Santa Fe – Governor Martinez’s Christmas Parties are now legendary.
Her post-party 911 call to Santa Fe Police drew national attention after she used the occasion to demand the names of anyone who complained about the rowdy post-gala pizza party she attended in an upscale Santa Fe hotel.
It also didn’t help that she told police to go away instead of investigating.
State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez noted that anyone else would likely have gone to jail for that action alone:
— NM Senate Democrats (@NMSenateDems) December 23, 2015
After the fact, we learn that the governor’s office paid for the big Christmas blowout was paid for by taxpayers at a cost of more than $7,900.
What was wrong with the office potluck?
It was paid for from a taxpayer-funded account given to all governors to host state events and visiting dignitaries, but there is no oversight over the fund itself.
That lack of oversight prompted Democratic Majority Leader Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) to propose new ethics legislation that would provide just that.
From the Albuquerque Journal:
Egolf had asked Martinez in his Tuesday letter to allow consideration of four separate ethics bills, all proposed by Democratic lawmakers. The shorter, 30-day legislative sessions are typically limited to budgetary matters, though governors can OK additional topics.
One of the four bills cited by Egolf – it has not been filed – would require more transparency in the management of a gubernatorial fund that historically has been used to pay for dinners and receptions.
“While it is entirely appropriate that the Legislature make available to governors funds to perform their official duties, such as receiving guests and maintaining the (governor’s) residence, it is entirely inappropriate that these public monies are free from public oversight or accountability,” Egolf wrote in his letter to Martinez.
The governor’s contingency fund drew attention after Martinez hosted a recent holiday party – with a roughly $7,900 tab – that ended with Santa Fe police responding to a rowdy party and the governor pressing police dispatchers to tell her who had filed the noise complaint.
Money from the fund – currently about $80,000 annually – is appropriated by the Legislature and is treated as personal income for governors, meaning they must report it on state and federal tax forms and offset the income with expenses to avoid tax liability. Expenditures from the fund are not currently subject to audit.
Other ethics-related bills proposed by Democratic lawmakers for the coming session include a new attempt to create an independent ethics commission and a proposal aimed at ensuring that elected officials convicted of felonies lose their pensions.
Those proposals were prompted by the Duran case, in which the former GOP secretary of state resigned from office in October and pleaded guilty to criminal charges she used campaign contributions to pay for a gambling habit.
Because it is a 30-day session, the governor herself must authorize non-budget legislation before it can he heard. No word, yet, on whether the governor will open the door to legislative snooping into her private party fund – but don’t hold your breath.