October 23, 2015

Dianna Duran resigns as Secretary of State

Dianna Duran resigned from her position as Secretary of State on Thursday night, according to an email from a top staffer.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Dianna Duran, courtesy photo

The full resignation letter is available at the bottom of the post.

NMPolitics.net reported they confirmed the resignation.

RELATED STORY: Dianna Duran pleaded Friday morning guilty to six counts as part of a plea deal.

Multiple social media posts on Friday morning claimed she resigned, apparently citing the email.

An email from Kari Fresquez, the Interim Elections Director and Chief Information Officer for the Secretary of State’s Office, said that a meeting for possible campaign finance rules changes scheduled for Friday morning was cancelled “in light of Secretary Duran’s resignation.”

The email said that the hearing is not being rescheduled since “it is appropriate that he or she have the opportunity to shape the policy and rules of the office,” referring to the next Secretary of State.

New Mexico Political Report made early Friday morning phone calls to Fresquez and Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz in an attempt to confirm the authenticity of the email, though the calls were not returned.

Duran resigned while facing dozens of criminal charges related to illegally using campaign cash for personal purposes. She pleaded not guilty to the charges. Duran was scheduled to appear in court on Friday for a hearing related to the charges.

In addition to the criminal charges, Duran was also facing impeachment from the House of Representatives, which could have ended up with the Senate removing her from office.

Any elected official convicted of a felony is automatically removed from office.

Democratic Party of New Mexico chairwoman Deb Haaland sent a press release early Friday morning about the “apparent resignation.”

“I am hopeful that we can move forward with a fair election in 2016, and that trust can be restored in the Secretary of State’s office,” said Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Deb Haaland. “We will have a strong Democratic candidate that will take a hard look at the drop in voter participation in New Mexico as well as the other various issues facing the Secretary of State’s office.”

The press release included a screenshot of the Fresquez email.

The Republican Party of New Mexico also sent a news release.

“We respect Dianna Duran’s decision to step down amid these recent accusations and help restore credibility to the Secretary of State’s Office,” Republican Party of New Mexico chairwoman Debbie Maestas wrote. “Voters rightfully demand that our elected officials be accountable to the law, and our party will continue to advocate for accountability in government.”

A special House investigatory committee looking into the impeachment was scheduled to have its second meeting on Tuesday. With Duran no longer in office, there is no need for impeachment.

No statewide official has ever been impeached.The closest was former State Treasurer Robert Vigil who resigned in 2005 while facing corruption charges. A committee was looking at possibly voting to move the impeachment to the full House, but Vigil resigned before the process could move forward much further.

And so did Duran, meaning that impeachment by the state House is no longer necessary; only state officials can be impeached by the House.

Now, Gov. Susana Martinez will be able to choose a replacement for Duran.

How it will be done is unknown; it appears that Duran is the first Secretary of State in New Mexico to ever fail to serve out a full term.

Vigil may be an example. After Vigil left, Gov. Bill Richardson had to name a replacement. Then-governor Bill Richardson named a search committee of lawmakers and financial experts to give him names to choose from to fill the State Treasurer position. Less than a week later, Richardson chose Doug Brown. Brown agreed not to run for reelection in 2006.

According to the state Constitution, there would be an election for Secretary of State in 2016, since that is the next general election.

Update: Added a copy of Duran’s resignation letter.

Dianna Duran Resignation Letter

Andy Lyman and Joey Peters contributed to this report.