ALBUQUERQUE – Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives on Monday raised the possibility of impeachment proceedings against New Mexico’s top elections official after allegations of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering were leveled against her by the state attorney general.
House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said the charges against Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran are serious, and if the House decides to pursue impeachment, the process needs to be a bipartisan effort.
The decision by Democrats to start the conversation was reached over the weekend. Egolf informed Republicans, who hold the majority in the chamber, in a phone call Monday.
Pointing to the detailed criminal complaint filed late Friday in state district court, Egolf suggested that Duran at least step aside while the criminal case is pending and appoint a deputy to oversee her office.
“I think it is fair for the people of New Mexico to wonder whether or not Secretary Duran is capable of enforcing the Governmental Conduct Act,” he said. “Is she capable of enforcing the state’s ethics laws? Is she capable of enforcing campaign laws – the very laws she’s accused of violating in a very serious way?
Duran, a two-term secretary of state and former state lawmaker, is facing a 64-count complaint stemming from allegations she funneled campaign donations into personal bank accounts and withdrew large sums of money from those accounts while frequenting casinos around the state.
Duran’s attorney has said she hopes the case isn’t politically motivated, and she’s looking forward to addressing the allegations in court.
The secretary of state’s office declined to comment on the charges and news of impeachment discussions, saying only that the professional staff would continue to carry out the duties of the office.
The secretary of state administers elections statewide as well as campaign-finance and lobbying laws. The office also is in charge of the registration of corporations.
If the state House were to move on impeachment now, either the governor would have to call a special session or members would have to call themselves back for an extraordinary session. The next regular legislative session begins in January.
Under the New Mexico Constitution, a majority vote in the 70-member House would be required to impeach Duran. If that happens, the Senate would hold a trial and a two-thirds vote would be necessary to convict Duran – permanently removing her from office.
The constitution provides for the impeachment of state officers and judges for “crimes, misdemeanors and malfeasance” in office.
No state elective officer has ever been impeached in New Mexico.