New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s attorney was granted some extra time in the criminal case against her client on Thursday. First Judicial District Court Judge Glenn Ellington granted an extension for Duran’s attorney Erlinda Johnson after she asked the court for another 60 days to comb through documents related to the case. Johnson has not yet responded to New Mexico Political Report’s requests for comment. Any comment will be added when it is received. A spokesman for the Attorney General said the office would not be releasing a statement regarding the extension, but did say the office would proceed with business as usual.
Attorney General Hector Balderas will stop providing legal counsel to Secretary of State Dianna Duran as she battles 64 criminal charges his office filed against her in court. Balderas is also returning 31 cases of potential campaign finance violations of state legislators and political action committees back to Duran’s office. Duran referred the 31 complaints to Balderas less than a week after he filed criminal charges against her in court. Balderas notified Duran’s office of the change Tuesday afternoon. “I am making this decision after careful consideration and even though I am confident that the [Office of the Attorney General] could otherwise handle the referrals competently and appropriately,” Balderas writes.
Earlier this week, New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s attorney filed a request to extend court deadlines, saying preparing for an upcoming hearing will be overwhelming to her and her client. A response from the Attorney General’s office argued that the request was unnecessary and would harm Duran’s right to a speedy trial. Attorney Erlinda Johnson is representing Duran in a case that alleges a long list of money laundering and fraud charges related to moving campaign funds to personal accounts. Johnson wrote in her request that she needs more time to comb through the evidence that the New Mexico Attorney General’s office presented to the court. She argued that the Attorney General’s office has not made all of the documents available for discovery.
Before New Mexico Political Report recently reported on a botched redaction from the state Taxation and Revenue Department, we reached out to its spokesman multiple times. It took Taxation Department spokesman Ben Cloutier more than four hours to respond. And when he did, he responded with a legal threat. “Mr. Peters,” he begins in an email sent Thursday late afternoon:
Although taxpayer return information was redacted by the department to provide confidentiality, you purposely manipulated the document (i.e., you were able to get around the redaction and enhance the imagery) in order to reveal taxpayer return information and thwart the purpose of the redaction. Furthermore, you have published taxpayer return information despite the clear intent that it remain confidential.
A judge ruled today that New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas was justified in firing a group of employees when he took office. Administrative Law Judge Richard Levine wrote in his recommendation to the State Personnel Board that the appeals by the former employees could not be heard by the board. He recommended the board dismiss the appeals, as they are out of the board’s jurisdiction. According to an Albuquerque Journal article, Balderas told a group of employees from the Attorney General’s Office their services would no longer be required and stated their last day would be December 31, 2014. By February employees had filed appeals with the State Personnel board.
A state department attempted to thwart an outside investigation into its cabinet secretary’s alleged wrongdoings, State Auditor Tim Keller said in a press conference Wednesday morning. Keller released four documents related to his office’s preliminary investigation into whether Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla illegally intervened to give preferential treatment to her former client and retaliated against employees who brought concerns. The Taxation Department collects and distributes tax funds in New Mexico. Among the newly released documents are letters showing how the department attempted to prevent two of its employees from being interviewed by an outside firm hired by the state auditor to look into the matter. “They basically were trying to obstruct our investigation,” Keller said.
Top officials in the state Taxation and Revenue Department may have improperly given preferential treatment to a New Mexico taxpayer, according to State Auditor Tim Keller’s Office. Update: A letter from Keller to Gov. Susana Martinez names Tax and Revenue Department Secretary Demesia Padilla as part of the investigation. Our report is here. The post continues as originally written below. The allegations came from a fraud hotline call to Keller’s office in February, along with an audio recording of senior Taxation Department officials.
A state advocacy group for government transparency disagrees with the City of Albuquerque’s contention that its public personnel hearings aren’t subject to the New Mexico Open Meetings Act. Greg Williams, board president of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said the public should be able to videotape the meetings. “We think they are subject to OMA,” Williams told New Mexico Political Report. “But even if they are not, [the hearings] are public. And if they’re public, that means anyone can attend, and that includes being able to video- and audio-record the meetings.”
Albuquerque contends that its public personnel hearings aren’t subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act. The city said so last week in a formal response to a complaint filed with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Charles Arasim filed the complaint with the office on March 9, alleging the city violated the Open Meetings Act after being blocked from videotaping multiple city personnel hearings. In the response, interim Albuquerque City Attorney Jenica Jacobi and assistant attorney Nicholas Bullock wrote last week that the city’s personnel hearing officers do not have to make accommodations for members of the public who want to record the hearings. The city’s Personnel Board, which weighs grievances from city employees who contest their disciplines or firing from city government, consists of five people.