Message #216

Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 14:49:17
Subject: NM Cabinet Secretaries Destroy Historic
Buildings on State Lands

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

SASIG Ed. Note -- It is time for everyone to e-mail
and write letters to the governor and elected
officials of New Mexico:

To contact Governor Johnson, please send email to:

In order to receive a timely and accurate reply to
your message, please include a physical or mailing
address. Use the following address if you wish to
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Governor Gary E. Johnson
Office of the Governor
State Capitol Building
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87503

NM Senators
NM Representatives

From: David Cushman

I received this from Glenna Dean, the NM State
Archaeologist, who sent the article to me by fax
at my request.

David Cushman, Pima County Preservation Coordinator

Cabinet chiefs helped destroy historic sites
Use of state equipment, staff to demolish ranch
may violate state law, officials say

The Santa Fe New Mexican July 24, 1998

At the request of ranching friends, two state
Cabinet secretaries recently arranged the
destruction of historical buildings on state land
the ranchers were leasing - and used state Highway
Department equipment and workers in the project.

The two Cabinet members Department of Public Safety
Secretary Darren White and Highway Department
Secretary Pete Rahn - say they had state Land
Office permission to raze the buildings on the
ranch, owned by New York radio personality Don Imus
and his brother, Fred, a Santa Fe businessman. The
ranch includes 848 acres of leased state-trust land.

But Land Office officials say they never formally
approved the destruction and that the secretaries
may have violated several state laws in the process.

White, who is a friend of the Imus brothers, said
Fred Imus approached him in April seeking advice
about how to get the buildings torn down. The
brothers were in the process of buying the ranch
near Ribera, about 20 miles southeast of Pecos,
and planned to use the property as a camp for
children with cancer.

White said he contacted the state Land Office to
verify that the buildings were on the leased state
land.  Then he asked Rahn if the Highway Department
could clear away the buildings, described in Land
Office records as a ranch house and store together
with corrals and other out buildings.  Rahn agreed
to do the work.

White said he made it clear to the Land Office
official he spoke with - whom he could not identify
- that the Highway Department was going to raze the
buildings.  The official didn't object to the
destruction and didn't question the use of state
resources on the project, White said. But assistant
land commissioner Ed Moreno said Thursday that the
Land Office "has no record of having given
permission" to destroy the buildings.

In addition, Moreno said, the Imus brothers were
not technically the lessees of the land at the time
when the demolition occurred because the Land
Office had not yet approved their application to
transfer the lease from the ranch's former owner.

Moreno said the transfer application didn't arrive
at the Land Office until the last week in June.
Within "24 to 48 hours" of receiving the
application, Moreno said, "we learned that highway
department crews had gone out to the property and
torn down some buildings."

Moreno said that under the lease terms, the
leaseholder, not the state, is responsible for
improvements on trust lands.  The use of Highway
Department equipment and staff to demolish the
buildings on the Imus ranch thus may be a violation
of state law, he said.

"Our real concern here is that state resources may
have been used to benefit a private party," Moreno
said.  "And we think it's important to ask
questions about the Cabinet secretaries' roles in
all of this."

State historical preservation officer Lynn
Sebastian said destruction of the buildings also
may be a violation of state laws protecting
cultural properties.  Although the buildings aren't
in the historical register, they are identified in
state Land Office records dating from 1912.
Sebastian said her understanding is that the state
archaeologist sent to visit the site after the
buildings were torn down found evidence that they
could have dated back to 1880.

"If this was in fact an extant ranch complex dating
that early, it would have met the definition of a
cultural property," Sebastian said. Destruction of
cultural property on state land without permission
is a felony, she said.

White said the buildings were "dilapidated" and "a
real hazard" to the Imuses' plans for a children's
camp. And he said he "specifically asked" the land
office official he spoke with in April if the
buildings were on state land and if he and Rahn
would be "within bounds" of the law in removing
them.  "The answer was yes," he said.

Rahn said he relied on White's assurances that the
Land Office had given permission for the demolition.
And because the buildings were on state land, Rahn
said, he assumed it was legal to use Highway
Department resources in the project.

And there was a real emotional appeal of helping
kids with cancer," he said.  "I think everybody
working on this wanted to do something to help."

Fred Imus did not return calls from The New
Mexican Thursday.

