A day after the release of a stinging report that found the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions overpaid $250 million in unemployment benefits, former Secretary Bill McCamley took to social media Thursday to explain his abrupt resignation last month.
“I left the position for no other reason than the safety of myself and my family,” McCamley wrote in a series of posts.
Threats by phone to the department “were pretty common” at the onset of the pandemic, but then the situation grew more serious.
“People would show up at the office and try to start fights with security guards,” he wrote, adding windows also were broken.
“The most tangible evidence of violence occurred with an actual terrorist incident: a fire bomb was used to destroy a state car in our Las Cruces office,” wrote McCamley, who included a photo of a burned car. “The explosion was so hot that it melted the engine block.”
In March, McCamley wrote, he received a call from a local office informing him a man was blaming him for his wife’s “unemployment issues” and was asking where McCamley lived and when he was at home.
“He had a history of instability and an intimate knowledge of automatic weapons,” McCamley wrote.
The following month, an unemployment claimant sent a letter to his home. While the letter wasn’t threatening, “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it was only a matter of time before my home address and other personal information was shared on social media and getting into the hands of people who do wish violence,” he wrote.
The Associated Press reported New Mexico State Police initiated an arson investigation in November in connection with a vehicle at a Workforce Solutions office in Las Cruces, though no arrests have been made. State police also patrolled the area around the Las Cruces offices in recent months in response to threats, the agency confirmed.
After considering the situation for a weekend, McCamley wrote that he informed the Governor’s Office of his decision to resign on a Monday.
“That was only strengthened when 5 days later a letter appeared at my mother’s address,” he wrote. “I have received threats before as a public official, but this time seems different.”
McCamley said multiple officials in similar positions have had to receive police protection. One official reported his parents were receiving “harassment at all hours” after their cellphone number had been shared.
“Furthermore, with the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Gov Whitmer, the Jan 6th insurrection, and recently with the AZ Secretary of State having to receive 24 hour police protection in the face of threats, it has become painfully obvious that at this time in history certain people are willing to express their anger in violent ways,” he wrote. “For me this reached a point where I firmly believe that if I stayed I would be putting my life and the lives of people I care about in jeopardy.”
He indicated he plans to leave the state, which was not easy, he wrote, because he’s invested his entire adult life in public service “to my friends and neighbors here.”
He also wrote that he’s “immensely proud of the work accomplished by the Department in the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression” and that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her team “have been nothing but supportive, classy, and understanding.”
“I also understand the pain, frustration, and anger experienced by so many. And criticism of public officials is and should be a part of public discourse in a democracy,” he wrote.
“However, after all of this, I would also implore the media & public to think strongly about their tone as these issues of great importance are discussed,” he added. “The more we inflame issues the more situations like the ones above become common and acceptable. And they shouldn’t be.”
Meanwhile, Stacy Johnston, a spokeswoman for the Department of Workforce Solutions, said the agency disputed that it had overpaid $250 million in unemployment insurance benefits as reported to the Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday. She said the figure is actually $105 million.
But Jon Courtney, deputy director of the Legislative Finance Committee, said legislative staffers based the $250 million number on the agency’s own data.
“We went over this with them, not only in an exit conference, but we gave them the report,” he said. “They had it for over a week. We asked them to check for any issues with accuracy of which they reported none at the exit conference or during the hearing [Wednesday], so we stand by that number.”