August 31, 2015

House Dems: If Duran doesn’t resign, we’ll look to impeach

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Secretary of State Dianna Duran, courtesy photo

House Democratic leaders say that they want to look into starting the process of impeaching Secretary of State Dianna Duran, that is if she doesn’t resign first.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

The leaders made the announcement that they want a discussion of how and when to start such proceedings in a news release on Monday afternoon.

On Friday, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced 64 charges against Duran for funneling campaign funds to her own personal accounts. In all, Duran debited more than $400,000 at casinos in 2013 and 2014 according to the charges.

“While we hope that Secretary Duran will choose to leave office, we in the House must be prepared to proceed in the event she does not,” House Minority Leader Brian Egolf said in a statement.

Duran is a Republican and Republicans currently have a majority of seats in the state House of Representatives.

Egolf called the charges “deeply disturbing and incredibly serious.”

“The House Democratic Caucus has initiated the process to begin possible consideration of articles of impeachment–which can only begin in the House of Representatives,” Egolf said. “Beginning today, we are reaching out to our Republican colleagues in the House to find a way forward that is strictly non-partisan, in keeping with the traditions of the House.”

New Mexico Political Report reached out to members of the House Republican leadership on the call to discuss impeachment. This post will be updated with any response from the majority party.

RoundhouseDemocratic Caucus Chair Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque said that Duran should not be in charge of the elections process because of the charges she faces.

The Secretary of State is ultimately the person in charge of elections in New Mexico and enforcing election laws.

“New Mexicans must have trust in the chief administrator of these laws,” Roybal Caballero said. “For the sake of transparency and accountability in government we call on Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Governor Martinez to immediately appoint a qualified official to oversee these functions. Our government must be transparent and must have the trust of the public. New Mexicans deserve to have complete faith in the person that is responsible for protecting voting rights and enforcing ethics.”

A Secretary of State giving up such responsibilities would be rare, if not unprecedented in New Mexico. It isn’t immediately clear if it is legally allowed.

Past impeachment efforts

In the past, the House has moved forward with possible impeachment of those who have not yet been convicted. Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. faced impeachment from the House in 2011 after being charged with fraudulent use of a state credit card and identity theft.

Block plead guilty to the charges and resigned, making the impeachment proceedings moot.

A subcommittee of the House Rules Committee even hired an attorney to aid in the process.

Impeachment is very rare. The closest to an impeachment in the recent past is with former State Treasurer Robert Vigil.

In 2005, Vigil resigned less than a month after the impeachment proceedings against him began. Vigil was eventually sentenced to 37 months of prison in 2007 for his attempted extortion.

Vigil and Block were both Democrats. Democrats were in control of a majority of seats in the House in both 2007 and 2011.