SANTA FE (KRQE) — Gov. Susana Martinez and her administration has been clear from day one that political appointees who worked for Bill Richardson should not qualify for unemployment, saying that's the law. But those workers read the law differently.
The state is facing at least two lawsuits file on behalf Gilbert Gallegos, former deputy chief of staff for Richardson, and Sandra Perez, former personnel board director. Both were fired when Martinez took over last year. Gallegos and Perez both tried to collect unemployment benefits when they lost their jobs but were denied.
"Under the law, major advisors to the governor are not eligible to collect unemployment," said Perez's attorney Shane Youtz. "If you look at the law, (Perez) wasn't."
Youtz said his client did not fall under "a non-tenured policy-making or advisory position," stating Perez did not make major policy decisions as personnel director. Gallegos' lawyer said the same thing.
"It blows my mind the way (Gallegos) thinks that he as the deputy chief of staff position or other political appointees don't help in the policy decision making process," said Martinez' Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Cangiolosi.
Cangiolosi also said political hires know their jobs have an expiration date when they take them. He said unemployment benefits are for New Mexicans who lose their jobs unexpectedly.
"They knew the tenure of the previous governor was ending, and they had time to start looking for jobs at that point in time," said Cangiolosi.
But Gallegos and Perez claim that shouldn't matter because either way, they were still out of a job.
"If it is political, I think it's kind of tacky to deny dedicated public servants the rights that all other citizens of New Mexico have," said Youtz.
The Martinez administration said this has nothing to do with politics. When News 13 asked Gallegos that, he said "no comment." Youtz also said he didn't want to speculate.
A former state employee who worked for Gov. Gary Johnson said all employees were told the first day that they would not be eligible for unemployment when a new governor came in and cleaned house, which Richardson did.
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.