SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A judge ordered the New Mexico Legislature to turn over 15 subpoenaed documents to prosecutors as they pursue fraud charges against a former senator, the latest volley in a standoff about what correspondence and conversations among lawmakers and their advisers can be disclosed in court.
The state attorney general’s office has accused former Democratic Sen. Phil Griego of using his role as a legislator to profit from the 2014 sale of a state-owned building in downtown Santa Fe. It has subpoenaed a long list of legislative documents and set the stage for testimony from lawmakers as the case moves toward its first evidentiary hearing.
Griego has pleaded not guilty to charges including fraud, bribery and tampering with public records.
State District Judge Brett Loveless told the Legislative Council Service in an order released Tuesday to give prosecutors records that include an ethics complaint from an unnamed source. At the same time, Loveless found that other written communications between attorneys and a legislative ethics committee are privileged and don’t need to be released.
The Legislative Council Service, which helps lawmakers draft legislation, previously said it must protect certain privileged documents to preserve the independence and integrity of the legislative process and that the investigation would not be hampered anyway.
Service Director Raul Burciaga relented Tuesday and said documents would be turned over to prosecutors without delay.
“We have already provided the attorney general with the evidence that was made public last year but believed it was incumbent upon us to assert the privilege on documents we viewed as being protected,” he said in an email.
The order leaves unresolved similar disagreements over subpoenas that would compel lawmakers and legislative staff to testify in court proceedings.
Prosecutors have provided a list of possible witnesses that include a half-dozen lawmakers and numerous other state officials. The Legislative Council Service is concerned that those subpoenas are unlimited and could violate constitutional provisions.
The office of Attorney General Hector Balderas has challenged that interpretation and the service’s refusal to name the lawmakers who want to avoid testifying.
Griego resigned from public office last year after acknowledging to a Senate investigative subcommittee that he violated the state Constitution. The land-sale scandal has spurred calls for ethics and campaign oversight reforms.
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