Have you heard about this Republican outfit that's spending considerable money to run a radio ad praising Gov. Susana Martinez's handling of the mess she created when she fired 15 New Mexico behavioral health services and hired five Arizona services in their place?
The name the sponsors of that ad chose for themselves is, get this, "New Mexico Competes," and it's headed by a longtime Republican operative. Those who have heard the ad say its "message" is that Martinez is a fighter against Medicaid fraud.
Think of it as flimflam at its worst.
If Gov. Martinez is fighting fraud in Medicaid where's the evidence? The audit conducted by the Boston-based Public Consulting Group that culminated in Martinez's firing of those New Mexico health providers is under lock and key. The governor who is being touted as tough on Medicaid fraud won't let the people of her state see the thing. It's a secret, even to news media types.
How comes it to be that some out-of-state political operatives running a radio commercial know more about the Public Consulting Group's audit than taxpaying New Mexicans who paid for it?
Is it possible "New Mexico Competes" conspires to con us humble New Mexicans?
Think upon it: About the same time Gov. Martinez was skipping around the country, hither and yon, raising big bucks for her reelection campaign, her very own Human Services Department was being hauled into court on a whistleblower suit by a former HSD lawyer, Elizabeth Jeffreys.
Jeffreys charges that she was fired from her HSD post after alerting the state Attorney General and State Auditor to irregularities in the governor's handling of that audit, which led to the termination of those 15 New Mexico behavioral health care providers.
Truth be told, the brouhaha occasioned by Gov. Martinez's abrupt dismissal of those health providers seems to worsen by the day. Earlier this month turmoil was apparent after the five Arizona outfits were brought in to take over.
A therapist for the Valencia Counseling Service, now being run by a Phoenix firm, was reported as saying, "The agency right now is very chaotic." All of his scheduled clients had been "taken off," the counseling schedule, he said. "There is no schedule, there's no computer, there's nothing."
On top of that, the way the New Mexico providers were sacked and their Arizona replacements were selected is scandalous.
About a week ago, an official of the Boston Company that conducted the audit told a committee of the Legislature that even before the New Mexico providers were fired he had actually helped screen the Arizona firms the Martinez administration would hire to replace them.
Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen reckoned there was a conflict of interest here, while committee member Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino thought it appeared the Martinez administration had decided to bring in the Arizona providers even before the audit was in.
Committee chairman, Sen. Benny Shendo, was suspicious. "The idea that you and HSD are in Arizona long before this process started," he told the Public Consulting Group official, "it's just really concerning."
Sen. Shendo has a knack for understatement.
Gov. Martinez would have us believe everything in the state's behavioral health system is fine and dandy, but those working within that system say it's chaotic. You have a Boston firm auditing New Mexico's behavioral health providers even as the "auditors" were doing double duty by helping the Martinez administration assess the Arizona providers who would be hired to replace the New Mexico providers.
If something smells fishy, it's probably fishy.
Nor can an ad sponsored by the governor's Republican cronies diminish the odor.
Hal Rhodes is the founder of New Mexico News Services and a longtime TV journalist on the public television station KNME in Albuquerque.