ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Hundreds of state employees defrauded taxpayers on Election Day in 2010 to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, according to a KRQE News 13 investigation.
“There will be consequences,” said Gene Moser, New Mexico State Personnel Office Director. “If they don’t vote when they took the time, they will be held accountable.”
New Mexico law requires employers – no matter if it’s the government or the private sector – to grant employees up to two hours leave to go and cast a ballot on Election Day.
News 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker first looked into the issue by focusing on the Public Employees Retirement Association office.
Our investigation discovered a female staffer who took off two hours to vote in the 2010 primary election and another two hours to vote in the general election. However, records show that not only did she not vote in either of those elections, she hasn’t voted in the last four years.
(Check a person's voting history on the Secretary of State's VoterView website--birth date required.)
Another PERA employee, left work two hours early to cast his ballot in the 2010 primary, but he wasn’t even registered to vote, according to records reviewed by News 13.
During the 2010 election, 12 PERA employees were reprimanded and had to repay money after officials learned they had lied about going to the polls.
News 13 brought the results of the investigation to state officials, who launched a larger inquiry and discovered that the fraudulent behavior wasn’t only going on at PERA. It was widespread throughout state government.
According to the state’s investigation, 5,794 state employees took off work for up to two hours on Election Day 2010.
“Thirteen percent of the people who went to vote didn’t vote,” Moser said. “That was off the chart as far as we were concerned. These results were shocking.”
That 13 percent translates to 550 state employees who are registered voters but falsified their time cards by taking leave and not voting, according to the investigation. Another 221 state employees took the leave but weren’t even registered to vote.
“By falsifying a document, which is saying you are taking leave and you sign off that you took the leave for the purpose,” Moser said. “That can be construed as fraud. It’s falsification of an official document. That constitutes, under state law, a fourth-degree felony.”
The Human Services Department had the largest number of time bandits at 132, followed by the Health Department with 123 and the Taxation and Revenue Department with 72. The numbers also included state employees who work for law enforcement agencies, including 13 from the Albuquerque District Attorney’s Office, eight at Albuquerque’s Metropolitan Court and two from the Attorney General’s Office.
All told, employees at 45 state agencies across New Mexico cheated taxpayers out of more than 1,400 hours, according to the investigation.
“They need to repay the money and we are going to go after that,” Moser said. “And then the other part is which part of the disciplinary process are we going to initiate?”
Discipline can range from a written reprimand all the way up to termination.
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