Senator stonewalls inquiry of training director’s conduct | Native Information
Senator Bill Soules now says he needs the advice of a legal expert before moving forward on a matter that upsets his MPs, government officials, and members of tribes and pueblos.
The question for Soules is whether lawmakers overseeing a state administrator, Rachel Gudgel, can see a special investigator’s findings on her administrative record and her use of derogatory comments about Native Americans.
Gudgel makes $ 129,000 a year as the director of the Legislative Education Committee. Your superiors are 10 state legislators, the voting members of the committee.
Soules, chairman of the panel, is unsure whether the legislature can hear from Thomas Hnasko, the contract attorney who investigated Gudgel, or see Hnasko’s report on their behavior.
“I think we need to clarify whether it is appropriate on the basis of personnel law,” Soules, D-Las Cruces, said in an interview.
Soules asks if properly elected lawmakers in charge of overseeing Gudgel can have the results of an investigation into their job performance.
Because of Soules’ way of walling, the bosses need an outsider’s permission to find out exactly what Gudgel said and did.
Soules’ approach is a slap in the face for many other lawmakers. Senate and House leaders hired Hnasko at $ 260 an hour to investigate Gudgel as part of legislature’s anti-harassment policy.
Still, Soules says he asked the director of the Legislative Council to recommend a human resources attorney to advise Soules on whether lawmakers should see the investigator’s report on Gudgel. It’s a fine system for fans of nepotism and bureaucracy.
Another of Gudgel’s supervisors, Representative Christine Trujillo, reacted sharply to Soules.
“I think he’s full of nonsense,” Trujillo said.
Trujillo, an Albuquerque Democrat, urged the committee that oversees Gudgel to hold a board meeting on her conduct last year. Soules and several other lawmakers protested, and the meeting never took place. Soules has been a longtime supporter of Gudgel.
Staff on the Legislative Education Study Committee have complained that Gudgel creates a hostile and unproductive work environment.
They also said Gudgel often made derogatory comments about Native Americans.
I interviewed several people who provided details of Gudgel’s statements. They gave the following account of what many thought was the worst episode.
“During the LESC meeting on the Jicarilla-Apache Reservation, Ms. Gudgel made the following remark to staff about the Native American Charter Academy: ‘It’s not that making pearl sandals improves student outcomes.’ Ms. Gudgel later defended the statement and continued to use derogatory language, despite repeated requests from employees not to do so. “
Gudgel did not respond to requests for comments.
Many people across the state say Soules and Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat who also supports Gudgel, use double standards to protect Gudgel.
“If these comments were directed at any other minority or protected group, our legislature would have immediately called for such comments and removed Gudgel from office,” said Isaac Dakota Casados, chairman of the Democratic Native American Caucus.
Casados and other tribal leaders have called on lawmakers to fire Gudgel.
Trujillo understands their point of view.
“I think she’s a liability now,” Trujillo said of Gudgel.
Soules had called for a late executive session of the Legislative Committee last week, but scheduled the session without Hnasko, the chief investigator. Soules told his colleagues on the committee that Hnasko was on vacation. Soules planned that the committee hear from “a leadership coach” the state hired to help Gudgel. Soules’ push for a meeting without Hnasko failed with 5: 5 votes.
If Soules isn’t sure lawmakers can hear from the investigator, then why should the leadership coach’s portrayal on the same HR matter be fair?
“Rachel agreed,” Soules said.
What a system. The committee chairman believes he needs Gudgel’s permission before their bosses can review the results of a publicly paid investigation.
Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, would like Soules to provide the full record of the Gudgel investigation to the 10 voting members of the committee.
When faced with opposition, Lente told me he was sending a letter to House Speaker Brian Egolf and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth asking them to step in and provide the committee with all the evidence it needed to assess Gudgel .
“If they can’t produce, we have a bigger problem,” said Lente. “This report was very secret. It has to come to an end. “
Casados, whose Native American Democratic caucus has 72,000 registered voters in the state, agrees.
“We have had a number of legislators who have not been informed of this egregious behavior for a long time,” he said.
Soules and Stewart like to say they stand for accountability in government.
Not this time. You are facing an uprising from the other five Democrats on the committee. Everyone says the investigation into Gudgel is being covered up.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at email@example.com or 505-986-3080.