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But when it was pointed out to DES spokesman Fernando Vender that--at least in Clarke's view, in documents she had provided to the state--the cundina was operated on state time, and that she had been urged by her supervisor to join, the state decided to investigate.
Moises Gallegos, program administrator for the Family Assistance Administration at DES, says he was unaware that Clarke felt coerced by her supervisor to join the cundina, or that it was operated on state time.
"That is not behavior that we tolerate. If we have reports of such things, we do look into them. Now, as you can well imagine, that is a very difficult thing to prove or disprove," he says.
Howard Boyce, spokesman for the Department of Administration, says the state's personnel rules are up for interpretation by individual state agencies. There is no rule specifically prohibiting investment clubs at work, he says, but broader rules prohibit the use of state time and/or property to conduct personal business. Also, activities that could potentially embarrass the state are not allowed.
Boyce says the activity alleged by Clarke "could lead to discipline and/or firing, but it wouldn't necessarily if the agency didn't think it was disrupting anything or causing a problem and they weren't using [state equipment and time]."
Alvarez hung up the phone when asked about the cundina and Clarke's charges. Woods could not be reached for comment.
Clarke now works at ComCare, a nonprofit group involved with mental health care. She says she has phoned around and could find no one else at DES who had heard of Alvarez's cundina.
"I want my money. That is all I want. I don't want anybody to get fired, but if they get fired, that is their business. If they get fired, they can't pay me!" Clarke says.