- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Allegations by a political lobbyist that she was sexually harassed by a state lawmaker were referred to a subcommittee of lawmakers and outside council for investigation on Tuesday.

Former lobbyist and animal welfare activist Laura Bonar went public last week in an open letter with allegations that she was sexually harassed on multiple occasions by Democratic Rep. Carl Trujillo as they worked together on legislation in 2013 and 2014.

Trujillo says the allegations are lies and has cast blame on political opponents. The Santa Fe-area legislator could not immediately be reached for comment. Bonar has urged Trujillo to resign.

After her attorney submitted the letter as a formal complaint on Tuesday, leading House lawmakers and an independent attorney determined that further investigation was needed. Raul Burciaga, director of the Legislature’s legal office, said four state lawmakers - two Democrats and two Republicans - and outside counsel will conduct the investigation.

In her complaint, Bonar said she was propositioned and touched inappropriately and that Trujillo later shut her out of the legislative process in 2014 when she rejected his advances. Later, Bonar switched from her job as a lobbyist for Animal Protection Voters to an administrative position with the organization.

Two of Bonar’s professional colleagues say she told them in 2014 and 2015 about inappropriate sexual advances by Trujillo.

Animal Protection Voters lobbyist Jessica Johnson said Bonar warned her about Trujillo’s advances in an effort to protect her, while contract lobbyist Deborah Torza Condit recalled that Bonar was visibly distraught about her encounters with Trujillo and asked to be reassigned to work outside the Legislature.

Their written accounts were submitted to the Legislature, along with a letter from Elisabeth Jennings, the executive director of Animal Protection Voters, who said administrators of the organization did not learn the extent of Trujillo’s conduct until later and now support the call for him to resign.

The initial accusations against Trujillo were reviewed by the House Speaker Brian Egolf, majority leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Republican minority leader Nate Gentry and an independent attorney.

It was not clear which lawmakers will determine whether probable cause exists to bring formal charges to a public hearing. Possible sanctions by the Legislature include reprimand, censure or expulsion.

An attorney for Bonar, Levi Monagle, said the complaint represents a first test of the state’s new anti-harassment procedures that were adopted in January.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Armstrong of Albuquerque said she believes that the accusations warrant a full investigation with due process for Trujillo to defend himself. “I’m glad it’s not being ignored and that it’s being taken seriously, because I think her claims are credible,” Armstrong said.

Trujillo is seeking a fourth term and faces a Democratic primary against Andrea Romero of Santa Fe on June 5.

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