Corrections Dept. Tried to Conceal Evidence
Details of a 2014 report that the New Mexico Department of Corrections attempted to conceal have become public. Now the agency is facing sanctions.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, state district judge Raymond Ortiz heavily sanctioned the department for concealing and destroying evidence related to a lawsuit filed in 2017 by the department’s former Behavioral Health Bureau chief, Bianca McDermott. According to McDermott's complaint, the Department of Corrections failed to keep track of inmates' medical care contract and retaliated when McDermott raised concerns over the issue.
An 309-page independent report published in June 2014 by the McHard Accounting Consulting firm reportedly substantiated McDermott's complaints, finding that the department failed to audit inmates' medical care and retaliated against McDermott.
But according to Ortiz, the agency made an effort to conceal that report from the court and the public. When first asked to produce the report for the court, the agency claimed that the it was protected by attorney-client privilege or exceptions to the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. When that failed, Corrections Department lawyers filed a petition in May with the state Supreme Court to stop the report’s release, but their request was denied. The judge also accused the agency of destroying evidence and closing email accounts while the case progressed.
The judge said the the department's response was the worst example of “willful, intentional and bad faith attempts to conceal evidence” he'd experienced in his career. He sanctioned the agency and said the only thing left is to decide how much it will pay McDermott in damages.