September 29, 2015

House panel names attorney for impeachment investigation

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State Reps. Zach Cook and Gail Chasey after the first House Special Investigatory Committee meeting.

The House panel tasked with looking into possible impeachment of Secretary of State Dianna Duran has already hired special counsel to aid in the investigation.

State Reps. Zach Cook and Gail Chasey after the first House Special Investigatory Committee meeting.

State Reps. Zach Cook and Gail Chasey after the first House Special Investigatory Committee meeting.

Just a day after the first meeting of the House Special Investigatory Committee, co-chairs Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, announced they retained former federal prosecutor Robert Gorence as special counsel.

“We’re confident Mr. Gorence will do an outstanding job of assisting the committee in this important task,” the two co-chairs said in a joint statement on Tuesday afternoon. “His experience, professionalism and diligence will be invaluable.”

Legislators are looking into allegations that Duran moved campaign funds to personal accounts, as part of thousands of dollars spent at local casinos. The Attorney General charged her with 64 criminal counts.

As Secretary of State, Duran is tasked with upholding state campaign laws including campaign finance laws.

Chasey told reporters yesterday that they would look for “a really good attorney who’s extremely experienced.”

The committee voted to give Cook and Chasey the authority to hire counsel.

Robert J Gorence

Robert J Gorence

While impeachment is exceedingly rare—this is just the third time such a committee has been brought together for an impeachment in the last decade—Gorence has some experience. He was the special counsel hired by a subcommittee of the House Rules Committee tasked with looking into the impeachment of then-Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. in 2011.

Block Jr. pleaded guilty to to multiple felonies and resigned from office before the subcommittee could vote on whether or not to send the impeachment to the full House.

Gorence is an attorney at the Gorence & Oliveros law firm and is a former Assistant United States Attorney and Chief of the Criminal Division.

A press release from Legislative Council Service says that there has been no contract signed yet, so details about Gorence’s compensation are not yet known. LCS will provide these to the media when they are known.

Legislators in the interim Legislative Council approved up to $250,000 in funding for the committee to investigate the charges against Duran.

Earlier this month in district court, Duran pleaded not guilty to the 64 counts related to funneling campaign funds to personal accounts.

In the 2005 investigation into the possible impeachment of then-State Treasurer Robert Vigil, Paul Kennedy served as special counsel for a House Rules Committee subcommittee.

Like Block, Vigil resigned before any vote on impeachment.

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