Lawyer Says New Mexico Insurance Official Probably Was Fired

July 31, 2006

A lawyer for Deputy Insurance Superintendent Joe Ruiz said late Friday he believes his client has been fired, hours after a Public Regulation Commission official issued a vague statement saying he had taken action “regarding a personnel matter.”

Deputy Insurance Superintendent Joe Ruiz, who has been on leave amid allegations he solicited charitable donations from a company that faced fines from regulators, apparently was dismissed by PRC Chief of Staff Daniel Mayfield.

“I have proceeded to take action today regarding a personnel matter … which is in the best interest of this agency,” Mayfield said in a news release. He didn’t identify the individual or provide details.

Mayfield couldn’t be reached for comment late Friday.

Ruiz told the Albuquerque Journal, in a copyright story published Friday morning, he had been given a deadline of noon Friday to resign or be fired. The insurance department operates under the PRC.

Ron Morgan, an Albuquerque lawyer who is representing Ruiz, said late Friday he hadn’t received any notification from PRC officials concerning Ruiz. He said he had spoken to his client, who also reported no update.

“It looks to me like they’ve terminated him,” said Morgan, who vowed to appeal. “We certainly want to pursue whatever’s reasonable to resolve this. Joe doesn’t want to be in any kind of a court battle.”

A woman who answered the telephone at Ruiz’s home in Santa Fe referred questions to Morgan.

In another strange development, PRC Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy issued another statement where she expressed concern about Mayfield’s action and said the reasons for it were not made clear to commissioners.

“There was no clear disciplinary plan, no written citations for violations and no opportunity was given for this person to be heard before the commission during a closed session,” Lovejoy wrote.

Lovejoy didn’t identify the individual but said the person “has given many years of service to the PRC and should have been afforded that courtesy.”

Lovejoy didn’t return telephone messages left by The Associated Press seeking elaboration.

Earlier this year, Ruiz’s name was mentioned in a lawsuit that alleged former Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna had offered favorable treatment in insurance matters in exchange for contributions to Con Alma, a nonprofit health foundation Serna founded.

Ruiz has maintained he’s done nothing wrong.

Morgan said he sent a letter to PRC officials Friday morning, asking them to reconsider the noon deadline. He also said he asked them to provide evidence to support any administrative action that was proposed for Ruiz.

“I said we can go to them and share information and try to work
through this because we think there is a serious
misunderstanding,” Morgan said. “I asked them to postpone this
hasty decision.”

Morgan also said that Ruiz didn’t receive an administrative hearing. Morgan was out of state while a hearing date was being considered, but said he’d received no indication there was a problem until Ruiz was given the ultimatum Thursday.

“They said everything was fine until yesterday,” Morgan said.

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