September 2, 2015

Speaker forming committee to look into impeachment of Secretary of State

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Just days after House Democrats said they would explore the possibility of impeaching embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran, Speaker of the House Don Tripp is informing other elected officials of his intention to have House members look into the possibility.

RoundhouseTripp, like Duran, is a Republican.

Dianna Duran is facing 64 charges related to allegedly converting thousands of dollars of campaign funds into personal funds. Duran allegedly transferred over $10,000 to accounts she and her husband controlled using a variety of tactics.

The indictment came down on Friday afternoon.

Since then, there have been calls for her resignation.

The Socorro Republican leader of the House sent letters to Attorney General Hector Balderas and Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, announcing the intentions. KOB-TV first reported on the letters. Copies of the letters are available below.

The House Special Committee will be made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.

Letters to Balderas, Papen

In his letter to Balderas, Tripp asked for “your cooperation by sharing the case file with the Special Committee so that we can move as expeditiously as possible.”

Speaker of the House Don Tripp

Speaker of the House Don Tripp

Tripp promised that they can keep the evidence confidential “both to protect the integrity of your investigation and subsequent legal proceedings as well as to ensure that the accused is treated fairly and impartially.”

His letter to Papen came because of her position as co-chair of the Legislative Council. Tripp asked for the funding for such a committee to be included in discussions of the budget for the upcoming session.

The Senate would not be involved in the process unless the House voted to impeach Duran. At that point, the Senate would sit as the jury of a trial, with the House serving as prosecutors.

Impeachment’s very brief recent history

Earlier this week, New Mexico Political Report laid out what impeachment would look like as part of a look at four possibilities in the Duran case.

An excerpt from that piece:

To get the ball rolling, a member of the House would need to introduce a resolution during a session. This likely would be a special session, one that Martinez would need to call. It could also be an extraordinary session (which members of the Legislature would call) or a regular session.

From there, a subcommittee of the House Rules & Order of Business Committee would consider articles of impeachment. The subcommittee would hire outside counsel to investigate and provide evidence to the subcommittee. After hearing testimony, the subcommittee would vote on whether or not to send it to the full House.

An impeachment could be looked at as analogous to an indictment. It is not any sign of guilt, but it does show that there is enough evidence to go to trial.

If the House votes to impeach, then it would go to the Senate side, which would sit as the jury for the trial.

Mugshot of Jerome Block Jr.

Mugshot of Jerome Block Jr.

If formed, this would be the first such subcommittee since legislators looked at the impeachment of Jerome Block Jr. in 2012. Block was then a member of the Public Regulation Commission but resigned as he pleaded guilty to charges including improperly using a state gas card.

The letters were also sent to Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque and House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

In recent years, just one other statewide official faced impeachment. State Treasurer Robert Vigil resigned before the impeachment subcommittee could vote to send the issue to the full House. He was later convicted of federal corruption charges and spent over two years in jail and another six months in a halfway house.

No statewide official has ever been impeached.

Correction: This post originally said Duran was indicted. She was charged by criminal information and a preliminary hearing will determine if she is indicted. We regret the error.

Letter to AG on impeachment

Letter to President Pro Tem on impeachment