February 29, 2016

Former Senator charged with felonies, defends self in interview

A former state senator who resigned last year after admitting to violating the state constitution now faces criminal penalties because of a real estate deal after the Attorney General’s office filed charges Monday in district court.

Phil Griego

Phil Griego

Phil Griego faces charges of fraud, violating ethical principles of public service, bribery and solicitation, tampering with public records and violating the state Financial Disclosure Act.

In all, the Democrat from San Jose faces nine charges, including multiple felonies

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information comes in.

The investigation from the office of Attorney General Hector Balderas began a month after Griego resigned. Griego admitted at the time that he violated the New Mexico Constitution, a Senate Rule and the Senate Oath of Ethical Conduct.

NM Political Report spoke to Griego shortly after the charges were filed.

He said he did not know of the criminal complaint until another media outlet called and informed him of the charges against him minutes earlier.

“What they explained to me is ludicrous,” Griego told NM Political Report during a phone interview on Monday.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Griego continued. “Both transactions were vetted and approved.”

According to AG’s office spokesman James Hallinan, the complaint “contains criminal charges alleging Phil Griego used his role as a legislator to receive personal compensation, which he then failed to disclose in filings required of legislators.”

“The Complaint also alleged Mr. Griego withheld the commission share owed to each of his qualifying brokers, acts charged as fraud,” Hallinan said in a statement. “Also alleged is the fraud against the State of New Mexico for failing to disclose his interest in the dealt, and for failing to alert anyone to factual inaccuracies and misstatements made at various times regarding the sale.”

The investigation centered on “whether Griego was unlawfully compensated as a buyer’s agent by Galisteo Street, Inc. (‘GSI’) for his role in the purchase of State-owned property” according to a criminal complaint.

Independent reporter Peter St. Cyr, writing for the Santa Fe Reporter in 2014, first brought Griego’s actions on the real estate deal to light. The story focused on Griego brokering the sale of the building for the Seret family in Santa Fe. The family had a lease with the state on the building that included a first right of purchase to the property at fair market value if the state ever decided to sell.

Griego engineered legislation that would allow for the sale when he asked Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, to carry the legislation for him.

Griego presented the bill in committee, though Rep. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, presented the bill on the Senate floor.

The AG’s office confirmed a report by NM Political Report that Griego never cast a vote on the legislation, instead stepping out into the hall.

“Griego’s abrupt departure from the vote is an early indicator to this agent that Griego knew he had a conflicting interest in the vote while he was functioning as a legislator, but hoped not voting on the measure would alleviate this conflict,” the complaint states.

Griego also allegedly pressured the Capitol Buildings Planning Commission to review the legislation that would allow the sale, as is required by the legislation. When a meeting ended without reviewing the legislation, Griego allegedly sought to have Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, reconvene the meeting. Martinez, at the time a co-chairman of the commission, refused.

“When Martinez refused, Griego uttered words to the effect that Co-Chairman Martinez was ‘screwing up’ Griego’s deal,” the complaint states.

The commission reviewed the deal at the next meeting. The commission did not have the authority to reject the deal, and only needed to review the deal for the sale to go through. After he and Sen. President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, expressed concerns about the sale, Martinez voted against declaring the deal “reviewed.” Martinez was the only one to vote against the motion that allowed the final sale to take place.

The complaint also details alleged ways that Griego sought to not pay full shares of commissions to other brokers involved in the sale and alleges that Griego failed to disclose the funds received from the sale on a Feb. 2, 2015 financial disclosure statement required of all legislators.

All of the charges from the AG’s office stem from this sale and Griego’s actions.

After Griego resigned, NM Political Report found that he was still spending his leftover campaign fund. He said at the time that he was not considering another run for any office; he later told other outlets that he was considering another run. The office of the Secretary of State said they wanted more information from Griego on his campaign spending after resigning from office.

Griego also told NM Political Report that he had recently spoken with his attorney who advised him not to speak about the Attorney General’s complaint.

“But I will tell you this,” Griego told NM Political Report. “We’re going to fight this because everything they have in there is wrong.”

Read the Attorney General’s compliant against Griego below:

Phil Griego Criminal Complaint and Request for Summons by New Mexico Political Report