May 7 — SANTA FE — The state Department of Public Safety has reached a $175,000 settlement to settle a whistleblower complaint filed by an official assigned to the then-governor’s security detail. Susanne Martinez.
In the lawsuit, plaintiff Tony Fetty had made a series of allegations about another agent’s gambling debts, a personal relationship between the governor and the agent, and an emotional episode involving another member of security who threatened to smack bleach drink.
Fetty also accused the state of retaliating against him after he reported his concerns and discriminating against him – allegations the Department of Public Safety denied.
As part of the settlement signed last month, the state agreed to pay Fetty $175,000 and issue him a neutral employment reference.
In exchange, he dropped the lawsuit and admitted that he was barred from future employment at the Ministry of Public Security.
The comparison was published on New Mexico’s Transparency website.
The Journal could not reach a spokeswoman for Martinez on Friday. But in response to similar allegations in another legal claim, a spokesperson for her called the allegations “ridiculous” and “completely untrue”.
Fetty’s eye-opening lawsuit, filed in 2019, made a number of allegations about the inner workings of the then-governor’s assigned security guard. Martinez and the first gentleman, Chuck Franco.
The unit typically had about 10 plainclothes agents, Fetty’s suit said, and they provided round-the-clock care for Martinez at the Santa Fe governor’s mansion, the Capitol, and other locations.
Martinez, a Republican, served as governor for eight years, ending in 2018.
Already a state police officer, Fetty joined the command in 2012 and served there for about six years before returning to uniformed patrol. Among the allegations in his lawsuit:
– One agent in detail, Ruben Maynes, borrowed approximately $16,500 from Fetty after confiding in him that he had accumulated debts from gambling, hunting permits, business ventures and other activities.
The lawsuit also accuses Maynes of gambling on duty and says Gov. Martinez loaned him money to help with his debt.
Maynes received special treatment from the state, the lawsuit states. In 2015, he secured a $200,000 state settlement under which he would pay back Fetty, Martinez and others, according to the lawsuit.
The settlement came after Maynes asserted his own legal claims of discrimination and retaliation. The Journal was unable to reach Maynes’ attorney on Friday.
– Franco, the first gentleman, told officers on security detail he suspected the governor had a relationship with Maynes. Franco said he was moving out of the governor’s residence and returning to his home in Las Cruces.
The state explicitly denied these allegations in its response to the lawsuit.
– Another security detail agent had an emotional or psychological incident in Washington, DC that resulted in police there contacting the New Mexico State Police.
The lawsuit alleges the officer threatened to harm himself, saying, “Maybe I should just drink that bottle of bleach or cut my wrist.”
Fetty said the matter was a potential security issue for the detail but he had been ordered not to speak about it.
In its response, the state denied that the officer had a mental health episode or that Fetty was ordered not to speak about it.
The settlement of the Fetty lawsuit comes after the state disclosed a number of other settlements in 2019 involving claims against the Department of Public Safety. The agreements included a $1 million settlement reached in the final days of the Martinez administration to settle claims against DPS for gender discrimination, harassment and whistleblowing.
Public debate over the settlements – one of which demanded years of secrecy – helped change state policy. In 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration began automatically posting comparisons online, rather than only disclosing them in response to specific requests.
Bipartisan legislation passed in 2020 also eliminated a 180-day waiting period for disclosure of settlements.