Contarino named as John Doe #2
Posted 2/03/2009 02:03:00 PM
Governor’s office calls pay-to-play lawsuit ‘a big joke’
Dave Contarino, Gov. Bill Richardson’s right-hand man who was already at the center of a federal investigation into pay-to-play allegations in the administration, was publicly named today as the man who allegedly ordered another pay-to-play deal detailed in a civil lawsuit.
In unsealing the identity of John Doe #2, Frank Foy, the former chief investment officer for the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board, is publicly alleging that Contarino ordered other state officials to make investments with Vanderbilt Financial and affiliated companies in exchange for a little more than $15,000 in contributions to Richardson’s 2008 presidential campaign, which Contarino managed. Foy’s civil lawsuit, filed on behalf of the state, alleges that the state lost $90 million in the investment deals.
Contarino wrote in an e-mail that a comment is “coming soon.” Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos released this statement:
“This lawsuit is a big joke. Mr. Foy and his partisan lawyer are abusing the legal system by leveling blatantly false, political allegations against the governor’s administration,” Gallegos said. “Hopefully the court will hold them accountable for this unethical grandstanding.”
Foy and his attorney, Victor Marshall of Albuquerque, filed the lawsuit last summer but left it sealed until last month, when the media was focused on covering scandal because of the other pay-to-play controversy -- the ongoing grand jury probe -- dogging the Richardson administration. Then, last week, Marshall put out a news release informing the media that he had issued a subpoena for records from the governor’s non-profit foundation. Contarino’s name was released today at a news conference that was announced on Monday.
Under the law that allows Foy to sue on behalf of the state, he could personally pocket tens of millions of dollars if he’s successful in his quest to win some $300 million in damages for the state.
The other state officials who have been publicly named as defendants in the lawsuit are State Investment Officer Gary Bland and Bruce Malott, chairman of the educational retirement board. Those are the men Foy alleges that Contarino instructed to make the investments. Several companies and officials tied to those companies have also been named as defendants.
But dozens of defendants’ names remained sealed, including someone listed as John Doe #1.
The other controversy
In early January, Bloomberg reported that the grand jury investigation of the other pay-to-play controversy was looking at whether Contarino solicited contributions from companies who worked on a lucrative state bond deal. That made the former chief of staff and campaign manager for Richardson the highest-ranking official to be publicly named as being under investigation in the case. Contarino, who Richardson once called his “most senior and trusted aide,” said at the time that, “In all of my actions, I acted appropriately and I am confident that the investigation will bear out that fact.”
Richardson defended Contarino at the time, with Gallegos releasing a statement that said the governor “is fully supportive of Dave Contarino and is confident that he always acted ethically and appropriately during his time as chief of staff.”