Secretary of State Mary Herrera is accusing whistleblower A.J. Salazar, a former employee, of staging a break-in at his law office to try to implicate her in an alleged crime and hurt her re-election chances.
“He says somebody broke in. Give me a break,” Herrera said in an interview. “… I really do think it’s staged.”
Herrera provided no evidence to back up her allegation, but said she thinks Salazar is trying to make it appear as though she committed a crime to help her opponent, Republican Dianna Duran, get elected.
Salazar said Herrera’s allegation is false and slanderous.
“The secretary certainly knows that I was unwilling to commit crimes for her while I worked for her,” he said. “Why should I start doing so now by filing a false police report?”
“Her slanderous statement at this point in time demonstrates how desperate this person is to hide the truth,” Salazar added. “… Secretary Herrera certainly doesn’t need any assistance from me to make her look bad. That’s one area where unfortunately she has excelled on her own.”
Salazar reported to Española police last week that his law office was broken into and that files related to his allegations against Herrera, tax records and a smoke detector were taken, according to KOB-TV in Albuquerque.
Police confirmed to The Santa Fe New Mexican that they are investigating.
Salazar has not accused Herrera of being behind the break-in, but was quoted by KUNM radio as saying he found it “extremely odd, given the date, 30 days before an election, and given the issues that you hear in the media, that these things were taken.”
In his statement to NMPolitics.net, Salazar said he finds it interesting that Herrera is essentially “denying an accusation that has not even been made against her.”
“I think the public would rather hear her answer truthfully to what those of us who worked for her know she has done (and continues to do) as an elected official, and what the press has exposed thus far,” Salazar said. “Wouldn’t that be far more helpful than what she has provided thus far?”
Salazar resigned from his job as elections director in March in a scathing letter in which he accused Herrera of violating the Governmental Conduct Act and election laws and of running a “crooked organization.” Among his allegations is that Herrera ordered exempt employees to collect signatures for her re-election bid at a meeting held during work hours, that she was improperly soliciting donations from contractors doing business with the office to help fund a training, and that she retaliated against him after he tried to stop those potentially illegal actions.
Herrera denies the allegations, and says Salazar is disgruntled because he wanted time off from work that she didn’t allow.
Salazar shares an office with lawyer Rudy Martin, who is representing two other former employees of the Secretary of State’s Office. Salazar has taken his allegations to the attorney general and FBI. The other two employees – former Office Manager Manny Vildasol and office spokesman James Flores – have also taken allegations of criminal activity to the FBI.