NM rep sued over alleged campaign debts

Steve Garrison
Doreen Wonda Johnson

FARMINGTON – New Mexico state Rep. Doreen Wonda Johnson is being sued over allegations she failed to pay a former campaign manager.

Keegan King, president of Atsaya Inc., alleges in the lawsuit that Johnson agreed in March 2014 to pay him $13,375, plus reimbursements, to serve as her primary campaign manager for the District 5 seat in the New Mexico House of Representatives. District 5 covers portions of McKinley and San Juan counties.

King further claims Johnson agreed in June 2014 to pay him an additional $13,375 to continue to manage her campaign from July 1, 2014, to Nov. 4, 2014.

King claims in the lawsuit he and Johnson entered into an oral contract, and Johnson won the election, but she paid only $3,000 of the total owed — $26,750.

King alleges breach of contract and implied covenant, promissory estoppel, fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the unfair trade practices act.

King's lawsuit was filed Jan. 15 in the 2nd Judicial District. He is seeking unspecified damages.

Johnson was reached by telephone Friday, but she said she was at work and could not speak until 5 p.m. Daniel Marzec, communications director for the House Democratic Campaign Committee, later contacted The Daily Times and said Johnson would not comment on the lawsuit.

"I spoke with Representative Johnson, and she has not seen the lawsuit filed against her, so she feels it would be irresponsible for her to comment at this time," Marzec said.

Administrative Office of the Courts spokesman Barry Massey provided The Daily Times court records that indicate the 2nd Judicial District Court issued a summons for Johnson, but she has not been served with the lawsuit.

King also declined to comment in a brief interview.

"I think it states everything in the complaint," he said.

Johnson defeated Charles Long in the Democratic primary for the District 5 seat on June 3, 2014, and defeated Democratic incumbent Sandra Jeff in the November general election. Jeff ran as a write-in candidate after a district judge ruled she failed to obtain enough signatures to qualify for the primary.

Johnson told The Albuquerque Journal in October 2014 she has previously filed for bankruptcy.

"Yes, I filed for bankruptcy 13 years ago," Johnson told The Journal. "Since then, I have taken personal financial courses and built a successful business."

Johnson is seeking re-election this year, but is facing a primary challenge from Kevin Mitchell, vice president of the Gallup-McKinley County School District Board of Education.

Mitchell said Friday he did not personally know King, but he had heard rumors of a lawsuit against Johnson.

Mitchell said he believed that the allegations should be investigated by the secretary of state.

"Maybe he needs to be careful with who he consults with," Mitchell said about King. "To make sure they pay him."

Neither services from King or Ataya Inc. are listed as expenditures on Johnson's campaign finance reports filed between April 14, 2014, and October 13, 2015, according to the website for the Secretary of State's Office.

Johnson amended all 10 campaign finance reports on March 28, but still King's name does not appear in the documents.

Instead, the new reports indicate Johnson loaned her campaign an additional $422.87 in April 2014 and received $452 less in monetary contributions during that same period.

Secretary of State spokesman Ken Ortiz did not respond to questions Friday about the amendments or King's allegations.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.