Santa Fe, NM – It's becoming clearer that there are personnel problems within the New Mexico Secretary of State's office that may be creating high turnover in the Elections division.
On February 26, Bureau of Elections Director A.J. Salazar resigned from the position, the latest in a string of resignations from the post that has once again left Secretary of State Mary Herrera without an elections chief just months before an election.
Salazar's resignation appears to have a lot in common with the departures of other Elections Bureau employees.
In his resignation letter published this week by the Rio Grande Sun, Salazar gave several reasons for leaving the Elections Director position; among them, allegations that Herrera's administration ordered staff members to gather petition signatures for her re-election campaign, and that Herrera insisted office employees seek donations from companies that have contracts with the Secretary of State.
Herrera called the allegations "false and misleading" and says she can't get into specifics because it's a personnel matter. Through her lawyer, Herrera has told the Santa Fe New Mexican, Salazar quit because she refused to allow him several days off around spring break.
Salazar denies that. And in his letter, he also slams Deputy Secretary of State Francisco Trujillo for mismanaging the office, alleging Trujillo had Elections staff report to him, undermining Salazar's ability to run the Bureau. Salazar says Trujillo created contradictory organizational charts, confusing the chain of command.
KUNM has spoken with other former Elections employees and people who at one point were in line for positions in the office. Each of them preferred not to go on the record at this time, but each corroborated Salazar's contentions, saying Trujillo had hired Elections staff without involving the Elections Directors, and told directors their staff wouldn't report to them, but would report to Trujillo instead. Each said they quit their positions primarily because of that interference.
Former Elections Director Gerald Gonzalez, whose tenure lasted just three months in late 2008, told KUNM "I don't think my management style was a good fit for the office".
Neither Trujillo nor Herrera responded to KUNM's requests for comments for this story. KUNM has requested the resignation letters for other former Elections Directors. Trujillo has responded by saying the documents "require further legal review and time to compile".
Attorney General Gary King has said the resignation letters are public documents. His office is reviewing Salazar's allegations that Herrera and her administration violated the Governmental Conduct Act.