Federal judge: Hold Martinez anti-poverty chief in contempt for failing to help poor, hungry

Print More
  • Staff “pled the 5th” almost 100 times to protect themselves from criminal prosecution
  • Federal judge recommends Gov’s top anti-poverty chief be held in contempt of court
  • Hundreds of neediest go without food stamps because staff doctored applications to deny them
  • Gov’s Human Services Dept. missed deadline to investigate and solve problem on their own
  • “Gov. [Susana] Martinez and her administration are completely out of touch with what is going on at the kitchen tables in New Mexico”

More than a month after a parade staffers from the state’s agency responsible for helping the poor and hungry “pled the 5th” almost 100 times in Federal court, a federal magistrate judge recommends that the governor’s top anti-poverty appointee be held in contempt of court for failing to follow court orders to stop improperly denying aid to poor and hungry residents of the state.

A Federal magistrate judge hearing claims that the state’s Human Services Department staff doctored emergency food stamp applications to illegally deny the state’s poorest residents aid had enough on Monday and recommended that a Federal District Judge hold the Secretary Brent Earnest in contempt of court and appoint a federal monitor to oversee the department.

“It is apparent that HSD and its officials have not exhibited the leadership, oversight, or coordination necessary to implement the Court Orders,” Magistrate Carmen Garza wrote in her opinion Monday.

The state’s problems administering aid to the poor in one of the country’s most impoverished states is well documented, but a sharp escalation in tactics to turn away the needy in recent years apparently prompted the NM Center for Law & Poverty to seek court intervention earlier this year.

The NM Political Report explains:

“While adding fake assets may go back years, even decades, Center on Law and Poverty attorney Sovereign Hager insists that the evidence points to HSD really institutionalizing the practice among its department within the past three years.

According to data from the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers SNAP, New Mexico wrongly disqualified 1.8 percent of its emergency, or expedited SNAP applications in 2013. By the next year, that rate of error jumped to 9.8 percent, exceeding the national error average of 6.5 percent.”

From the New Mexico Political Report: