March 16, 2015

Even Griego didn’t know he didn’t vote on HJR 8 in 2014

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Phil Griego resigned from the Senate on Saturday ahead of possible censure or expulsion related to his role in a real estate deal and its connection to legislation passed in 2014.

The nameplate of Phil Griego before and after his resignation. Photo credit: Andy Lyman, Matthew Reichbach

The nameplate of Phil Griego before and after his resignation.
Photo credit: Andy Lyman, Matthew Reichbach

Initially, many believed he resigned because he voted on the legislation that allowed the state to sell one of its buildings, an arrangement Griego brokered and later received payment for. This was revealed in an investigation by the Santa Fe Reporter.

But Griego did not actually vote on the legislation. He said as much when he admitted to making another possibly more serious ethics violation.

In fact, Griego violated a portion of the the state constitution that he said in a statement to the Santa Fe New Mexican was “an obscure provision” which governed “the timing of actions by citizen-legislators in their private business lives.”

Griego admitted to violating Article IV, Section 28, which says no member of the Legislature can be involved in any contract made possible by a law passed during the term they are serving or for one year after the passage of that law.

The question of the vote, which media reports focused on in 2014, was suddenly no longer an issue. Griego himself said that he didn’t vote on the bill that led to his business deal.

The Stipulated Facts and Ethical Violations that the now-former Senator signed last week included this section (emphasis added):

10. Senator Griego remained on the floor of the senate during the debate on HJR8, and, consistent with the requirement of Senate Rule 7-5 that a senator vote on each question “unless he has direct personal or pecuniary interest in the … question”, Senator Griego exited the floor immediately prior to the vote and did not return to the floor until the vote was announced. Exhibit F.

What this says, essentially, is that Griego did not vote on the joint resolution. It also seems to point out that Griego knew he had “direct personal or pecuniary interest” in House Joint Resolution 8, so he avoided voting to not fall afoul of Senate rules.

This is a change from what was reported in multiple media outlets and even from statements Griego made in those stories.

The initial story from the Reporter in July of 2014:

Griego also points to the Senate’s 33-3 vote. “Had I not voted on it, it would have been 32-3. My vote would have made no difference at all,” says Griego.

Audio of that quote is available here. The quote is at the 15:15 mark, and Griego makes other references to voting for the bill.

The New Mexican in July of 2014:

Griego’s vote did not decide the passage of Trujillo’s House Joint Resolution 8. It passed the Senate 36-3 and the House 70-0.

The Associated Press cited the New Mexican‘s interview with Griego along with the Reporter‘s initial story.

The Albuquerque Journal in August of 2014:

About a month after the Legislature adjourned on Feb. 20, the buyer contracted with state Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose – who had voted for the sale – to monitor the sale proceedings for an undisclosed sum. Griego said the buyer is a good friend and he saw no problem with the arrangement.

It is clear that even Griego believed he had voted on the legislation until the investigation into the deal came closer.

The official vote shows Griego was counted as voting for the legislation, which officially passed 36-3 (and not 33-3 as he told the Santa Fe Reporter). Because there’s no official archiving of webcasts, refer instead to Exhibit F: a copy of the governor’s webcast of the Senate floor session on February 19, 2014.

The video below shows the entirety of the debate and vote on House Joint Resolution 8 in the 2014 legislative session. It also shows Griego’s statements in the stipulation were correct.

Fourteen seconds in, Griego says, “I’m going to go ahead and yield to Senator Cisneros,” referring to Carlos Cisneros, a Democratic Senator from Questa. Cisneros presents the bill and fields questions from other legislators on the legislation.

At 7:09, the acting-President of the Senate says there is no more debate.

Cisneros begins to close on House Joint Resolution 8, and Griego steps away from his chair and out the doors. At 7:38, the acting-President asks those voting ‘no’ to raise their hands.

Griego can be seen pacing outside the doors while the other Senators who are voting are seen seated or standing behind their chairs.

Only the side of the chamber where Democrats sit can be seen in the stationary camera; if it had been focused toward the other rear door of the chamber, Griego would not have been visible in the video. At 8:18, the vote is announced as “36 in the affirmative, three in the negative.”

Griego was counted as voting in the affirmative, even though he wasn’t in the chamber. When votes are cast by a “show of hands,” the ayes are not tallied out loud one-by-one, as they are during a roll call vote.

Although Griego yielded to Cervantes to present the joint resolution on the floor, Griego presented it himself to the Senate Rules Committee. You can see this, again, via a video from the governor’s office (very large mp4 video file available here). That video was likely only made because the committee heard the then-highly anticipated confirmation of Ryan Flynn as Secretary of the state Environment Department.

Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, sponsored HJR 8 in 2014.

An early version of this story was initially posted. New Mexico Political Report regrets the error.

Andy Lyman contributed to this report.

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