Gardner’s remarks on secret recording causing a political brouhaha
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Gov. Susana Martinez says it’s time to move on when it comes to secretly recorded remarks made by her chief of staff — but you can bet her political opponents don’t want to.
“What should be in private should be left in private,” Gov. Martinez told KOAT-TV. “These two men have moved on.”
The two men she’s referring to are Keith Gardner, her chief of staff, and Senate pro tem Tim Jennings, who was called a host of profane names by Gardner in a tape recorded without his knowledge last October while meeting privately with a Roswell fire official, Brian Powell, a friend who taped the conversation and turned it over to Albuquerque attorney and prominent state Democrat Sam Bregman.
In the 1 hour and 13 minute tape, Powell and Gardner sound like a couple characters from the old HBO series Deadwood, where expletives flew faster than bullets in the Old West.
At the start of the tape, Powell asks Gardner how the special session of the legislature went and Gardner unloads on Jennings — who, like Powell and Gardner, is from Roswell — calling Jennings a “c—sucker” and a “son of a bitch.”
On Tuesday (Sept. 12), Jennings fielded calls from reporters across the state asking for his reaction. He basically turned the other cheek. ” Yeah, I was surprised he said those things,” Jennings told Milan Simonich of the Texas-New Mexico Newspapers Partnership. “He’s got nice kids, and over the years we’d come to be good friends. Sometimes, you get into a new position and, well, I guess you can say things in the heat of battle…”
Powell says he made the secret recording because of a sexual assault case involving a couple of relatives of both men. Powell said in a statement last week he thought Gardner “might be motivated to prevent crucial testimony” in a subsequent preliminary hearing, although Powell didn’t offer why Gardner would do that.
Since then, the tape has been circulated to the media and political blogs, with Martinez critics gleefully pointing out that in the tape, Gardner:
*insults management at the State Fair Board
*after Powell pleads for Gardner to get him a job so he can move out of Roswell (“this place is evil,” Powell says), Gardner tells Powell, “Well, let me find something for you.”
*and tells a story how after getting a hard time for being pulled over for speeding 20 years ago by an old high school acquaintance says, “You know, if you write the ticket, I’m going to get it dismissed because my dad is a judge.’”
Bregman originally released a 24-second snippet of the entire conversation last week in which Gardner, when talking with Powell about the sexual assault case, mentions: “That’s why I never email on my state email anything that can come back to bite my ass. It’s all done offline. I never—shit, I never use my state email because it is all done on different stuff ’cause I don’t want to go to court or jail.”
Gov. Martinez attacked Bregman the day after the excerpt was released, saying that her detractors will “stoop to anything” and insisting that Gardner’s remarks were taken out of context and that “What was said in reference to the computers had to do with the investigation of those [assault] cases, had nothing to do with our state computers.” (Click here to see our video of Martinez firing back.)
After the Jennings remarks went public, Steve Terrell of the Santa Fe New Mexican asked the governor’s office for comment and spokesman Scott Darnell responded in a statement that Gardner and Jennings “have been able to work together, even though there have been heated disagreements in private over various policies.”
“Keith is not proud of his language,” the statement continued, “but this particular private conversation took place a year ago and the two have talked and worked together since then on multiple occasions. Just like when the Governor has been disparaged or called names by legislators [Sheryl Williams Stapleton shouting at a legislator for "carrying the Mexican's water on the fourth floor," Rep. Eliseo Alcon of Milan saying at a news conference, “I believe if you were lying on the ground, our governor ... would kick you in the kidneys" and Rep. Eleanor Chavez of Albuquerque saying Martinez "can go to hell" for her stance on immigration] … we are moving on and won’t allow that to distract us from doing the work the people of New Mexico expect and deserve.”
Who knows what happens next, although it’s safe to say the Keith Gardner-Brian Powell friendship is deader than Deadwood.
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Brian Powell, Deadwood, Eleanor Chavez, Eliseo Lee Alcon, Keith Gardner, KOAT-TV, Milan Simonich, Sam Bregman, Santa Fe New Mexican, Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Steve Terrell, Susana Martinez, Texas New Mexico Newspapers Partnership, Tim Jennings