July 6, 2016

Former Speaker: Phil Griego pushed for real estate deal

The second morning in the preliminary hearing regarding the New Mexico Attorney General’s case against former Senator Phil Griego included testimony from a former Speaker of the House about a real estate deal that the AG’s office said broke state law.

Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, took the stand on Wednesday morning and answered the prosecution’s questions about his knowledge of the real estate deal that ultimately lead to Griego’s resignation.

According to his testimony, Martinez had at least one conversation with Griego about the now-infamous sale of a state-owned building.

“It appeared to me that he wanted the deal done as quickly as possible,” Martinez told the court.

In question was a meeting held after the 2014 legislative session aimed at putting final approval on the sale. The Capitol Buildings Planning Commission, which oversees state-owned property and buildings, met in April 2014 and was tasked with reviewing the sale of a state building in Santa Fe. Martinez, who at the time served as a co-chair, testified that he had questions about the sale. Ultimately the commission reviewed the proposed sale but deferred its approval. The commission had no authority to deny approval of the project, but simply reviewing the proposal would allow the sale to continue.

Martinez testified that Griego went to Martinez’s capitol office and requested the commission be convened the same day. Martinez said he declined to call back members just to approve the sale. Martinez described Griego’s demeanor in that meeting as “a little emergent.”

The other co-chair of the Capitol Buildings Planning Commission also testified that Griego was eager to get the sale approved quickly. Ed Burckle, the Secretary of General Services, served along with Martinez at that time and told the court Griego requested an unscheduled meeting in an attempt  to review the possible sale. As head of General Services, which was tasked with reviewing the legislation that approved the sale, and co-chair of the commission, Burckle was key to getting the sale approved.

“His demeanor was one characterised by the need for alacrity,” Burckle said.

Testimony from both Burckle and Martinez suggested that Griego was eager to push the deal forward. The court also heard from Wayne Ciddio, executive secretary of the New Mexico Real Estate Commission in the capacity of an expert witness. Ciddio mostly testified on technical aspects  of real estate protocols within the state.