NM Senate leadership clears senator of ethics violation allegation

A dust-up between an outspoken New Mexico state senator and a state cabinet secretary over ethics related to cannabis legislation has come to a resolution, at least temporarily. 

According to a letter from Senate leadership last month, sent to New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Tracie Collins, there will be no legislative investigation of Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, over his professional involvement with a prominent medical cannabis business.  

In the letter, sent on May 19, Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, wrote that she, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe and Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen determined there was no reason for the Interim Legislative Ethics Committee to investigate the issue further. 

“I convened a meeting with Senators Wirth and Baca to review and deliberate the allegations and other information contained in your complaint and in the State Ethics Commission’s dismissal and referral,” Stewart wrote. “After our extensive evaluation, we have determined that the complaint and information did not warrant further investigation by the Interim Legislative Ethics Committee, and therefore the complaint is dismissed.”

Four days after this year’s regular session and six days before a special session, Collins filed an ethics complaint with the newly formed State Ethics Commission, alleging that Candelaria  violated the state Governmental Conduct Act by voting on a bill that would have limited medical cannabis patient reciprocity. Candelaria, who is also an attorney, represented medical cannabis producer Ultra Health months prior, challenging DOH over the same issue. 

In September 2020, the Medical Cannabis Program, which is overseen by DOH, issued a directive that medical cannabis reciprocity only applied to patients with authorization from their respective home state to use medical cannabis. The department was attempting to close what it saw as a loophole in which Texas residents reportedly received recommendations from doctors in California and then crossed state lines to buy medical cannabis in New Mexico. By October 2020, Candelaria, on behalf of Ultra Health, successfully petitioned a state judge to overrule the department’s emergency rule change.

Ethics complaints get attention as elections near

During the legislative session earlier this year, something very typical happened: an attempt to create an independent ethics commission failed to pass the Senate. NM Political Report wrote about the history of this happening over the last decade. This year’s version was pushed by Rep. Jim Dines, an Albuquerque Republican. Dines’ legislation would have put the question to voters to decide if such a commission should be created under the state constitution. One issue that received pushback was how the ethics commission in Dines’ proposal would have published all of the ethics complaints, even those deemed frivolous, after a review by the commission.

SOS ethics complaint publicizes problems with campaign finance website

In response to allegations of breaking campaign finance laws, Republican Secretary of State candidate Nora Espinoza said her accuser manipulated documents to create false accusations. Espinoza sent Secretary of State Brad Winter a four-page letter defending campaign finance reports she filed in 2016. These reports accounted for expenses and donations going back to last year. Espinoza, however, also accused Robert Lara, who filed the complaint last month, of falsifying documents in an attempt to attack her. “Mr. Lara created a form of his own design with his own headings and terminology which nowhere appear in statute.

Sen. who resigned after ethics scandal still spending campaign cash

One former state senator—who resigned this year after violating ethics laws—continued to spend money raised by his campaign committee according to his most recent campaign finance report. October 13 marked the latest deadline for political candidates to report any expenditures made from or donations made to their campaigns from April 7 to Oct. 5. According to the report filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State by former State Senator Phil Griego, his campaign spent $6,000 on constituent meetings, car repairs and rent for office space since Griego resigned amid controversy in March of this year during the legislative session. One watchdog who has pushed for stronger ethics laws in New Mexico says the spending is not allowed.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran

Sec of State answered ethics complaint with accusation of intimidation

© New Mexico Political Report, 2015. Contact editor@nmpoliticalreport.com for info on republishing. Secretary of State Dianna Duran has had plenty of eyes on her in the past month after being charged by the state Attorney General’s office for illegally using campaign funds for personal use. But Duran’s very job includes fielding ethics complaints against public officials and candidates, and she’s seen her share of them in her nearly five years in office. So, how does a public official struggling with her own ethics issues handle others?