By Associated Press - Saturday, March 14, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Longtime Sen. Phil Griego resigned from the New Mexico Senate on Saturday amid a growing controversy involving his role in the sale of a state-owned building.

The Democratic senator handed in his letter of resignation to Secretary of State Diana Duran’s office as well as the chief clerk of the Senate. In the letter, Griego said his resignation was effective immediately and came with a “heavy heart.” However, he did not address the controversy directly.

Griego said this course of action was necessary “to avoid a major distraction to the important work that needs to be accomplished for the families and children throughout the state of New Mexico.”



In a statement to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the senator said he also didn’t want to go through what would likely be an uphill battle to overcome questions about whether he violated any rules.

“I decided a debilitating and lengthy fight in the hearing system would not serve me or anyone well, and the outcome was far more destructive than was worth it,” Griego said.

His resignation letter was read by the chief clerk on the Senate floor Saturday afternoon without comment.

Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen, Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael S. Sanchez and Senate Minority Floor Leader Stuart Ingle released a joint statement. “Sen. Griego’s stipulation speaks for itself. We have no comment and have instructed all of the members of the Senate to do the same.”

Griego has drawn scrutiny in the final weeks of the session over a real estate deal involving a Santa Fe building. Griego was one of several lawmakers who approved the sale last year of a building that used to belong to the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. The buyer, Galisteo Street Inc., later hired Griego to act as its agent in the purchase. Griego was promised a $50,000 commission fee if the sale closed, according to a copy of the agreement.

His profiting from a deal that came out of a legislative action has sparked criticism. According to state’s legislative ethics guide, lawmakers cannot even be indirectly interested in “any contract with the state or a municipality authorized by any law passed during the legislators’ terms for one year thereafter.”

Griego has said he didn’t know about the one-year rule.

Griego represented District 39, which includes parts of six counties, including Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Torrance, Santa Fe and Valencia. Each county commission will have to nominate a replacement. Gov. Susana Martinez will then appoint one to fill Griego’s seat. The Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County already called an emergency meeting for Sunday to come up with a replacement.

The resignation makes for an abrupt end to a long career in New Mexico politics. Griego was first elected to the Senate in 1996.

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