SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Democratic state senator is asking for an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of actions taken by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s embattled public education secretary.
Sen. Linda Lopez, of Albuquerque, made the request Wednesday after the Legislature adjourned its 2013 session without voting on whether to confirm Martinez’s appointment of Hanna Skandera.
Skandera is able to continue in her job without being confirmed, but she is the only cabinet-level agency leader in the Martinez administration who hasn’t been endorsed by senators.
Lopez’s letter asks Attorney General Gary King to issue an opinion on several issues that were raised during confirmation hearings this year, including whether it was legal for a Farmington charter school to use tax dollars to hire a for-profit company to run an online school.
Attorney general opinions can guide lawmakers, but they are not binding.
Lopez also questioned whether the charter school’s 10-year contract with the company violates the four-year maximum term for contracts under the state procurement code.
Skandera has said the Farmington Municipal School District, not the state, approved the contract and did not seek input from the Public Education Department.
Lopez’s request for an opinion also asked about using state bond money to reward top-rated schools.
Her letter also asked King to say whether his office is investigating whether Skandera ordered department officials to compile a list of teacher email addresses for political purposes.
Skandera has said she wanted it to communicate with teachers and that a political adviser to Martinez got it after submitting a public records request.
Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the office will respond to Lopez as soon as possible.
Lopez chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which held three confirmation hearings on Skandera without taking any action. Lopez has said the committee still has a lot of questions about some of Skandera’s decisions.
“We had an opportunity to have some dialogue and conversation, discussion. We will still continue,” Lopez said Saturday. “The Rules Committee meets year round, so we’ll hopefully have an opportunity to continue the questioning, conversations with regard to Hanna Skandera.”
Martinez said Saturday that the lack of a confirmation vote for Skandera showed “just how low the politics could go in Santa Fe.”