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New Mexico Food Stamp Director Removed During Ongoing Lawsuit

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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A New Mexico administrator was removed from her position Tuesday after invoking her right to remain silent during an ongoing lawsuit against the state food stamp program.

The New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) was accused in a federal lawsuit of falsifying food stamp records to disqualify applicants from receiving benefits. HSD Income Support Division Director Marilyn Martinez oversaw the program but was removed from her position and will now serve as chief of the financial services bureau.

“Marilyn has been a dedicated member of the HSD team for many years, recently serving as ISD Director,” HSD Secretary Brent Earnest wrote in an email to employees Friday, which was obtained by The New Mexico Political Report. “And I look forward to her contributing her experience and expertise within ASD.”

Martinez was brought before a federal court in May but refused to answer questions related to the allegations. Earnest did not make clear whether the federal lawsuit was a reason for her removal. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) first noted concern May 27 over the state ending food stamp benefits for qualified individuals. HSD has since been working with the USDA to resolve the issues.

USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon and five state lawmakers urged federal investigators to intervene. Concannon warned in a letter to the USDA Office of Inspector General that the accusations could be considered criminal if true. The USDA notes investigation is needed since some alleged activities may fall out of its authority to prosecute.

The food stamp program is the largest food assistance welfare service in the country, and is officially known as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The USDA is the main federal agency tasked with overseeing the national food stamp program. It works with state agencies to make sure benefits are properly distributed to qualified individuals and families struggling to feed themselves.

The USDA estimates the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The improved economy has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years. The Congressional Budget Office found, since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million.

Martinez did not respond to whether it will launch an investigation when asked by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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