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Two Martinez appointees move into protected jobs

December 18, 2018

This story has been updated to include a response from the state Corrections Department.

Two more of Gov. Susana Martinez’s political appointees — a Gaming Control Board member and the director of adult prisons — have slid into civil service jobs as Martinez prepares to leave office Dec. 31, state government personnel records show.

The job changes make it possible — but don’t guarantee — that the Martinez appointees will remain employed with the state under the administration of Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat.

After her election in 2010, Martinez, a Republican, decried the practice of political appointees moving to civil service positions for job protection when administrations change. And at a news conference in November with Lujan Grisham, Martinez said she would fill critical civil service jobs but added, “We aren’t going to run around filling or packing places.”

At least 13 Martinez appointees have now moved to jobs in state government’s classified personnel system of civil service workers since March 1, 2017, personnel records show. Employees in the merit-based classified system can be fired only for just cause after a year of probation. Gubernatorial appointees are exempt from such protection.

In recent weeks, Salvatore Maniaci, who was appointed to the Gaming Control Board in 2013, has become chief of enforcement for the agency, personnel records show. German Franco, who was director of adult prisons for the Corrections Department, has moved down a spot to become one of two deputy directors of adult prisons.

Franco retained his salary of nearly $101,000 a year, about $6,500 more annually than the woman he replaced as deputy director, personnel records show. Maniaci took a pay cut, from about $87,600 to $80,900 a year.

In what has become a traditional move by governors-elect, Lujan Grisham requested the resignations of all political appointees of the governor she will replace, although the Martinez appointees were told they could apply to keep their jobs.

The movement of gubernatorial appointees to civil service jobs in the waning months of an administration also has become a tradition.

At least 22 appointees of Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, switched to civil service jobs in the months leading up to the end of his eight years in office and the beginning of the Martinez administration.

There are about 325 positions for gubernatorial appointees across some 50 agencies.

Prior to his appointment to the five-member Gaming Control Board, Maniaci was a sergeant in the board’s Enforcement Division. He joined the division as a special agent in 2007 after working for the Rio Rancho Police Department.

The board, which has a staff of about 44 people, regulates gambling at horse racing tracks and nonprofit groups. It also monitors compliance by American Indian gaming tribes with state-tribal compacts.

Donovan Lieurance, acting executive director of the Gaming Control Board, said the top job in the Enforcement Division came open when its chief took another position with the agency. Maniaci was one of six or seven applicants to become the new chief of enforcement, Lieurance said.

Maniaci said he applied for the job because it became open and was the “perfect place to go” given his past work for the division.

“I would assume you know politics pretty well,” he said. “When you have an opportunity to get into a classified position as opposed to an exempt [appointed job], that’s the way you want to go, anyway.”

Under state personnel rules, Maniaci and Franco could still be immediately dismissed without cause during their one-year probation. Some other Martinez appointees who switched to civil service jobs will have their probation completed by the time Lujan Grisham takes office.

Franco’s office said he wasn’t available Monday to return a telephone call seeking comment on his new position.

Franco is a former warden of the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe and a former deputy warden at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces.

S.U. Mahesh, a spokesman for the Corrections Department, said Tuesday that Franco was one of 10 applicants for the position of deputy director of adult prisons.

Franco replaced a woman who left the department for a job in the private sector, and his salary is within the pay scale for the deputy director position, Mahesh said.

“Although Mr. Franco was eligible for full retirement as early as July of this year he decided to apply for a position that would allow him to continue in public service at the department he has worked at since 1992,” the spokesman wrote in an email.