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Jerome Block
Jerome Block Jr. faces eight criminal indictments.

Impeachment subcommittee off to slow start

The House Rules and Impeachment Investigation Subcommittee, which is looking into impeaching Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, spent the whole morning debating its proposed rules.

September 13, 2011, 1:00 am
By Joey Peters

Perhaps it's a sign of a slow-moving special session when a subcommittee tasked with looking into impeaching Jerome Block spends two hours debating parliamentary rules without adopting all of them.

The 10-member subcommittee, split equally of Democrats and Republicans, affirmed four rules today that it now must to follow and left three to be discussed at its next meeting Thursday morning. The rules were written by the Legislative Council Service. 

A week before the special session started, House Speaker Ben Luján, D-Santa Fe, told SFR that the subcommittee would spend the time doing "preliminary work." Actual impeachment, if the subcommittee recommends it and the legislature acts on it, won't likely happen in the special session, he said.

"It's going to take a lot of time," Luján said. "We would hate to keep members in Santa Fe."

Today, the subcommittee spent about a half-hour trying to narrow the following sentence in one of the approved rules: "Only subcommittee members, an analyst for the majority, an analyst for the minority and designated Legislative Council Service staff members may attend executive sessions." 

It came as part of a rule that would require the subcommittee to conduct "appropriate proceedings" in the process of considering impeachment.

Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Curry, mentioned striking "only" from the sentence to assure impeachment sessions always have an analyst for both parties and members of the LCS present. Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Bernalillo, followed up on the idea by making it into a motion. But before that happened, others suggested that moving "may" from the sentence would be more clarifying.

Eventually, the idea of striking the entire sentence came about, and Rep. Joe Cervantes, D-Doña Anna, a co-chair of the subcommittee, held a vote on the rule removing the disputed sentence. The subcommittee followed through on it.

Other issues discussed included how to contain the influence of media coverage and personal biases on subcommittee members, much like that of a grand jury. Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Cibola, said it wasn't something he was too concerned with.

"I read the news and the blogs for information," he told subcommittee members. "I don't believe everything they say."

The rules adopted today are:

1. The subcommittee shall give public notice of the date, time and place of its meetings as soon as practicable before the commencement of its meetings.

2. At the request of special counsel or a majority of the subcommittee, the subcommittee shall conduct appropriate proceedings in executive session. Staff members must sign confidentiality statements.

3. The task of gathering and presenting evidence to the subcommittee shall be the responsibility of special counsel. In that regard:

a. all documentary evidence from public records, including affidavits of investigative authorities, shall be presented in open, public sessions;

b. as other evidence is gathered, and at the request of special counsel, the subcommittee shall decide how that evidence is to be presented—i.e. through live witnesses, depositions or otherwise;

c. also at the request of special counsel, the subcommittee will decide whether that evidence is to be presented in public sessions or whether respect for ongoing civil, criminal or administrative proceedings or questions of privilege requires that such evidence be presented in executive session;

d. testimony by witness, whether presented in public session or otherwise, shall be under oath, through direct questioning by special counsel. Members of the subcommittee shall, however, retain the right to question any witness presented. Members of the subcommittee may submit questions to the special counsel regarding testimony by deposition;

e. these proceedings are investigative and charging in nature and thus do not require an adversarial hearing. Nonetheless, the public regulation commissioner shall be apprised of the evidence submitted by special counsel, and the commissioner's response to that information shall be invited by way of:

i. the commissioner's own testimony, under oath, provided through the questioning of special counsel; and

ii. through other means, under terms and conditions deemed appropriate by the subcommittee, upon the recommendation of special counsel; and

f. special counsel is authorized to request the issuance of subpoenas on behalf of the subcommittee.

 

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