Looking back: The highs and lows of the Martinez era

Gov. Susana Martinez answers questions after a news conference announcing her fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. Ruben Maynes, who served as a bodyguard for Martinez while working for New Mexico State Police, denied allegations that he and the governor had an inappropriate relationship. Gabriela Campos/New Mexican file photo

Ruben Maynes, who served as a bodyguard for former Gov. Susana Martinez while working for New Mexico State Police, on Thursday denied allegations that he and the governor had an inappropriate relationship.

“It was strictly professional,” Maynes, who now lives in Arizona, said a telephone interview. “We did become friends, just like anyone becomes friends with co-workers. But there was no affair.”

Maynes was responding to news reports and claims by other former state police officers, including three who received secret settlements from the state of New Mexico shortly before Martinez left office last year.

Maynes, who himself received a $200,000 settlement from the state in 2015 for a claim of wrongful termination, said he couldn’t comment on his own settlement, but he wanted to dispel rumors and allegations about his relationship with Martinez.

Although he hasn’t worked as a state police officer since October 2015, his name has been in the news lately following a KRQE-TV report that the state made $1.7 million in payouts to settle lawsuits and employment complaints involving state police. Although the settlements called for the terms to remain sealed for more than four years, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office has indicated she will make the information available sooner and has ordered a review of how such settlements are handled.

The state police chief under Martinez, Pete Kassetas, who says he was wrongly accused of various misdeeds, has asserted that plaintiffs’ lawyers used the threat of disclosing damaging information about Martinez to “extort” the state government.

Martinez said in a statement to KRQE that she didn’t have any involvement with the settlements.

Suggestions that Martinez was involved in an inappropriate relationship with Maynes were first made public in a lawsuit filed in June by former Deputy Chief Ryan Suggs; former Sgt. Julia Armendariz, who took command of the security team after Maynes left the job in 2013; and former Sgt. Monica Martinez-Jones.

The suit also alleged Martinez had written a personal check to Maynes for $20,000 because he had gambling debts. The Governor’s Office responded at the time that the claim was not true.

Maynes said Thursday the governor at one point did loan him money. But he said, “That number is wrong. … She never had that kind of money.” Maynes said he couldn’t say how much Martinez had loaned him.

After being assigned to Martinez’s security detail early in her first term, Maynes resigned from the state police in September 2013. The lawsuit for the three former officers says that when Armendariz was in charge of the governor’s security, Martinez repeatedly told Kassetas she wanted Maynes back on the security detail.

“Kassetas questioned Armendariz about why the governor was insisting on bringing back Maynes and whether they were having an inappropriate relationship,” the complaint says.

By March 2014, Maynes was back on the job, according to the lawsuit, which says Armendariz complained “his reported on-duty gambling and failure to live within his means were in violation of [state police] policy.”

The lawsuit said Maynes was later caught gambling at the Route 66 Casino while on duty and, “despite the governor’s protests,” was removed from the security detail around the end of May 2014, about two months after he had returned.

Maynes on Thursday admitted that he did have a gambling problem, but he denied that he gambled while on duty. “I did gamble and I did have debts,” he said.

He also acknowledged that his wife got a job with the Martinez administration as secretary for the governor’s chief of staff, Keith Gardner, and that two of his sisters had been employed as housekeepers at the governor’s mansion.

KRQE this week aired a report in which Thomas Grover, attorney for another former member of the governor’s security team, Officer Tony Fetty, who has a pending lawsuit against the state, said that “Ruben Maynes was essentially a protected species at the request or direction of the governor.”

The report also said Maynes was hired to install window blinds at the mansion’s guardhouse.

Maynes told The New Mexican that he did install blinds there but that said he did so while he was on “mansion duty” as part of the governor’s security detail and did not get any extra pay to do so. “The state had already purchased the blinds. I just volunteered to do it,” he said. “I worked there. I just wanted it to look nice.”

Although Maynes received a settlement from the state, he never filed a lawsuit against the governor or Kassetas and never filed any complaints against them through the state Human Rights Bureau or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the state offered a settlement within two months after his lawyer sent a letter saying that he was “in the process of investigating claims” Maynes had against the administration.

In an April 2015 email to Gardner, Anthony Forte, director of the state Risk Management Division, said Maynes’ claims were “bogus” but advised settling for $200,000 because a court case could cost the state more than $1 million. Days later, the check to Maynes was cut.

Maynes on Thursday did talk about a controversial alligator-hunting trip to Louisiana he made in September 2011 with Martinez’s husband, Chuck Franco, and another state police officer, Frank Chavez.

Some Martinez critics raised the possibility that the trip had been paid for by the Louisiana owners of a horse-racing track and casino that the state had awarded a lease at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The Martinez administration for nearly a year stonewalled reporters and others trying to get documents of state expenses for the trip.

Maynes said Thursday the hunting trip had nothing to do with the fairgrounds contract.

He said he and Chavez originally planned the trip as a personal vacation and both had put in requests for time off. But after Franco indicated he wanted to go along, Maynes said, his supervisors told him and Chavez to cancel their vacation requests and that the state would provide a vehicle and pay for the gas, though they would be responsible for food and lodging.

The officers also were paid thousands of dollars in overtime and holiday pay, records show. The costs of the trip were not revealed until April 2013 after then-Attorney General Gary King ordered the records made public.

Maynes said that he and the others stayed with a relative in Louisiana, as the Associated Press first reported in July 2013.

Maynes said he wouldn’t want to work for Martinez again because he was disappointed that Martinez didn’t defend him and Chavez when the hunting trip was in the news.

“Her silence was why I’m in that situation,” he said. “She could have nipped it in the bud.”