I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
A worse-than-usual press day for the governor
Gov. Bill Richardson promised to cut the positions of 59 political appointees across state government last year. But so far Richardson has repeatedly refused to turn over to the media a list of those who lost their jobs.
But Colleen Heild of the Albuquerque Journal may have identified one of the “exempt” employees – political appointees — who lost her job: Janice Spence.
Heild tells us that Spence was the only exempt employee at the Department of Cultural Affairs in January. But within two weeks, Spence landed a classified job at the same agency. She took a $33,000 pay cut, but she gained security. An exempt employee serves at the pleasure of the governor. But a classified employee has protections of the state personnel system. One of those protections: they can’t get fired without cause.
State officials refused to say whether Spence was one of the 59 exempt employees who lost their jobs last month. But the timing of events gives one pause.
Here’s an excerpt from Heild’s story:
Cultural Affairs spokesman Doug Svetnicka wouldn’t say Tuesday whether Spence was one of the 59 exempt or appointed employees whose jobs were to be eliminated effective Jan. 8.
His office did produce a personnel action form, in response to a Journal records request, that shows Spence’s exempt job as special assistant to Ashman was to be discontinued Jan. 9 — the day after the effective date for layoffs announced by Richardson’s office.
“I’m not going to say that she’s one of the 59. I’ll let that document speak for itself,” Svetnicka said.
So far the Richardson administration so far has said it does not have a list of the 59 appointees who were let go despite being asked by numerous media outlets.
That means that names of those let go likely will continue to dribble out over the next several months, and I’m betting there will be similar revelations for some of those employees: once a political appointee, they’re now in a classified position.
That will create a drumbeat of bad press for the governor.
KRQE investigative reporter Larry Barker, meanwhile, took a swipe at the governor today, quoting unidentified sources as saying the Richardson administration puts “inexperienced appointees” into agencies and pays them big bucks.
Barker also quoted Senators John Ryan and John Arthur Smith as saying the practice hurts state agencies.
Among the appointees Barker profiles is former Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley, who makes $95,000. He is head of media relations for the New Mexico Film Office.