Ethics board: Keller violated rule with ‘in-kind’ donations

The City of Albuquerque Board of Ethics Rules & Regulations unanimously found that Tim Keller violated the city’s elections and ethics codes, but it did not impose any penalty. The board decided the case involving in-kind donations Monday, the day before voters cast ballots in the runoff election. Keller faces Dan Lewis after the two received the most votes in the first round of voting last month. Keller’s campaign received public financing, but his campaign accepted money as “in-kind” donations. Candidates who qualify for public financing are not allowed to accept private donations.

Campaign complaint sent back to ethics board

An ethics complaint against Albuquerque mayoral candidate Tim Keller is headed back to a city ethics board after initial disagreement over the correct jurisdiction. Filed by former mayoral candidate and current Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, the complaint alleges illegal coordination between Keller’s campaign and an independent fundraising group. Chief Hearing Officer Stanley Harada ruled that the issue should go to the city’s Board of Ethics, writing that under the city charter, he does not have jurisdiction in the matter. Johnson’s attorney, former Republican National Committeeman Pat Rogers, filed the complaint and insisted it should go to a city hearing officer and not the city’s Board of Ethics. From the start, Keller’s lawyer Molly Schmidt-Nowara said a hearing officer was not the correct jurisdiction.

Post-election, campaign finance concerns follow Keller

Albuquerque’s mayoral runoff election is a month away and so far the two campaigns have stayed relatively quiet. But an upcoming ethics hearing and the city’s public finance rules could make the runoff election more complicated or at least open the door for more attack ads, particularly against State Auditor Tim Keller. Originally scheduled for Oct. 12, an ethics hearing for a complaint against Keller was moved to only a few days before the Nov. 14 runoff election—and well after early voting starts.

City council candidate ordered to pay almost $2K for campaign violations

The City of Albuquerque Board of Ethics Monday afternoon voted to impose a $1,900 fine on an Albuquerque City Council Candidate for not following the city’s election code. The hearing was the latest related to a complaint by former mayoral candidate Stella Padilla and private investigator Carlos McMahon against city council candidate Javier Benavidez. Padilla and McMahon alleged that Benavidez’s campaign fraudulently obtained about $38,000 of public campaign funds by using some of their own money instead of collecting $5 from each petition signer. Padilla and McMahon’s lawyer, prominent Republican Pat Rogers, wrote in his closing argument that Benavidez should return the taxpayer-funded money his campaign received, be fined at least $21,000 and be removed from the City Council if he wins the race. Rogers also said the issue should be referred to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution.

Ethics hearing highlights ambiguity in public finance rules

In Albuquerque’s city hall earlier this week, dozens of people watched lawyers argue before an elections and ethics board over whether a city council candidate intentionally defrauded citizens of about $38,000. City Council candidate Javier Benavidez qualified for public financing after his campaign collected almost 400 qualified contributions of $5 along with signatures from each contributor. Prominent Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers argued Benavidez purposefully allowed his campaign to forge signatures and falsify contributions and called the campaign’s actions a “very serious issue.”

In his opening statement, he accused Benavidez of “cheating.”

Rogers argued that Benavidez did not correctly collect contributions, and therefore defrauded taxpayers by using public money for his campaign. Rogers is a former Republican National Committeeman and former go-to counsel for Gov. Susana Martinez. Benavidez is the former executive director of the SouthWest Organizing Project, a group that works on racial and economic justice issues.

Non-profit AIDS organization’s future unknown

As Rick Clines pored over the list of offerings at a local Albuquerque restaurant, he meticulously went through the ingredients to see if there was anything his doctor wouldn’t approve of. In his sixties, Clines said he now has to be careful what he eats and make sure that he walks his prescribed five miles every day. Besides eating healthy and exercising, he also takes a cocktail of five different pills a day in order to combat his diabetes, high blood pressure and acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. After 30 years of living with AIDS, Clines is a self-described long term survivor, or LTS. He was a nightclub manager in Seattle, Washington during the 1980s when he and many of his friends began to get tested for AIDS.

Retaliation, minimum wage trial ends in settlement (Updated)

A two-year legal battle between an Albuquerque restaurant and a former employee over a  dispute related to paying Albuquerque’s minimum wage is on its way to an end. In a settlement approved by a district court judge, the Route 66 Malt Shop and a former employee, Kevin O’Leary, agreed out of court in the case. The terms of the agreement are not public. On Wednesday after a day-long trial, both parties agreed to settle after which  Second Judicial District Court Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd dismissed the jury. The court case began in 2013, when O’Leary’s attorneys, along with the City of Albuquerque, filed suit against the Route 66 Malt Shop and the family that operates it.