Laura Bonar, a seasoned advocate at the New Mexico State Capitol, has accused Nambé State Rep. Carl Trujillo of sexually harassing and abusing her during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions.
In an open letter to Trujillo that was also sent to local media outlets, Bonar called on the Democrat to step down.
"I don't want your money. I don't want your apology. I simply want you to resign," Bonar writes.
The revelation comes as Trujillo is locked in a bitter primary battle with Andrea Romero for his legislative seat. The winner of the June 5 primary election will be the presumptive state representative since no Republicans are on the ballot.
That fact isn’t lost on Bonar, said Levi Monagle, an attorney working with her pro bono. “She doesn’t know Ms. Romero, she hasn’t spoken to Ms. Romero. Clearly she understands he’s fighting for his seat,” Monagle tells SFR. “This is in line with her objective. She wants him out of office.”
Trujillo did not return repeated phone calls from SFR. In a letter sent to the media Wednesday afternoon, he calls Bonar's accusations "lies of the worst sort" and blames his primary opponent for their publicity.
"I thought there was a limit to how low my opponents could go. I was wrong. To hijack and exploit the #MeToo movement for their own political gain, to undermine the cause of animal welfare and the innocent animals who depend on us … it doesn't get lower than that," Trujillo writes.
He claims Bonar has lied in the past and that the lie is "easily verifiable," though he does not elaborate.
Bonar works for Animal Protection Voters of New Mexico in both a lobbying capacity and as the group's chief policy and program officer. She was one of the strongest voices calling for humane treatment of chimpanzees used for experimentation by the National Institutes of Health in an Alamogordo facility, an effort that spanned most of a decade and was ultimately successful.
Bonar writes that she was working with Trujillo in 2013. The state representative has been an ally for Animal Protection Voters and was carrying a bill that would have provided $250,000 for spay and neuter programs. Trujillo had pre-filed the bill before the session began and the measure sailed through its first committee with a unanimous vote. It stalled in its final committee early in the legislative session.
Bonar says that's because she rebuffed Trujillo's advances.
"You propositioned me. You touched me inappropriately. You held your power as a state legislator over my head, making it clear to me that my passion for my cause would get me nowhere unless I demonstrated 'passion' for you. You did all of this as a married man," she writes.
"When I finally worked up the courage to tell you that I was not willing to succumb to your advances," Bonar continues, "you did what I feared you would do: you stormed off angrily and shut me out of the legislative process."
Bonar sharply criticized what she called a "quid pro quo mentality" by Trujillo and writes, "You tried to sexually exploit me when I needed your help. You abused your power as a legislator and with it the trust of your constituents. The people of your district and everyone in this state deserve better."
The board for Animal Protection Voters backs Bonar's contention and echoed her call for Trujillo's resignation Wednesday.
“She has told us what happened, and I and our board believe her,” writes Elisabeth Jennings, the group’s executive director, in a Facebook post. “It is our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure a safe working environment for our staff, and to maintain the integrity of our elections endorsement process. For those reasons, Animal Protection Voters has decided not to endorse Rep. Carl Trujillo in House District 46, and believe he should resign and withdraw from the race.”
Monagle says he's been working with Bonar for several weeks as she decided how to come forward with her allegations. He and his law partners have filed scores of cases against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for priestly sexual abuse.
He says he hasn't heard from Trujillo and while Monagle says it's unlikely a politician would file a defamation of character lawsuit, he says it's still "a terrifying prospect for victims."
Romero, former head of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, has had her own issues; her contract with the coalition wasn't renewed after spending inquiries showed she charged pricey dinners and drinks to the agency.
Trujillo's letter compares his credibility not to Bonar, but to Romero. He calls on "those of you in the Santa Fe political establishment" to speak up on his behalf. "Life is long and conscience weighs heavily over the years," he writes. "Mine is clean. Is yours?" Trujillo goes on to criticize Animal Protection Voters for "participating in this lie."
It's possible Trujillo could face sanctions from his own party in the Legislature. Speaker of the House Brian Egolf issued a statement on behalf of House Democratic leadership calling the allegations "serious and deeply troubling."
"The Legislature recently adopted a strong policy to address sexual harassment, which we will follow in this case. In the coming days, the Speaker, the Majority Leader, and the Minority Leader will meet with outside counsel as called for in the policy, to determine how to proceed and to consider Ms. Bonar's wishes regarding an investigation. Sexual harassment has no place in the Legislature or in our society and will not be tolerated," it reads.
Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Marg Elliston tells SFR "We're grateful that Ms. Bonar has come forward to share her story and DPNM applauds her courage. We're very disappointed that Rep. Trujillo's initial response is to accuse the victim of lies."
She went on to say the party encourages Bonar to use whatever investigative processes are available through the Legislature's new sexual misconduct policy. Party rules don't provide a path to remove someone from office who isn't a party official. Elliston tells SFR, however, that if the allegations are true, Trujillo should resign.
Former Democratic Party Chairman Richard Ellenberg resigned recently after questioning the veracity of similar allegations against Jon Hendry, a film union head with close ties to Ellenberg.
After lobbyist Vanessa Alarid came forward last year with allegations of sexual misconduct against former State Rep. Thomas Garcia, the Legislature adopted a new sexual harassment policy. Four claims were made during the 2018 legislative session, more than in the previous decade combined.
This story has been updated to include responses from Trujillo and the Democratic Party of New Mexico.