An Otero County resident will receive $45,000 from Otero County in a settlement stemming from him being forcibly removed from commission meetings by former commissioner Couy Griffin.
Matthew Crecelius was one of several people who went to Otero County Commission meetings to protest the commission’s refusal to certify the 2020 election results.
Crecelius was silenced and, on at least one occasion, removed from Otero County Commission meetings by the Otero County Sheriff’s deputies at Griffin’s request.
“I was mocked, yelled at, silenced, and roughly thrown out of public hearings simply because I had a different opinion than the predominant conservative view – namely that the election wasn’t stolen. I was treated like someone who committed a crime,” Crecelius said in an American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico news release. “I hope this settlement makes clear that all Otero County residents, regardless of their political background, have the right to express their opinions freely without intimidation at county commission meetings.”
Crecelius was physically removed from Otero County Commission meetings on May 12, 2022, June 17, 2022 and November 10, 2022.
“The government may never suppress or retaliate against opinions it doesn’t like,” attorney Alexandra Freedman Smith said. “In a democracy, people must have the ability to express conflicting and unpopular viewpoints without fear of retaliation. These elected officials violated a basic tenant of our democracy and showed a complete disregard for Mr. Crecelius’s constitutional rights.”
The Otero County Commission had allied itself with the fringe group New Mexico Audit Force which worked to show that voter fraud happened in Otero County, even though no other election audits showed any such fraud in Otero County.
New Mexico’s elections go through an extensive audit process that involves a county audit, a state-level audit and a final audit by an independent contractor prior to being sent to the State Canvassing Board. For more information on election security in New Mexico, click here.
The commission believed the Audit Force’s claims and refused to certify the 2020 election in Otero County, an action that led to the Secretary of State to file suit in state Supreme Court to force the county commission to certify the election.
That legal action was set in state statute and had never been used before.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico represented Crecelius in the suit.
Griffin was known to brag about his participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection when he would speak, at length, at commission meetings. Griffin was arrested on Jan. 8, 2021 for his actions that day. He was later removed from and barred from holding office for participating in the insurrection.