March 19, 2015

Video: ‘Dirty Politics?” Video shows staffer scavenging through trash of legislators, governor; Staff says it has happened before

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A video making the rounds at the legislature appears to show a staffer for the House Chief Clerk’s Office rummaging through the trash of legislators and other state officials at the Roundhouse.

And it is reigniting concerns about the Republican-controlled House Clerk’s Office playing partisan politics in the final days of the legislative session.

Judy Goldbogen is one of the few full-time employees of the House of Representatives. She was captured on tape Wednesday directing legislative staff to remove bags of trash from a collection truck while she cut open and read and appeared to keep papers taken from several bags.

She even came prepared with her own gloves and scissors for the job.

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The trash comes not just from the public areas of the Roundhouse, but also from the private offices of representatives, senators and even the governor.

Maintenance staff asked about the incident later on Wednesday identified Goldbogen saying “she works for the Chief Clerk of the House” and “this is like the third time this session she has done that.”

We shared pictures from the video with Goldbogen on Thursday morning.  After initially saying she did not remember the incident, she stated that she was looking for jewelry she had lost.

No word on what Goldbogen actually took from the trash and who ordered her to do such a thing.

Accusations of Partisan Politics from the Clerk’s Office

Goldbogen’s actions come on the heels of revelations that the newly appointed Chief Clerk of the House, Denise Ramonas, may have purposefully held a lobbyist disclosure bill in her desk to delay its passage in the Senate. Though Ramonas told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the delay was due to typographical errors by her staff, staff told legislators that there were no errors and the bill was simply hidden in her desk.

That bill would have required lobbyists to disclose more about the issues and bills they are hired to support. Ramonas was a lobbyist without any legislative experience when new Republican leadership tapped her to to lead the House office responsible for managing bills and keeping records.

Goldbogen works for Ramonas and is rumored to be in line to be named Ramonas’ deputy after the legislative session ends.

Is trash private? (yes)

Whether it is for an innocent purpose, or some more political purpose, Goldbogen may be surprised to learn that the State Supreme Court prohibits the search of personal trash by government officials without a warrant.  From the Supreme Court (See State v. Crane):

Scrutiny of another’s trash is contrary to commonly accepted notions of civilized behavior….

The contents of a person’s garbage are evidence of his most private traits and intimate affairs. A search of one’s garbage can reveal eating, reading, and recreational habits; sexual and personal hygiene practices; information about one’s health, finances, and professional status; details regarding political preferences and romantic and other personal relationships; and a person’s own private thoughts, activities, beliefs, and associations. [A]lmost every human activity ultimately manifests itself in waste products[,] and ․ any individual may understandably wish to maintain the confidentiality of his refuse.

Several municipalities also prohibit persons from rummaging through the trash of another. Santa Fe City Ordinance 24-4.1 also prohibits “scavenging” through garbage, though it is not clear if this would apply on Roundhouse property.

No matter why this legislative staffer is rummaging through the garbage of others, representatives, senators and the governor should all be alarmed that staff overseen by the new Republican leadership are doing just that.

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