- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A state audit suggests mismanagement in the New Mexico Department of Corrections resulted in a film crew failing to pay fees to gain access to prisons, a newspaper reported.

The review by the State Auditor’s Office suggests corrections Deputy Secretary of Administrations Alex Sanchez waived $20,000 in fees a production company should have paid to the state in order to film a documentary series about corrections officers, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Thursday (https://bit.ly/2ngV2jb).

Sanchez worked as a spokeswoman for the department from 2013 to 2015. She left briefly to work in the private sector before returning to the department in her higher role.

In both of her jobs, Sanchez worked with Lucky 8, the production company that was filming a reality television series called “Behind Bars: Rookie Year,” about new corrections officers at the state prison.

The audit suggests that Sanchez waived a number of fees for Lucky 8 to “build a partnership” between the Corrections Department and the production company.

The audit also found that Lucky 8 was allowed to continue filming in state prisons even though it owed about $42,000 from previous invoices.

“The agency is rife with mismanagement and financial control problems,” State Auditor Tim Keller said Thursday. “It’s definitely one of the poorer run departments in the state of New Mexico.”

Keller’s audit doesn’t name Sanchez but he confirmed she is the employee the audit refers to in regard to the waived fees.

Sanchez told The New Mexican that when she returned to the Corrections Department after working briefly at Lucky 8, she had a clear conversation with then Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel “to ensure there would not be a conflict of interest in the dealings with Lucky 8 productions.”

She said she occasionally worked with Lucky 8, but always with the oversight of Marcantel.

Corrections Secretary David Jablonski, who was appointed in October and confirmed by the Senate last month, said he is working to correct deficiencies found in the audit.

“We’ve started implementing - and in some cases have already implemented - corrective action to address these findings. We will continue to work on this,” Jablonski said.

Corrections spokesman Sita Mahesh said the state has since collected money owed by Lucky 8 and no shows are planned with the production company.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com

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