New Mexico Studies Imus Ranch
JULY 27, 11:38 EDT SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) The New Mexico attorney general's office is looking into whether state law was violated in the bulldozing of two historic ranch buildings for a charity for Don Imus and his brother. ``I wouldn't use the word investigation yet. It's an inquiry,'' said Kay Roybal, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Tom Udall. At issue is whether state Public Safety Secretary Darren White and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn violated laws against wrecking cultural property and the use of public money for private benefit. "I think it smells of election-year politics,'' White said Friday. Under orders from White and Rahn, a state Highway and Transportation Department crew on July 1 razed an old adobe ranch house, two barns and corrals on state land near Ribera, some 40 miles southeast of Santa Fe. The land was intended for lease to syndicated talk show host Don Imus and his brother Fred, who lives in Santa Fe. Don Imus said Sunday he was not looking for any favors when asking state officials to do something about the buildings. ``We called Darren and asked him to clean that mess up,'' Imus said in New York. ``That's what we thought we were supposed to do. No one was looking for a favor.'' He said he is willing to write the state a check if that will settle the controversy. People who lease land from the state Land Office must pay for changes on the land and must obtain permission for such actions as wrecking buildings. That never happened. ``They might have been able to destroy these buildings if they'd done it the right way, and no one would be saying a word,'' said Ed Moreno, an assistant state land commissioner. ``If he (White) thinks this is election-year politics, that's absolutely untrue. This is kind of common sense, knowing what the law is before you take action on something,'' Moreno said. The buildings were destroyed without mandatory studies to determine their historical or cultural value. Archaeologists, who recovered artifacts from the ranch complex in the Las Vegas, N.M., landfill, believe the complex dated to the 1880s or earlier. It shows up in state records as the ``Old Station'' and may have been used in the 1920s as a tourist stop near the Santa Fe Trail for people crossing the Southwest in touring cars. ``It certainly meets the definition of a cultural property, and that's all it needs to be protected under law,'' said Lynne Sebastian, state historic preservation officer. ``It sounds very likely to have qualified for listing on the state register (of historic places) at the very least,'' she said. Injury or destruction of a cultural property is a state felony. So is a public official's use of state assets for private gain. Last spring, the Imus brothers were closing their purchase of land for their ranch and seeking a lease of related grazing land from the Land Office. Gov. Gary Johnson has pledged his administration's support for the Imus ranch. White said that in late April, Fred Imus called him to have dilapidated ranch buildings on the state land destroyed because they would pose a safety risk to children at the ranch. White called the Land Office to see about using Highway and Transportation Department workers to demolish the buildings. ``They told me nothing could be done until the lease was transferred over, and nothing more was said,'' White said. ``They said the lease would be transferred in about six weeks. I passed that information on to Pete Rahn, and he said, `No problem,''' White said. The Imus brothers still have not received the transfer of the lease where the buildings were destroyed. White said no one warned him of the need for archaeological studies. And because the buildings were on state land, White and Rahn said they assumed there would be no violations of state law. ``I wasn't circumventing the processes of the Land Office,'' White said. ``Why would I fax them a map of the buildings and tell them what we wanted to do? This was no cloak-and-dagger mission.'' Rahn said one of his department's engineers checked out the buildings and deemed them dangerous. ``It was never described as being old to the point of being historic,'' Rahn said. ``There was nothing to trigger that concern. From what I heard, they were just dilapidated buildings. ``The motivation for all this was the idea we were trying to help kids with cancer. If I would have thought I was being asked to do something that was not right, I would have said no.''
Governor stands by officials who aided demolition on Imus property By NANCY PLEVIN The New Mexican Gov. Gary Johnson "fully supports" two Cabinet secretaries who authorized destruction of old buildings to make way for a private ranch retreat for children, his spokeswoman said Monday. The state Attorney General's Office is looking into allegations that Public Safety Secretary Darren White and Highway Secretary Pete Rahn violated state law when they arranged for highway department crews to raze the buildings - a house, well, windmill, two barns and two outbuildings believed to date to the 1880s or early 1900s. The structures were on state trust land near Ribera, southwest of Las Vegas, N.M., to be leased from the State Land Office by New York radio personality Don Imus and his brother, Fred, a Santa Fe businessman. The pair, who are friends of White's, are raising money to build an 810-acre working ranch retreat for children with cancer and serious blood disorders, and siblings of children who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They expect the ranch to open in about a year. The Land Office says it never approved the action; White says it did. The Attorney General's Office is investigating whether state resources were illegally used to benefit private interests; whether the highway department crews trespassed; and whether the action violated laws protecting cultural property and historic assets. Don Imus has said the buildings were dilapidated and dangerous and "looked like a trash dump." The governor, who in a March 16 letter to Imus offered "support in any way I might be able to assist this project," said through his spokeswoman Diane Kinderwater that removal of the buildings was "common sense." "He (Johnson) understands it was a hazardous situation and that they were cleaning up the area because of that," Kinderwater said. Kinderwater said the governor wrote to Imus because: "This project is going to bring in to New Mexico a lot of out of state money . . . and it will take care of some very sick children." David Hurst Thomas, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, is working as a volunteer with the Imuses to create an archaeological program for the youngsters who will attend the camp and to record the existence of any archaeological sites on the land. Thomas said the destruction of the buildings - which he says he had not seen - "never should have happened." "Everyone regrets that that happened. No one's condoning it," Thomas said. "The next question, beyond the legal one, is what's the best thing to do." Thomas said he believes that the Imus brothers are concerned that "that they do nothing that impacts the archaeological record on their ranch," which Thomas believes dates to prehistoric times. Deputy Land Commissioner Chuck Spath said his office is looking for answers. "We do business with the highway department on a regular basis, and they know that on these types of issues that we talk and exchange information, and it didn't happen this time," Spath said. Spath said it likely will never be known whether the structures qualified as cultural properties or historic assets because his office has no plans for archaeological testing of anything that remains on the site. LETTERS

Date: Sat, 25 Jul 1998 17:34:18 EDT To:
Subject: State historical heritage Dear Gov. Johnson, Please explain how important cultural properties that are part of the heritage of our entire state can be destroyed with no proper procedures, no letters, nothing in writing, and no survey by the Historic Preservation Office. The fact that two of your cabinet secretaries were party to this destruction and that they used state equipment to benefit private parties is even more discouraging. Is their better judgement subject to the whims of their "important" friends? Were they so eager to please a public "celebrity" that they just jumped on that bulldozer and smashed down those buildings? This incident sounds like a childish prank, but it was carried out by two grown men who have been given positions of power by you, and who took an oath to represent the best interests of this state. Don and Fred Imus may dangle "cancer children" as a carrot to get people's sympathy, but this is beyond sympathy. The Imus brothers are getting plenty out of this ranch deal, themselves. In their business, publicity and public opinion are valuable assets. Would you extend the same services to other nonprofit organizations in the state? I know of several very worthy groups that could use some in-kind professional expertise, services, and equipment rental. Please let me know to whom I should direct their inquiries. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Suzanne Jamison HC 68, Box 79-s Gila Hot Springs Silver City, NM 88061 505-536-9339