July 18, 2016

SOS will not fill legal position

The New Mexico Secretary of State’s head lawyer left her post last month to practice law in the private sector and at least one advocacy group is unsure about the lack of a replacement.

Former Legal Counsel for the Secretary of State Amy Bailey’s last day was June 17.

“I have only wonderful things to say about the Secretary and the office as a whole,” Bailey said. “Leaving was bittersweet, but was a life choice for me.”

A spokesman for the office said Bailey’s position will not be filled until a new Secretary is elected in November’s general election.

Photo Credit: bjmccray cc


Photo Credit: bjmccray cc

“Secretary Winter has decided to let the next Secretary of State fill this position,” Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz said in a statement. “Secretary Winter also wants to thank Ms. Bailey for her excellent service to the Office of Secretary of State and wishes her the best-of-luck in her future endeavors.”

Until the next Secretary of State fills the in-office position, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office will serve as legal counsel to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Viki Harrison, director of Common Cause New Mexico, told NM Political Report she is concerned that the AG’s office may be overburdened by the busy election season this year.

“Amy Bailey is a skilled election-law attorney, and we need to make sure we have the same in the Attorney General’s office – experienced election lawyers to handle what will be a busy season for both offices,” Harrison said.

This is a busy year for the Secretary of State’s office, with a high-turnout election expected with a presidential race on the ticket.

Ortiz said Winter’s decision not to fill the position was based on the fact that it is an exempt position that “serves in an at-will capacity to the Secretary of State.”

Harrison added that budget constraints may not allow funds for legal counsel since the AG’s office already represents state agencies.

“In a year where budgets are sure to be scrutinized, it makes sense for all agencies to look at these legal positions, decide which ones are needed and see how they could work with existing resources when they defend their budgets next year,” Harrison said.

Bailey previously served as Albuquerque’s City Clerk under Mayor Richard Berry before taking a position under then Secretary Dianna Duran. When Duran resigned shortly before pleading guilty to criminal charges, Bailey was rumored to be in the running as Duran’s replacement. Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter to fill the position.