- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - The District Attorney’s Office for the Las Cruces area says a former district attorney and her staffers deleted politically sensitive emails and erased hard drives before leaving office.

A report released Tuesday by current 3rd Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio’s office said an internal investigation determined that the emails were missing and apparently intentionally destroyed.

Because the material had been deleted or erased, the state Democratic Party’s request for public records related to then-District Attorney Susana Martinez’s first campaign for governor in 2009 and 2010 could not be fulfilled, the report said.

Martinez is a Republican, as is her former chief deputy, Amy Orlando, who replaced Martinez as district attorney when Martinez was elected governor.

D’Antonio, a Democrat, beat Orlando in the 2012 election.

The report said the investigation into the missing emails also uncovered a conversation between Orlando and a staff member in which Orlando urged the staff member to not tell D’Antonio’s incoming staff how to receive $200,000 in federal grant money.

“Don’t leave ANY notes about how to do it!!” Orlando wrote, according to the report. “Please.”

Additionally, the report said some computers had software enabling the secret monitoring of employees and that Orlando used her state email to discuss funding and other issues related to her campaign.

Orlando said in a statement that the report is “nothing but baseless innuendos and black-helicopter conspiracy theories.”

“The district attorney’s election was almost two years ago and the citizens of Dona Ana County should expect that the district attorney and his investigators ought to be spending their time on investigating and prosecuting crimes, rather than on taxpayer-funded political witch hunts,” Orlando said.

D’Antonio said the report does not accuse Orlando or former staffers of crimes. “There are too many unanswered questions,” he said.

However, D’Antonio said the report showed that Orlando had personal animus toward him and that it affected her work as district attorney. “What I found was absolutely outrageous behavior,” he said.

On Wednesday, a liberal advocacy group objected that Orlando had forwarded email and investigative documents in 2010 to the governor’s political adviser concerning allegations of voter-registration fraud by Republicans in Dona Ana County.

Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico said the group had obtained the materials in a public-records request with the state Administrative Office of the District Attorneys, which provides administrative support for local district attorneys and maintained archived email.

Davis contended that it was improper for Orlando to have sent the documents to political strategist Jay McCleskey while the voter-fraud investigation was being carried out by local law enforcement.

Martinez was district attorney but running for governor in October 2010 when the information was forwarded to McCleskey. The documents included email from the Dona Ana County clerk’s office about its preliminary investigation of the allegations and voter registration records containing personal information such as the Social Security numbers of voters.

Orlando said in a statement, “The press started asking about the case and Jay McCleskey got the same public documents that were given to the press and at the same time.”

McCleskey said, “When someone falsely claimed that the district attorney’s office had declined to investigate a voter registration fraud case, we simply requested the public records proving that the case had been referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency and those same documents were provided to the media.”

One of the documents provided by Orlando was an email from the chief deputy county clerk saying that materials about the fraud allegations had been referred to law enforcement at the request of a staffer in the district attorney’s office.

R. David Pederson, general counsel to Attorney General Gary King, said the agency had only started to discuss with D’Antonio’s office what role, if any, the attorney general’s office needed to play in looking into the issues raised by ProgressNow and the deleted email.

King, a Democrat, is running against Martinez in the general election.

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