- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The speaker of New Mexico’s House of Representatives said Wednesday that he has created a special committee to investigate charges of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering against Secretary of State Dianna Duran.

Don Tripp, a Republican, said in a statement that he believes it’s the “appropriate and responsible next step” for the House “to begin the process of determining whether the charges have merit and rise to the level of impeachment.”

Duran, who is New Mexico’s top elections official, is facing a 64-count complaint stemming from allegations that she funneled campaign donations into personal bank accounts and withdrew large sums of money from those accounts while frequenting casinos around the state.

Duran’s attorney has said she hopes the case isn’t politically motivated and she’s looking forward to addressing the allegations in court.

The secretary of state’s office has declined to comment on the charges and news of impeachment discussions, saying only that the professional staff would continue to carry out the duties of the office.

No state elective officer has ever been impeached in New Mexico.

Tripp said he has sent a letter to the state attorney general “letting him know of the creation of this House Special Committee and asking him to share the case file with the committee so that they can review the evidence.”

Pointing to the detailed criminal complaint filed last Friday in state district court, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf suggested that Duran at least step aside while the criminal case is pending and appoint a deputy to oversee her office.

Duran will be arraigned Sept. 15. That’s when the judge is expected to schedule a preliminary hearing to decide whether the case moves forward.

The secretary of state administers elections statewide as well as campaign finance and lobbying laws. The office also is in charge of the registration of corporations.

Duran, a former Otero County clerk, served 18 years as a state senator before becoming the first Republican in eight decades to be elected secretary of state.

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