SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Hundreds of New Mexico state employees have been accused of not voting in November’s election despite taking advantage of paid leave to do so, Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration said this week.
In letters sent to more than 200 employees among 50 state agencies, the state warned of possible disciplinary action ranging from a reprimand to suspension. According to an audit conducted by the State Personnel Office, a majority of the workers were registered to vote but didn’t cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 general election. Another 42 employees who took the leave were not even registered, the personnel office said. Roughly 4,600 workers used the leave. The audit’s findings were based off of cross-referencing employees’ Social Security numbers with those in voter databases with the secretary of state’s office.
“We have a responsibility to be accountable to the taxpayers. Employees should be using leave for the purpose it’s intended for,” said personnel office interim director Justin Najaka.
But unions representing state workers say they have received complaints that employees are being wrongfully accused of not voting, the Albuquerque Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1DKDGuy).
“Our concern is the state didn’t do a thorough investigation before issuing discipline,” said Donald Alire, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 7076.
Under state law, New Mexico state employees are entitled to a two-hour leave to go to the polls.
The letter to employees, of which a copy was obtained by the Journal, instructs them that they have 11 days to prove they used the leave for the purpose it was intended. Otherwise, a copy of the letter will be placed in their file and they will have two hours’ pay docked from their May 15 paycheck. The letter also states falsifying a time sheet violated a state code of conduct as well as personnel rules.
Najaka said further discipline would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Miles Conway, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the union has been helping workers get proposed discipline rescinded. Conway said the leave is meant to help state staffers who don’t live where they work. The union doesn’t encourage people to use it for any other purpose.
“We certainly feel very strongly that if you’re going to use the voting leave, you must go vote,” Conway said.
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com
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