New Mexico Governor Swears in State First-Ever Ethics Commission

July 1, 2019 by Dan McCue
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham swore in the state’s first-ever Ethics Commission, a move that was a long time coming and which citizens hope will bring a welcome end to a series of high profile corruption scandals.

“I am honored to have been a part of this proud day for New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said. “I look forward to the great work this Ethics Commission will do to ensure an accountable and equitable state government for all New Mexicans.”

Good-government groups and some policymakers campaigned for years for a watchdog in a state in which political scandals had become almost routine.

In the past few years alone, the local nightly news in New Mexico was headed by stories ranging from former Secretary of State Dianna Duran being sentenced to 30 days in jail after admitting she stole money from donors to feed her addiction to gambling to former Governor Susanna Martinez trying to bully a Santa Fe hotel receptionist and dispatcher into revealing who called in a noise complaint on her loud, alcohol-fueled party.

The breakthrough in making the commission a reality came last year when 75 percent of New Mexico voters backed a constitutional amendment to create an ethics commission.

Earlier this year, legislators followed up on the vote by passing a bill to create a seven-member panel to oversee the state’s laws on campaign finance, lobbying, financial disclosure rules and other areas of government conduct.

The commission will hear ethics complaints against public officials, lobbyists and public contractors. Criminal matters will continue to fall under the authority of state and local prosecutors.

Lujan Grisham signed the bill in late March.

As outlined in the law creating the body, four members of the commission were appointed by the leading state legislators from the Republican and Democratic parties, and Lujan Grisham selected fifth.

The inaugural commission is comprised of former New Mexico Governor Garrey Carruthers; former state District Court Judge William Lang; Santa Fe attorney Stuart Bluestone, former White Sands Missile Range official Frances Williams, and health care administrator Judy Villanueva.

The five appointed members will then pick the commission’s two final members, with the stipulation that no more than three of the commission’s seven members can be from the same political party.

The ethics commission will hire an executive director, who in turn will hire a general counsel and other full-time staffers.

Although the commission held its first meeting Monday afternoon, it will not begin accepting complaints and requests for advisory opinions until next year.

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