Corruption bill targets officials’ pensions (sort of)

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Public officials convicted of corruption would face stiffer penalties if a bipartisan bill introduced this week is successful.

The proposal (HB 260) would tack on an extra year to the basic sentence for public corruption offenses such as embezzlement, soliciting a kickback or accepting a bribe. It’s sponsored by House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, and Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup.

It would also allow prosecutors to ask that officials convicted of corruption forfeit part of their pensions.

On social media, some said the bill should be tougher.

“They should forfeit their full pension automatically. The government should not pay crooks,” technology startup consultant Dan McCulley wrote on Facebook. Corruption limits the state’s ability to attract and retain talent, he added.

Viki Harrison of Common Cause New Mexico said the bill is a step in the right direction. “We would love to see a bill that declares all accrued pensions would be revoked if someone is convicted of a felony,” Harrison said, “but we have been told time and time again that state law doesn’t allow us to get that retroactive.’

Harrison said she appreciated the bill’s requirement for public agencies to post notices about public officials who are corrupt, including the penalties they face.

But McCulley said just posting notices wasn’t enough.

“Corruption should be seen as the ‘death penalty’ in politics for you and your whole family,” McCulley posted, “similar to the NCAA death penalty for student athletes.”

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