Reporter Dan McKay broke the news in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal that Governor Michell Lujan Grisham handed out another big pay raise to a high ranking state official.
James Kenney, Lujan Grisham’s Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, was given a $12,400 a year pay raise, making him the highest paid cabinet secretary.
According to McKay’s reporting, the Governor’s press secretary released the following statement as justification for the pay raise, “… the Environment Department “has been tasked with ensuring the health and safety of workers and customers statewide, including carrying out tens of thousands of rapid responses, running the state’s wastewater surveillance testing program, and coordinating with businesses to ensure safe practices and establish mobile testing programs, all of which Secretary Kenney coordinated and executed.””
The decision by the Governor to give Kenney such a huge pay raise comes at a time when she and legislators refused to provide the people who actually do the work Kenney supposedly ‘coordinated and executed,’ with a restoration of the 4% pay raise promised a year ago, but revoked due to the economic impact of the coronavirus and falling oil and gas revenues.
Kenney’s favored treatment stands out as other cabinet secretaries who were equally or more engaged during the past fourteen months of the pandemic – like the secretaries of the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services – did not see their salaries increase.
It begs the question: Is the Governor about to provide another big pay raise for these other cabinet secretaries?
Was Kenney Too Embarrassed to Admit He Got Another Pay Raise?
The Candle, a companion publication of Roundhouse Movidas, wrote Kenney and his press secretary Maddy Hayden on Wednesday morning, asking “… if James Kenney has received a pay raise above the $156,000 salary paid to him in January of this year?”
The Candle had noticed while researching a story on executive pay in Lujan Grisham’s government that the Sunshine Portal had Kenney receiving an increase from $156,000/year to $168,400/ year in the March posting of state employee salaries.
Kenney was copied on The Candle’s email to Hayden.
Crickets from Hayden, who has also just recently been handed a big pay increase from the Governor ($14,000/year) as reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Daniel Chacón on May 4, 2021.
The Candle editor followed up with another email to both Hayden and Kenney asking, “Could either of you please forward me a simple answer relative to Mr. Kenney’s salary, as I asked yesterday. It would likely take a moment to do so.”
Again, crickets. Nada. No response.
There are hundreds of employees at the New Mexico Environment Department that deserve a raise more than either of these favored “exempt” employees.
In fact, there are thousands of state and school employees who deserve a fair pay raise more than Hayden and Kenney and the other favored “exempt” employees Michelle Lujan Grisham has lavished pay raises from $7,000 a year to $32,000 since the pandemic and her refusal to provide a simple and fair cost of living pay raise to regular employees.