence nearly out of existence; a net savings to taxpayers of 2-4% of the overall budget. The legislature won't give him what he needs because they really don't want actually put an end to the lack of honest accountability for public corruption and incompetence.

If there is some other good and ethical reason for the legislature to perpetually underfund oversight, someone please share it.

City government has no interest in proactive forensic auditing either, though there is no reason to believe that the city would not enjoy savings similar to those Balderas promises for the state.

If Mayor Richard Berry really wanted to put an end to public corruption and incompetence in city government, he would make them impossibly difficult to hide; he would order proactive forensic audits of every department as a matter of course.

The Albuquerque Public Schools follow suit. The leadership of the APS steadfastly refuses to allow an independent review of their executive and administrative standards of conduct and competence. They too, have a different priority than actually ending any public corruption and incompetence in the administration or on the school board. If they did, they would begin independent reviews rather than relying on administrators and board members to simply confess their incompetence and/or corruption.

Spend 1% of the budget on aggressive forensic auditing of the spending of tax dollars; save 2-4%.

Seems like a no brainer.

So what am I missing?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Public interests unprotected

Three stories illustrate the point;

  • E-Mails Show Bosses Covered for Dantis, link,
  • Driven by Greed, link, and
  • Audit:Waiver Program Wasteful, link.
The first, and perhaps the most, legitimate use of power is
to ensure that the power cannot be abused, ever, by anyone.

Our power and resources have yet to be employed in their own protection. Nowhere in the system, is there a place where a legitimate complaint over the abuse of power, is guaranteed due process. It is not at all uncommon to see our own power and resources being used against our interests. How many millions of tax dollars are we spending to defend those who stole our resources, from the consequences of their thievery?

Inescapable accountability to unequivocal and meaningful standards of conduct and competence for politicians and public employees, would offer all of the protection our power and resource will ever have. Yet, nowhere in our history, have our politicians and public servants ever subjected themselves and their public service to honest accountability.

The most fundamental aspect of accountability is transparency. Without transparency (limited only by due process), there cannot be accountability.

The Governmental Restructuring Task Force is meeting again this month; link.

It is absurd to me, to contemplate "restructuring government" without examining standards and accountability. So far, transparent accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence for politicians and public servants, is not even on the table.

And for as long as it is not on table, we will be treated to daily headlines on public corruption and incompetence.

Someone else first wrote;
"you get the government you deserve."
Au contraire, we deserve government that is transparently
accountable to us. That we will not stand up and fight for it,
is the reason we don't have it; not that we don't "deserve" it.

It is not that we don't deserve an open and honest discussion of transparency, standards, and accountability, as part of the political discourse preceding the election of our new governor, it is that we are content to listen instead to, wall to wall negative campaign ads, and then vote, or not vote, accordingly.

To date; neither Susana Martinez nor Diane Denish has said a word about the Governmental Restructuring Task Force or about, transparent accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence within politics and public service.

If we are ever to have the government we "deserve", perhaps
we need to insist that they do.

The terms of public service are the prerogative of the public.
Fundamental among those terms; public servants are
accountable to the public, and to meaningful standards of
conduct and competence, at least for the eight measly hours
a day that we have to "trust" them with the control over
our power and our resources.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

APS Senior Administrators on paid leave, "deja vus all over again"

A few years ago, an APS senior administrator, Michael Vigil, APS Assoc Supt, was arrested for aggravated DUI. He was put on paid leave. There was such a public outrage, that he was sitting at home doing nothing for his huge paycheck, APS said they would never send anyone home with nothing to do but collect their check.

Later, another senior administrator, Gilbert Lovato, Chief of the APS Police Department, collected a half a year of salary while on paid leave and doing nothing.

Now, another senior administrator, Dupuy Bateman, CFO, is on paid leave waiting for his contract to expire.

These are only the ones I know about; it is anyone's guess
how many others there are.

The advantage to APS is that if they just put these guys on leave until their contract runs out, they never have to go to court and have the problems made public. When Gil Lovato was being "fired", he said

if the truth ever came out in court, there wouldn't be
a single APS senior administrator left standing.
If APS senior administrators have done something wrong;
why are we paying them to sit at home doing nothing?

If APS senior administrators have not done something wrong;
why are we paying them to sit at home doing nothing?

The common thread; in either case, the truth about the
ethics and accountability scandal in the leadership of the APS, never gets told.

The Denish Investigation; a "Big Lie"?

A "Big Lie" according to Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, is, link;

a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that
someone "could have the impudence to distort the
truth so infamously."
Lt Gov and Gubernatorial Candidate Diane Denish
has a problem; she is inexorably linked to an administration
renown for corruption and incompetence.


She cannot explain why she never stood up and fought against the culture of corruption in Santa Fe. (With one or two exceptions, link) But, showing up for a fight or two is not the same as showing up for the war; its not even the same really, as picking a side.

In order to counter that perception; she is creating, via her TV spot, link, a Big Lie; not only has she fought against corruption, but she was integral in the investigation of the scandal in the Housing Authority.

She was not of course, and Jim Scarantino has written a compelling post, link, about the legal problem that Denish created by claiming to have done an investigation. The problem, there are no records of her investigation.

It would appear that Denish needs to explain why her investigation didn't produce a single public record, and why she didn't surrender the results of her investigation to the NMAG.

That or admit that her ad was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters.

Whether that admission would hurt her in her run for the position of the highest trust in state government, is subject to conjecture. Voters, apparently, have no real objection to being deceived as long as their Party's candidate wins.




photo Mark Bralley