Senate committee kills ethics and transparency reform measures

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Image by Louie Va

Image by Louie Va

NM Top Public Officials and CorruptionIn less than an hour Tuesday morning, the Senate Rules Committee killed two good-government proposals, helping cement the Senate’s reputation as the place where ethics and transparency legislation goes to die.

One proposal, HJR 5, would have asked voters in November to create a state ethics commission, an idea the New Mexico Legislature has contemplated since 2007.

The other, HB 137, would have required lobbyists to report in more detail what they spend on state lawmakers and other public officials. There was not much debate on that  legislation before its quick death.

There was more back-and-forth on the ethics commission proposal.

Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, the sponsor of the proposed amendment to the constitution to create an ethics commission, told the committee he couldn’t support the committee substitute presented by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque.

The suggested changes to the proposed commission would have altered its powers, Dines told the Senate Rules committee, removing the proposed commission’s authority to make rulings on cases and merely allowing it to investigate complaints.

Dines said the strength of what he was proposing was a commission that had the authority to adjudicate matters and whose findings were subject to the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque tells the Senate Rules Committee why he can no longer sponsor House Joint Resolution 5, which would have put creation of a State Ethics Commission before voters in the fall

Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque tells the Senate Rules Committee why he can no longer sponsor House Joint Resolution 5, which would have put creation of a State Ethics Commission before voters in the fall

“The bottom line – I have a very strong belief that transparency is important,” Dines told members of the committee. “We have to embrace that. We’re going to have to embrace transparency if we’re going to have a successful ethics commission. I’ve got certain principles I have to stand on.”

“There’s almost a paranoia about an ethics commission being used to embarrass or damage someone with false accusations,” Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino said.

Sen. Sander Rue, Republican of Albuquerque, beseeched the public (Tuesday’s meeting was webcast) for patience during debate on the ethics commission proposal.

“I hope the public will indulge us for one more session,” Rue said. “We’re at a point where this needs to be done. It should have been done by now.”

An analysis of state ethics commission legislation since 2007 shows the New Mexico Legislature has discussed the idea of a state ethics commission nearly two dozen times after a task force recommended the creation of such an entity in 2006.

That recommendation came after then-state Treasurer Robert Vigil was convicted on one count of attempted extortion in 2006 and his predecessor, Michael Montoya, had pleaded guilty to extortion the previous year.

By the time the New Mexico Legislature began contemplating whether to create a state ethics commission, a majority of U.S. states already had such a body, although those bodies vary in their powers and how they are funded.

Since the early state treasurer scandals, New Mexicans have endured numerous other scandals, including when a longtime Democratic senator resigned during the 2015 legislative session due to a scandal. More recently, former Secretary of State Dianna Duran resigned and pleaded guilty to six criminal counts, including two embezzlement felony counts.

Last year’s scandals led Governing Magazine, a periodical read by public officials across the country, to ask in a headline for a December 2015 story, “Can New Mexico Break Its Cycle of Corruption?”

5 thoughts on “Senate committee kills ethics and transparency reform measures

  1. After you’ve watched the February 16th meeting where there is continued discussion during the Senate Rules Committee meeting and where HJR5 is killed at

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYCQwPAP3KA

    Watch what the Spin Doctors have to say about that meeting:

    Senate Majority Leader Sanchez, at 6:00 from NM in Focus

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZmNYcsnHpM

    Senator Ivey-Soto from Eye on New Mexico

    http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S4054625.shtml?cat=10106

    Then listen to Rep. Dines interview with several reporters – unedited

    Thanks again Charles!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sHWaGW9J7A

    Now for a little history lesson

    January 2009 – “New Mexico is the Capital of Corruption of the United States. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years at the FBI. Corruption is pervasive at every level of government.” FBI Special Agent in Charge, FBI Field Office-Albuquerque, Thomas C. McClenaghan

    January 31, 2011 – http://nmpolitics.net/index/2011/01/what-about-misdeeds-that-aren%E2%80%99t-crimes-guv/

    “Corruption is a crime, not an ethical dilemma,” Gov. Susana Martinez said during her recent State of the State Address.

    There’s a ABQ City Councilor that has said several times that “you can’t teach ethics.”

    Anyone who challenges the ability to manage ethics in an entity is ethically challenged.

    Corruption as defined by Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/corruption, is “dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)”

    To make statements such as Governor Martinez and the ABQ City Councilor has said is in essence a declaration that they are the emperor/empress with no clothes. Dishonest actions are unethical! It’s Corruption 101 or Ethics 101. And therein lies the root of New Mexico’s problems along with

    THE NEW MEXICO TORT CLAIMS ACT: THE KING CAN
    DO “LITTLE” WRONG which all New Mexicans or anyone who travels into New Mexico should read:

    http://lawschool.unm.edu/nmlr/volumes/21/3/01_tort.pdf

  2. You can view these Senate Rules Committee meetings. Note how the sound went out as the Senators were challenging HJR 5. There was no government camera for the second day of the meeting, Sept 16th, when the final decision was made on HJR 5. However, a citizen made sure it was available for the public to see what actually happened.

    September 15th Senate Rules Committee meeting

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/83184869

    At the following link go to 1:57 where it goes to a question mark right as the Senators are challenging Rep. Dines and then the sound goes out.

    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/83186160

    September 16th meeting where there is continued discussion and HJR5 is killed. Thanks Charles Arasim for making sure the public can get the truth.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYCQwPAP3KA

  3. Was there a vote on either bill? And could New Mexico in Depth publish who is on the Senate Rules Committee? And if there was a vote, how the Committee members voted?
    Thank you.

  4. “Sen. Sander Rue … beseeched the public … for patience …”
    “I hope the public will indulge us for one more session.”
    “We’re at a point where this needs to be done.
    It should have been done by now.”

    The point where this “needed to be done”; the point where it “should have been done” was 52 legislatures ago.

    The people of the State of New Mexico have been “patient” for 104 years.

    It has been more than a century since the legislature acquired the obligation and had the their first opportunity to create for themselves; honest accountability to meaningful standards of conduct and competence within their public service.

    They could and should have done that at once and forever.
    They have not gotten around to it yet.

    The Senate would like the people to wait “patiently” for yet another year.

    105 years is too long to wait for legislators to do what they should have done as their first order of business; protect the enormous power and vast resources that the people have entrusted to them, from waste, fraud and abuse.

    105 years is too long to wait for them to write ethics and standards high enough to protect the public interests. 105 years is too long to wait for them to create a due process by which they can be held honest to God accountable for their conduct and competence, even against their will.

    They have had for more than a century, the ability to write and enable world class transparent accountability to the highest standards of conduct for politicians and public servants within their public service.

    What they have NOT had for more than a century,
    is the character and moral courage to make it so.

    Character and moral courage are not something you can promise to summon in the future. They are something you demonstrate, by personal example, and in “the here and now”. In particular “in the here and now” if record is of an ongoing, abject inability to summon the necessary character and courage heretofore.

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