In 2010 Dianna Duran ran for secretary of state as a reform candidate who would clean things up in the wake of scandals that had plagued the office’s two previous occupants. As a county clerk in rural Otero County and later a state senator, Duran had earned a reputation for cool-headed competence. She was endorsed by most of the state’s newspapers and even the left-leaning editorial board at The Santa Fe New Mexican gave her a thumbs up, citing a “solid record of integrity.” When she won, Duran became the first Republican to hold the secretary of state’s office in 80 years. That was then. In late October, just a year into her second term, Duran, the state official in charge of overseeing elections, campaign finance and ethics, resigned and pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement charges related to personal use of campaign funds.
If the first meeting of a Special Investigatory Committee looking into impeaching Secretary of State Dianna Duran was any indication, the journey between now and possible impeachment will be long and grueling. Lawmakers approved granting committee co-chairs state Reps. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, authority to hire legal counsel. Cook said the committee will likely hire an attorney within the next week. The lawyer will be tasked with guiding the committee through the investigation of Duran’s alleged wrongdoing.
One of Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Luis Valentino’s most controversial administrative hires—besides his embattled former deputy superintendent—is Gabriella Duran-Blakey. Questions are being raised about whether the hire of Duran-Blakey, who is the daughter of Albuquerque school board President Don Duran, violates a state law that prohibits nepotism in schools. Valentino brought Duran-Blakey on in late June as the school district’s associate superintendent for middle schools. Former board member Kathy Korte, who’s been outspoken throughout the scandals that have engulfed APS this month, said the hiring violates APS policies and school board ethics. “What we’re looking at here is the daughter of a school board member who was hired,” Korte said.
The perennial issue of creating a state ethics commission passed a House committee on Wednesday. The legislation, sponsored by Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, sought to make the ethics commission as non-partisan and non-political as possible. The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted unanimously to pass a committee substitute version of the legislation with no recommendation. There was little debate on the legislation, though Egolf noted that members on the committee had heard this legislation before so a detailed presentation was not necessary. Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, noted that Egolf is the latest in a line of legislators to try to create an ethics commission.