Certificate revocation 'bad misunderstanding'
December 16, 2020
Quay County manager Richard Primrose said Monday the commission received a certificate of appreciation from the New Mexico Department of Health regarding last month’s National Rural Health Day that was revoked by request of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office three days later.
Several people in the gallery gasped or laughed with astonishment about the revocation, including incoming District II commissioner Jerri Rush, who will take office next month.
“That’s priceless,” county Chairman Franklin McCasland said sarcastically.
Lujan Grisham’s spokesman in an email Monday described the revocation as “a bad misunderstanding” by a DOH staff member and wished to apologize to county officials on the governor’s behalf. He pledged to reissue the certificates.
The certificate, part of Primrose’s correspondence portion of the meeting, stated it was for the commission “being an Outstanding and Dedicated Health Professional for our rural and underserved communities in New Mexico.” It was signed by Timothy Lopez, office of Primary Care and Rural Health director.
During follow-up questions after the commission meeting, Primrose said the certificate of appreciation was sent by Martina Garcia of the DOH’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health on Nov. 17. Primrose also forwarded the email chain from the DOH to the Quay County Sun.
“The New Mexico Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) is proud to recognize the innovation, quality of care, and dedication of health professionals and volunteers in the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities during National Rural Health Day 2020!” the email stated.
“This year we want to recognize and thank you and your staff for the outstanding efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that on November 19, 2020 that your clinic name will be recognized in a Press Release for National Rural Health Day on the NMDOH website and also on Social Media (Twitter and Facebook). Please see attached a certificate of appreciation from the OPCRH for your clinic!”
Primrose said he received another email from Garcia on Nov. 20, stating the certificate was canceled.
“I am so sorry to inform you that the Press Release and posting on Social Media on National Rural Health Day to recognize your efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic was cancelled per Governor’s office,” Garcia wrote. “Only messaging directly related to COVID-19 will be posted at this time. Please know that your hard work in this challenging time is very much appreciated.”
Tripp Stelnicki, the governor’s director of communications, was apologetic after being alerted to the situation Monday by the Quay County Sun.
“This is a bad misunderstanding and I hope you will do me a kindness and convey sincere apologies to the county officials you speak with on my behalf, on behalf of this office,” he wrote in an email.
“Ms. Garcia emailed me last month requesting a statewide news release from the Department of Health to commemorate National Rural Health Day. I told her that, with staffing issues in the Department of Health communications division, and the already unsustainable communications workload the department is dealing with, that we had to prioritize COVID-specific news releases.
“What happened next, apparently, is that Ms. Garcia interpreted this as a cancelation of these certificates. That was not at all anyone's intent, and I plan to speak with her as soon as I am able to ensure these certificates are re-issued to anyone who may have received them.
“The only intent here was to minimize the workload on the communications division by delaying a news release.”
In another email, Stelnicki wrote: “There was no intent at any point to ‘cancel’ these certificates or to convey any of that nature.”
Stelnicki wrote he hoped to “fix it as soon as I’m able” and reissue the certificates “ASAP.”