SANTA FE (KRQE) - A state senator and the state Democratic Party are calling on the governor to fire her chief of staff Keith Gardner for his "bullying and intimidation tactics" that stem from a foul-mouthed audio recording and an alleged confrontation with a lobbyis t.
Gov. Susana Martinez said the calls to get rid of Gardner are petty and politically motivated.
A secretly recorded conversation between Gardner and a Roswell firefighter last year was released just last month. Gardner initially came under fire for saying on the tape that he never used his state e-mail to conduct state business because it could land him in court or jail. The tape was disclosed by Albuquerque attorney Sam Bregman, a Democrat, in connection to an ongoing civil case. The tape also recorded Gardner making obscene statements about Senate President Tim Jennings, a Democrat from Roswell.
Gardner apologized for the comments.
Then this week, a letter written by Carrie Menapace, a policy analyst and government liaison for Albuquerque Public Schools, was released, in which she accuses Gardner of grabbing her by the arm, spinning her around and making threats following a heated hearing on the governor's social promotion bill back in February. Gardner said he never touched Menapace and said surveillance video from the Roundhouse proves it.
But Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said the damage is already done.
"This is about the representation of our state government, and to me, Mr. Gardner is not representing state government in the way we should be," said Lopez.
As chief of staff, one of Gardner's main jobs is to work with the legislature. Lopez said after all this, Gardner cannot be effective and should resign or be fired.
"To try to work with him, I just don't see how that can happen," said Lopez. "I don't respect the man for what he's done."
But Gov. Martinez said she supports Gardner and will not remove him from her administration.
"This is nothing but politics. This is politics at its worst," said Martinez.
The governor said all these old accusations coming out during the run-up to the election is no coincidence.
"What's suspect about it is why now? Well because no one wants to talk about what's important to New Mexico," said Martinez.
The governor said it's time for lawmakers to move on.
"They can work with him if they stop being petty themselves. If they start looking at what they are here for, what they were elected to do, which is to look at the policies in New Mexico wants us to do, they they should just focus on that," said Martinez.
Sen. Lopez said this is not politically motivated. Lopez said she had similar conversations with former Gov. Bill Richardson about some of his staffers.
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