NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The State will have to shell out hundreds of thousands in the latest settlement of a lawsuit against the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD). This is after the agency was caught using a messaging app that can delete conversations after 24 hours.

“There is gaslighting. There is passive aggression. There are moving goalposts.”

That’s how Clifford Gilmore described his time working for CYFD. He and his wife, Debra Gilmore, went to work for the department back in 2020. Debra was hired as the agency’s director of the office of children’s rights, and Clifford as the department’s spokesperson.

“The things we saw happening inside of the organization when it comes right down to it, they, um. . . They make things harder for kids rather than helping them.”

The Gilmores told KRQE back in 2021, they noticed immediate red flags once they got to work. Cliff Gilmore saw issue with the department’s use of the encrypted messaging app signal, which can be set to delete conversations, and its use for communications that could be subject to the state’s open information laws.

In April 2021, then-Cabinet Secretary Brian Blalock defended the use of the app.

“We are not destroying anything that could be considered public record or public document. Anything that we’re required to keep under IPRA, we’re absolutely retaining,” said Blalock in 2021.

After bringing up their concerns to their superiors, the Gilmores were both fired on the same day, after a year with the department. Not long after the controversy, Blalock stepped down in August 2021.

Now, two years after they filed suit, the Gilmores reached a settlement with the State, awarding the couple $650,000 in damages and back pay.

We reached out to CYFD for comment on the settlement. They sent back a statement saying:

“The Gilmores’ lawsuit, that was filed in June of 2021 has been resolved. CYFD has nothing further to add.”