NM legislative committee to start spadework on secretary of state's impeachment

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — A New Mexico legislative committee plans to start spadework next week on impeachment proceedings against embattled Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who is accused of funneling campaign contributions to personal bank accounts.

No public official has been impeached in state history. Impeachment proceedings were started 10 years ago against state Treasurer Robert Vigil and again in 2011 against Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. In each case, the process was halted after the officials resigned their posts.

Democratic Rep. Ken Martinez of Grants co-chaired the Vigil impeachment panel and tells the Albuquerque Journal that impeachment proceedings are grave and "very difficult."

"This is as heavy as it gets, in my opinion," Martinez said.

Duran is facing more than five dozen counts stemming from allegations that she funneled some $13,000 in campaign contributions to personal bank accounts and withdrew large sums of money while frequenting casinos around the state.

Aside from her attorney saying she would fight the charges in court, Duran has remained silent and has kept away from her office in Santa Fe as pressure mounts for her to resign and state lawmakers take steps toward possible impeachment proceedings.

A House committee, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, would be appointed by House leaders to investigate the charges against Duran.

The committee — which is expected to be funded at a Sept. 15 meeting of the Legislative Council — would appoint a special counsel to collect and present evidence. Then it would deliberate and vote whether to recommend impeachment to the full House.

In 2005 and 2011, Democrats were a majority in the House, and the elected officials also were Democrats. This year, there's a Republican majority and Duran is a Republican.

Duran, who is in her second term, is a former member of the Legislature and often has worked with lawmakers on election-related issues as secretary of state.

"It's always hard to sit in judgment of a fellow human being," Martinez said. "There's zero joy in it and a heavy burden."