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Senator: New Mexico Education Secretary Designate Has Not Submitted Paperwork For Background Check

Feb 12, 2018

Credit Christopher Ruszkowski

Commentary: Neither the Governor’s Office nor Christopher Ruszkowski, the cabinet-secretary designate of the State Public Education Department, has submitted the essential paperwork for official State Senate confirmation, Senator Linda M. Lopez, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said on Monday.

“It concerns me that the cabinet-secretary designate has not submitted to the Senate Rules Committee a release that allows the Office of the Attorney General and Universal Investigation to conduct a criminal and financial background check,” Senator Lopez said. “We require all teachers and administrators and others in the field who deal with children in our public schools to be cleared, and we are still unable to do that with Mr. Ruszkowski. He is operating as cabinet secretary without authority to do so.”

Governor Susana Martinez appointed Ruszkowski as the state Public Education Department’s cabinet-secretary designate on August 24, 2017. The State Constitution (Article 4, Section 42) states that the governor’s office has 30 days from the date of the appointment to provide formal notice to the Senate. The Senate Rules Committee notified the Governor’s Office and Ruszkowski of the lapse in a hand-delivered letter on January 25, 2018, and has yet to hear or receive the required paperwork from either, though Mr. Ruszkowski was given a February 7, 2018 deadline to submit the paperwork.

“It is imperative that our public school teachers and administrators be cleared by a background check to work on the front line with our children. They serve as the primary role model in many of the lives our students whose safety and well-being is priority Number 1 when they are in school,” Senator Lopez said. “I find it curious that the cabinet-secretary designate is choosing not to live up to this standard that we require of our educators.”

Ruszkowski has also refused to submit to the Senate Rules Committee’s required questionnaire that queries on issues such as tax liens, workplace complaints and reprimands, child support compliance and conflicts of interest.