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Controversial past still follows New Mexico governor candidate Lujan Grisham

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Michelle Lujan Grisham

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Michelle Lujan Grisham

Michelle Lujan Grisham, candidate for governor of New Mexico, will be inheriting a hefty load of problems if elected as state governor, problems that she has seen in the past as director of the state’s Agency of aging and secretary of the Department of Health.

Grisham, who currently serves as U.S congresswoman for New Mexico’s 1st district, previously served as the head of New Mexico’s Agency of Aging and secretary of the Department of Health from 1991-2007 under Governors Bruce King, Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson. Richardson raised the position into the state cabinet and then named Grisham Health Secretary in 2004.

During her time as head of the Agency of Aging, Grisham, along with another official in the agency, went “undercover” to better understand how patients were treated in their state-run long-term care facilities. According to a story from the Albuquerque Journal in 1997, during their 2-3 day stay at facilities in the state, they endured “thoughtless care” and even had items stolen.

Grisham had overseen the agency in charge of these care facilities for six years and her agency had heard complaints for years before she went undercover.

“We’ve always heard relatives of people say: ‘You bureaucrats, you just don’t understand what’s happening to our family members,’ ” Grisham told the Albuquerque Journal in 1997.

To prevent corruption in government agencies and protect the rights of senior citizens in long-term care facilities, the Older Americans Act (first enacted in 1965) requires a unique position called the “long-term care ombudsman” as a condition of accepting federal block grants.

Tim Covell served as ombudsman of the Agency of Aging until he resigned in 1997 when he claimed Grisham prevented him from sending a letter to the state Secretary of Health.

According to the Albuquerque Journal in 1997, the letter asked the secretary at the time, Alex Valdez, to close a facility in Albuquerque that had continued to operate with the department’s knowledge for almost four years without a license in which they had been denied.

The U.S. Department of Justice did an investigation on the Fort Bayard Medical Center outside of Silver City in 2004 in accordance with the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). Ft. Bayard, being state-owned and -operated, fell under Grisham’s department. The investigation resulted in finding that the residents of Ft. Bayard “suffer significant harm and risk of harm from the facility’s inadequate medical and nursing care services”.

According to the letter the DoJ sent to Governor Bill Richardson, Ft. Bayard failed to provide proper medication practices, safety, nutrition and hydration and other basic human needs.

“We found numerous situations where residents’ last days of life were spent in miserable pain as they died from the effects of what appeared to be reckless and almost willful disregard to their health and safety,” the letter said. “In fact, in practically every record we reviewed of deceased or current Ft. Bayard residents, we discovered life-threatening omissions and commissions of treatment.”

There were at least eight deaths that could have been avoided with proper care as well as pain and suffering endured by numerous residents during the investigation.

The details of these victims’ demises are listed in the letter of findings starting on page 4 and ending on page 22.

Grisham told the Albuquerque Journal, that the department knew about these problems “for a long time from adult protective services” and that “her head was exploding” after receiving the reports. She also said that the administrator for Ft. Bayard was not licensed.

Grisham hired GEO Groups, a company that provides rehabilitation to in-custody individuals, to run Ft. Bayard in 2005, the same year after the DoJ did their investigation.

During Grisham’s tenure, she also removed Steve Nickell from his position as the Immunization Manager of the New Mexico Department of Health. The state of New Mexico was ranked second to last in infant shots when Nickell came in in 2002. By 2005, Nickell’s leadership resulted in the state moving up to 15th.

After Grisham took Nickell out of the Department of Health, New Mexico’s ranking went down to 30th.

A similar act of mismanagement is the termination of Dr. Gary Simpson, the Director of the State Health Department’s Infectious Disease Bureau. A group of 20 doctors and health professionals sent a letter to Gov. Richardson to protest the dismissal of Simpson.

After 16 years serving as head of the Agency of Aging and Health Department, Grisham resigned telling the Albuquerque Journal that the appointment was the “hardest job on the planet”.

Grisham also told the Albuquerque Journal that she “inherited” all these problems, despite being in charge the agencies involved since 1991 and having done undercover work to identify them.

Grisham will be seeing these problems again if she is elected as governor and oversee 122 departments of the New Mexico executive branch. 

The candidate’s problems running the Department of Health have given her a bad image in the eyes of the people who will be voting in the election.

