More than two years after being filed in federal court, a lawsuit over leaked emails from Gov. Susana Martinez’s 2010 campaign account was dismissed with prejudice Monday. Attorneys on both sides filed the motion to dismiss, which likely puts the issue to rest. “It’s dismissed with prejudice,” Bruce Wetherbee, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, told NM Political Report. “End of story.”
Dismissed with prejudice means that the lawsuit cannot be re-filed in court. Wetherbee worked with Independent Source PAC when the liberal political action committee publicly released some leaked emails from Martinez administration staffers and allies in 2012.
A Secretary of State candidate is accusing her opponent of an ethics violation for campaign contributions in 2014 from PACs unconnected to the campaign. Nora Espinoza, the Republican candidate, says that Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Democrat, violated ethics rules when a donation from Verde Voters PAC paid money to another PAC, SOS for Democracy, earmarked for “TV ad buy–Maggie Toulouse Oliver.”
Both PACs are unconnected to the Toulouse Oliver campaign. The PAC-to-PAC donation happened during Toulouse Oliver’s first unsuccessful run for Secretary of State. Zach Cook, an attorney and state representative representing Espinoza’s campaign, wrote a complaint to the Secretary of State saying that state law says the PAC money transfer should be considered an in-kind donation to Toulouse Oliver’s campaign. Viki Harrison, the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico which advocates for campaign finance and ethics laws, said that this argument “just doesn’t make any sense.”
“The enforcement would be a nightmare because compliance would be impossible,” she said.
The chairwoman of a U.S. congressional panel wants New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to investigate whether practices at two clinics here break state law. Specifically, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, claims that the fetal tissue donation policies at the University of New Mexico and Southwest Women’s Options are breaking a 2007 state law. That law, known as the Spradling Act, regulates body part and organ donations for science. In a press release, the U.S House Select Panel on Infant Rights claims that “under the Spradling Act the bodies or parts of aborted infants may not be anatomical gifts.”
“Documentation obtained by the Panel in the course of our investigation reflects the transfer of fetal tissue from Southwestern Women’s Options to UNM for research purposes is a systematic violation of New Mexico’s Spradling Act,” Blackburn said in the release. But the actual provision of the law Blackburn cited about abortion occurs under the law’s definition of “decedent,” which in other words means a dead person.
A district judge ruled Tuesday that New Mexico legislative staff must turn over some documents to the Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office. The AG’s office sought documents related to a criminal case against former Senator Phil Griego. Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless ruled that some documents and information requested by the AG’s office through subpoenas are susceptible to inspection after Legislative Council Service argued against it. Loveless ruled that “LCS has no constitutional privilege to refuse to produce the materials.”
This comes after the AG’s office and LCS sparred over whether legislators and legislative staff should be subject to subpoenas requiring their testimony. These documents include many documents related to the Interim Legislative Ethics Committee, which itself investigated Phil Griego for the violations of Senate Rules and the state constitution that led to his resignation from the state senate in 2015.
More than two dozen charter schools across the state accused the Public Education Department of directing “a general atmosphere of hostility” toward several state-authorized charter schools. Last month, the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools wrote a list of 20 detailed complaints against the PED’s Charter Schools Division coming from 29 charter schools across the state in a letter to the Public Education Commission, an elected statewide body that oversees state-authorized charter schools. “In a nutshell,” the letter reads, “The relationship between [the Charter Schools Division] and charter schools appears to have deteriorated significantly over the past year, and in numerous cases appears to be broken.”
Twenty charter schools signed onto the letter, though the Coalition says nine more have lodged complaints but didn’t want to go public “for fear of reprisal” from the PED. The list of complaints, which accuse PED of imposing burdensome regulations against charter schools, pits nearly one-third of the charter schools in the state against a state agency that has touted itself as favorable to nontraditional public education. The Coalition wrote the letter at the request of the Public Education Commission after first mentioning the problems at a March commission meeting.
The Secretary of State’s office told county clerks that some 17-year olds will be able to vote in the upcoming primary elections. The Secretary of State’s office sent an email to county clerks last week informing them of the new procedure for these voters. The only 17-year olds who will be eligible to vote in the primaries are those who will turn 18 before the November 8 general elections. The Secretary of State said the decision came “after consultation with the Attorney General.” NMPolitics.net first reported on the email.
After a spate of recusals by judges, a district court judge finally accepted the corruption case involving a former state Senator. District Court Judge Sarah Singleton will take the case of Phil Griego, who is charged with ten counts related to corruption while he was in office. Griego resigned from the Senate last year because of a land deal. The judge set an initial hearing for April 4 at 8:15 a.m. according to nmcourts.gov.
Singleton was the eighth judge to be assigned the case; the previous seven recused themselves from the case. Since NM Political Report last wrote about the case on Thursday, two additional judges—Raymond Ortiz and Francis Mathew—recused themselves.
The Legislative Council Service is fighting an effort by the Attorney General to access documents related to a former state Senator facing corruption charges. The office of Attorney General Hector Balderas subpoenaed records from the state Senate investigation that eventually led to Phil Griego’s resignation from the Senate. LCS, which handles administrative tasks for the 112-person citizen legislature, objected to the subpoena, saying state law protects the records. Documents from each side are embedded at the bottom of this post. Griego admitted to violating the state constitution and Senate rules with a land deal that he benefited from; the Senate voted to approve the transfer of state building that Griego went on to benefit from.
Former Secretary of State Dianna Duran withdrew a motion seeking to reduce her sentence for gambling with campaign funds
KRQE-TV first reported this, citing court officials. NM Political Report had already reached out to Erlinda Johnson, Duran’s attorney, for confirmation but was told Johnson was in a trial. We will add any comment by Johnson to this story when we receive it. Duran sought to reduce the amount of public speaking requirements and the amount of community service required as part of her sentencing. Duran’s first public speaking appearance lasted just five minutes and she showed up 40 minutes late.
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 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.