AP NEWS

Records: State settled quickly with former Martinez bodyguard

July 18, 2018 GMT

The state paid a $200,000 settlement to one of Gov. Susana Martinez’s former bodyguards less than two months after his lawyer said he was investigating claims against Martinez and New Mexico State Police for harassment and retaliation.

Records recently obtained by The New Mexican show just how quickly the state moved to settle with Ruben Maynes after he was transferred off the governor’s security detail.

But the documents offer little insight into what claims, if any, Maynes might have made against the governor or state police.

Now, three years after the settlement, a new lawsuit by a group of former state police and Department of Public Safety officials accuses state police Chief Pete Kassetas of harassment and discrimination. The lawsuit also raises new questions about the payment to Maynes.

The lawsuit, brought in part by the former head of the governor’s security detail, claims Maynes was caught gambling on duty and transferred to another assignment in 2014.

Further, the lawsuit claims Maynes had racked up debts to fellow officers and perhaps even the governor herself.

Maynes’ lawyer, former state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman, has declined to comment on the lawsuit. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

As for the governor, her office has dismissed the suggestion that she would have paid Maynes a settlement to cover his gambling debts. Martinez’s spokesman did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

The settlement, obtained by The New Mexican through the state’s open-records law, shows that Bregman sent a letter to Kassetas and Martinez on Feb. 26, 2015, stating that he was “in the process of investigating claims” Maynes had against them.

By April 24, 2015, the state government had settled with Maynes. It issued Bregman’s firm a $200,000 check while denying any wrongdoing.

The settlement also required Maynes repay two police officers who had loaned him money, though state police policy requires officers “live within their financial means.”

Maynes never filed a lawsuit against the governor or Kassetas. And the settlement says Maynes never filed any complaints against them through the state Human Rights Bureau or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

That the case was resolved in a few months is remarkable, given that employment disputes with the state can drag on for years, wending through courtrooms and review boards.

“I’ve never had one settle in a time period that I would consider to be quick,” said Daniel Faber, a lawyer based in Albuquerque, who has represented state workers in employment disputes.

Faber said he has settled cases with the state government, but not in so little as two months. One of his cases against the state has dragged for about five years.

Employment records obtained through the Inspection of Public Records Act show Maynes had several different tours with the state police.

Originally hired in late 1996, he resigned as a patrolman in 2004. A few years later, he asked to be reinstated and assigned to the station in Deming, where Maynes was living at the time and running a window-shade business. Maynes joined the state police again in early 2008 and was transferred the following year to Las Vegas.

When Martinez took office as governor in January 2011, the agency moved Maynes to her security detail.

Maynes worked as one of Martinez’s bodyguards until September 2013, when he resigned from the department.

At that time, there was mounting scrutiny of a hunting trip the governor’s husband, Chuck Franco, had taken to Louisiana in 2011. Maynes had accompanied Franco, racking up overtime and other expenses.

But six months later, Maynes was back with the state police, working again on the governor’s security detail.

Finally, in July 2014, he was transferred off that beat.

Bregman’s letter says Maynes was told an internal affairs investigation would be opened after his transfer, though it does not specify why and says the investigation was never pursued.

Maynes remained employed as a state police officer until resigning in October 2015.

“I thank the New Mexico State Police for all it has done for me and my family,” he wrote in a resignation letter obtained through the Inspection of Public Records Act.

Maynes declined to participate in a voluntary exit interview. But the interview form lists his reasons for leaving as voluntary — “higher salary” and “personal reasons.”

Follow Andrew Oxford on Twitter @andrewboxford.