- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s new Ethics Commission reported Friday it had received no complaints so far about ethical lapses and potential corruption involving public employees, contractors, lobbyists, and political candidates.

Agency Executive Director Jeremy Farris told commissioners the lack of complaints was probably a result of the agency’s website still being new and because commissioners only have jurisdiction over cases after July 1, 2019.

Requirements that complaints get notarized also may be discouraging people from coming forward, Farris said.

The state Ethics Commission opened in January to field complaints regarding campaign finances, government contracting, gifts from lobbyists, and more - at a time when there are spending surges on public infrastructure and efforts to influencing elections in New Mexico.

No complaints arrived by the end of Thursday for the seven-member commission appointed by legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Commissioner Garrey Carruthers said he hoped lawmakers would later modify the ethics law to drop the notarization requirements. “Not everyone hangs out with notaries,” Carruthers said.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the commission in 2018 in the wake of a series of high profile corruption scandals including jail time for former Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran and former state Sen. Phil Griego.

Duran was convicted on embezzlement charges for using campaign funds to fuel a gambling addiction, while a jury found Griego guilty of charges including fraud, bribery, and embezzlement after using his position to profit from the sale of a state-owned building. Former Taxation Department Secretary Demesia Padilla is fighting a criminal charge of engaging in an official act for personal gain.

The panel has received one request for advice on ethics matters - another core responsibility - and forwarded the response back to the person seeking information. The person wanted to know if a state employee was violating the state’s Gift Act if the employee was also receiving a monthly salary from a political campaign committee or organization.

In an advisory opinion, the commission said the limited information provided did not seem to violate the state’s Gift Act.

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