William Bradford, a sophomore studying government at New Mexico State University, says that he believes Grisham is a well-experienced legislator, but he has his doubts.

“[Grisham’s] years of experience in politics including her most recent as a U.S. Representative has proved her ability to legislate and govern effectively,” Bradford said. “However, [Grisham’s track record] concerns me.”

Grisham will be running on the Democratic ticket against Jeff Apodaca and Joe Cervantes. The primary election will be in June. Rep. Steve Pearce will be running on the Republican ticket unopposed.

General election day will be November 6, 2018, and the elected governor’s term will start January 1, 2019, and end exactly 4 years later in 2023.

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16 Comments

16 Responses to “Controversial past still follows New Mexico governor candidate Lujan Grisham”

  1. Anonymous on April 15th, 2018 2:18 pm

    Nice artificial!

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    article may be the word you’re looking for?

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    Grisham was terrible to DOH employees and we have not forgotten. Screaming at people and acting like a bully is what we remember.

    [Reply]

  2. Patricia on April 16th, 2018 8:28 am

    This is very troubling. Especially this part, “Grisham also told the Albuquerque Journal that she “inherited” all these problems, despite being in charge the agencies involved since 1991 and having done undercover work to identify them.” It just goes to show she’ll point the finger and do a publicity stunt but never actually do anythign to fix the problems

    [Reply]

  3. Brian Fejer on April 18th, 2018 8:17 am

    Given that Rep. Pearce had lunch at the Trump hotel recently with Elliott Broidy, the disgraced RNC Finance member, who the President’s lawyer paid off a playboy playmate to have an abortion, and the past horrific eight years of Gov. Susana Martinez, this election choice is very easy! #ProLifeSortOf

    Rep. Herrell’s former political adviser on the run in sex slavery, domestic violence case
    https://www.alamogordonews.com/story/news/2018/04/05/yvette-herrell-political-adviser-accused-sex-slavery-domestic-violence/490530002/

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    Yes, we sure do want to avoid a Pearce win! And just like “Look how bad Trump is” wasn’t enough to get a Democrat into the White House in 2016, we had better make sure we nominate a Democrat with the integrity and platform to win the whole state in November. 2018 This article gives us a lot to think about in terms of making that choice in the June primaries.

    [Reply]

    One in the crowd Reply:

    FIND a democrat with integrity?? You”ve got a better chance of being hit by an asteroid !!!

    [Reply]

    sherwood Reply:

    Obviously this reply was written by an F minus English student. When writing about a member of a political party, the party name is capitalized. Such as in the following sentence:
    A Republican with integrity? How stupid do you think we are?

    Vote Democrat. Better education requires it!

  4. Ana on April 18th, 2018 12:35 pm

    Wow, this is very concerning. If that was the hardest job in the world…

    [Reply]

  5. Ana on April 18th, 2018 12:37 pm

    Wow, if that was the hardest job in the world… How could being Governor work?

    [Reply]

  6. Anonymous on April 18th, 2018 5:18 pm

    Plus she has taken money from special interest groups, so she is not going to be representing us, she will protect big Indonesia’s interests.

    [Reply]

  7. Kim Mellor on April 19th, 2018 11:32 am

    Please keep digging. Her connection$ to the DNC right now is what’s troubling. He not campaigning or revealing any platform to speak of is troubling.

    [Reply]

  8. Nancy on April 21st, 2018 10:54 pm

    Lujan Grisham awarded GEO Care, big donor to ethically challenged Richardson, an odoriferous no-bid contract at Ft Bayard. GEO Care’s tenure was only 2 or 3 years.

    [Reply]

  9. abq on April 25th, 2018 6:07 pm

    This article is a hit job on MLG and i resent getting the link from Apo’s campaign. IDK either candidate yet. Helpful info here but certainly not enough to inform one’s opinion or conclusions.

    [Reply]

    sherwood Reply:

    Follow the money-to the Koch brothers and their various SupedrPACs.

    [Reply]

  10. Kathy Wooten on April 26th, 2018 7:27 am

    Thank you for pointing out factual, needed information. There IS a track record here – this is only part of it – and we, the voters need to know. “She’s not Martinez/Trump” does NOT win elections – we are living with the proof of that right now.

    [Reply]

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Controversial past still follows New Mexico governor candidate Lujan Grisham