Governor's chief of staff accused of physical assault

Posted at: 10/10/2012 7:18 PM
Updated at: 10/10/2012 7:22 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Photo: Keith Gardner
Photo: Keith Gardner

A local senator is calling for Governor Susana Martinez's chief of staff to either resign or be fired.

Keith Gardner is accused of physical assault during this past legislative session.

But in an interview with KOB Eyewitness News 4 late Wednesday afternoon, Gardner said surveillance video of the encounter shows otherwise.

Gardner said the only explanation he can think of for why this allegation from February is being brought up now is because the election is only a month away.

"He acts like a bully, and that's just not something that we should have in government," said Sen. Linda Lopez, (D) Albuquerque.

It has been allegation after allegation against Gardner, Lopez said.

As reported last month, Gardner was under fire for audio recordings release, in which he stated he never uses his state-issued email to conduct business.

Just this week, a letter was released that Albuquerque Public Schools Legislative Liaison, Carrie Menapace, wrote to Martinez back in February.

In the letter, she writes, "Mr. Gardner grabbed my arm to turn me around.  While painfully holding my arm and in an extremely threatening manner, he yelled that Winston (Superintendent Brooks) should 'be aware that the bowels of hell were about to open up upon him unless he stopped opposing the Governor's bills.'"

"That never occurred," Gardner said.

Gardner showed KOB surveillance video from that exact day and time Menepace referred to in her letter.

He explained, two different camera angles showed he never laid a hand on anyone.

"The individual who made these accusations was already facing me, when I walked up, and shows that those other alleged things didn't occur," Gardner said.  "And with the short interaction, there was no way all the things she says were said could have possibly been said."

The letter is dated February 24, and Gardner said Martinez took the accusations seriously.

"It was addressed by the governor immediately by pulling the video, that's why we have it today," Gardner said.

Regardless of Gardner's claims, Lopez said the only way to restore the government's reputation is for Gardner to resign.

"For him to be doing this and for him being allowed to stay in that position that he has, I think is deplorable," Lopez said.

Martinez was not available for comment Wednesday but spokesman Scott Darnell told KOB the issue was addressed with all parties involved, at the time of the allegations, and they stand behind Gardner.