by Nicole Perez
With a flick of his pen, one member of the 2011 UNM Presidential Search Committee was no longer legally bound to the same confidentiality agreement other members of the committee had agreed to.
GOP lobbyist Pat Rogers crossed out part of the agreement before signing it and went on to share emails between committee members with non-committee members.
According to the University, he did nothing illegal.
Rogers, who attended one search committee meeting as a member, received at least two emails from Vice President of Human Resources Helen Gonzales between Oct. 24 and Nov. 11, 2011.
The emails said that the “A” and “B” candidates selected by the committee were posted on a secure website and ready for interviews on Dec. 2, 3 and 4, 2011.
Rogers then forwarded these emails to Gov. Susana Martinez’s Chief of Staff Keith Gardner and political adviser Jay McCleskey, neither of whom were committee members.
Every committee member signed a code of ethics at the first meeting, and one clause read:
“I pledge not to disclose any information presented or discussed during search committee meetings with individuals who are not members of the committee.”
But Rogers said the agreement was not worded correctly, because some of the material discussed in meetings was not confidential and so anybody should have access to it and be allowed to comment on it.
Before signing, he changed his agreement to say “I pledge not to disclose confidential information…” and maintained that the information sent in the forwarded emails was public information.
“All of that information there, all that you see there, was publicly discussed,” he said. “There was never any private information about who the candidates were or what was discussed. In no way, shape or form did I violate the agreement.”
Last month, Rogers resigned from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government board, and in his resignation letter acknowledged the criticism he’d received concerning these and other emails that surfaced indicating Rogers attempts to influence Martinez’s staff on various issues. He sent the emails using a private account.
The Presidential Search Committee never stated that emails sent from Helen Gonzales to committee members were confidential, although Board of Regents President and member of the committee Jack Fortner said he and other committee members assumed they were.
“At the time, we would have all said that any correspondence would be deemed confidential, so if we’d known at the time we would have said ‘Don’t do that,’” Fortner said. “So now we’re going back and saying ‘Oh.’ He’s saying ‘no harm no foul,’ and there was no harm, but we were all under the understanding that it wouldn’t be shared.”
Fortner said Rogers did not have the authority to change the agreement, and that to his knowledge nobody else changed their agreements.
“I was not aware of it, no one was aware,” he said.
In messages sent with the forwarded emails, Rogers suggested to Martinez’s officials that the governor meet with Fortner, who was a member of the committee, as well as with outgoing president David Schmidly.
Rogers wrote to McCleskey and Gardner on Oct. 24: “You all going to get a grip on this? I had recommended you get Schmidly up to meet with the Gov. You are going to need someone besides Fortner on the regents, to keep Koch from manipulating the process.”
Fortner said he never met with or heard from the governor.
In response to a public records request, the University said no records of contact between the governor and Fortner or Schmidly exist.
The Daily Lobo received these emails from Michael Corwin, a researcher for former Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration. Corwin now runs Independent Source PAC, a committee opposed to Martinez.
“To date the (Martinez) administration has yet to challenge the content of a single email which is a very strong indicator that they are real,” Corwin wrote in an email to the Daily Lobo. “Further, our source has indicated to us that the emails are accurate and the content has not been altered. We have not altered the content either.”
Neither Rogers nor any of the recipients of the forwarded emails have denied the validity of the emails, but Rogers said they were stolen from him.
“These are stolen emails and they were not ever received by the administration,” he said. “Those are facts.”
The confidentiality notice at the bottom of the emails reads:
“This message is intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is confidential. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient or agent responsible for delivering the message to the intended recipient, you are …”*
*The Daily Lobo received these emails in PDF files that cut off mid-sentence.