June 6, 2017

Land Commissioner files defamation suit against candidate over ad

Joe Gratz


As promised, State Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn filed a defamation lawsuit against land commissioner candidate Garrett VeneKlasen Monday evening.

Dunn also filed a request for a temporary restraining order to stop VeneKlasen from running a campaign radio ad.

The campaign ad features VeneKlasen raising questions about a ranch owned by Dunn and the commissioner’s involvement in allowing a major electrical transmission line to run through his property.

Related story: Land commissioner files ‘cease and desist’ order against contender

Dunn maintains he only learned the line was set to run through his land after he purchased the ranch. Blair Dunn, who is acting as attorney for his father, said his father has not allowed access to his property and may get paid easement royalties. He added that his father is not “self-dealing”—something VeneKlasen previously said in a statement and in news reports.

Blair Dunn told NM Political Report he has already received a phone call from a private citizen “to tell me what a scum bag I am and what a scum bag my father is.”

Blair added that his father is “absolutely for free speech” but that VeneKlasen’s ad and later statements go beyond that.

“You ability to speak your mind and have your opinions ends where your fist ends and my nose begins,” Blair Dunn said, borrowing a quote often used to describe liberty.

A previous letter from VeneKlasen’s lawyer, in response to Aubrey Dunn’s cease and desist letter, stated VeneKlasen’s claims were backed by public documents and did not constitute defamation.

In response to the lawsuit, VeneKlasen issued a statement through his campaign on Monday evening, calling it “frivolous” and likely to “fail.”

“It looks like Aubrey Dunn wants to pick a fight with the facts,” VeneKlasen wrote. “We welcome a full and public examination of Dunn’s practices while land commissioner.”

The lawsuit was filed in Torrance County, where Aubrey Dunn’s ranch is located.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Blair Dunn said his father allowed access to the power transmission line and received royalties. We regret the error.