Charges rock department

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The Associated Press

SANTA FE — A former investigator accuses the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management of slander and harassment in a labor-related complaint.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a New Mexico district court heard Wednesday a case involving former intelligence analyst Victor Javier Marquez. He is seeking a restraining order against the department’s chief counsel, George Heidke, for alleged slander and a pattern of harassment.

Marquez had filed several complaints with state and federal labor departments against top administrators beginning in November 2012. He resigned May 17, telling his bureau chief, Richard Clark, that he was leaving because of ongoing harassment, retaliation and a “hostile work environment.”

But Cabinet Secretary Gregory Myers called the complaint “ridiculous claims from a disgruntled former employee.”

Marquez then filed a request for a temporary restraining against Heidke on May 20, after Heidke interviewed at least one former colleague to find out where Marquez had found a new job. The restraining order was granted May 21.

Heidke’s attorney, Walter Melendres, said the temporary restraining order is unwarranted because “Marquez’s concern regarding potential slander, even if true, would not cause immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage” to him.

The hearing was interrupted when the courthouse was evacuated after an envelope containing a suspicious white powder was opened in the clerk’s office. It has yet to be rescheduled.

The case is the latest of several complaints filed by employees in the past year against top administrators at the department.

Amanda Hembree, an intelligence analyst with the Intelligence and Security Bureau, for example, has filed complaints with the state against Secretary Gregory Myers, Deputy Secretary Anita Tallarico, Heidke, former human resources manager Maria Ortiz and Robert McGee, interim chief of the bureau.

Among other allegations, Hembree’s complaint said actions by the administration have left her feeling that she and her colleagues “are being set up to fail, which could result in termination of our employment.” She also said her request for equal pay for the same work “has fallen on deaf ears.”