In this year’s mayoral elections, ethics are in question.
The Ethics and Campaign Review Board threw out the first complaint of the campaign season for failing to cite a specific provision that was allegedly violated. Another complaint raised Wednesday won’t likely get a hearing until next month.
Alexis Martinez Johnson, who is running for mayor in the Nov. 2 contest, filed her complaint July 15 against incumbent Mayor Alan Webber, alleging he used “taxpayer events and coordinating taxpayer resources to promote personal mayoral campaign via campaign email distribution” in his re-election bid.
The complaint says Webber used his campaign logo on flyers for two city-sponsored “Santa Fe Cool Down!” events on July 17 and 24 with the Fire Department.
Johnson also alleged at the ethics board meeting Thursday that Webber used his campaign email to disseminate information about the events.
In a written response to the complaint, Webber’s legal team, Egolf + Ferlic + Martinez + Harwood, asked the board to dismiss the complaint because it fell short of identifying the violated code.
“The complaint fails to state a specific provision of the Code of Ethics, the Campaign Code, or the Public Campaign Finance Code,” the motion to dismiss reads.
In the complaint, Johnson writes the exact provision Webber violated is “for Ethics Review Board to determine.”
Attorney Kate Ferlic argued that the board had no other legal course of action but to dismiss.
“And so the complainant has asked this board, essentially, to act as both prosecutor and judge.” Ferlic told the ethics board, “It’s not only inappropriate for Ms. Martinez Johnson to ask the board to fill in the gaps of her complaint, it’s impermissible for the board to actually do so.”
Three members voted to dismiss the complaint, while two voted against. Chairman Justin Miller tells SFR, “The board did not decide the complaint on its merits.”
In explaining his vote against the dismissal, Paul Biderman said the ethics board has a responsibility to take up complaints, even when they don’t explicitly cite a violation.
In other instances, Biderman said, “those general statements don’t require the citation of statutes or case law.” He said when concerns are raised, it’s the job of adjudicators to step in: “If a set of facts is stated that reflects a violation of the law, then in fact it is the role of the court to pick up on that and bring justice. I think that’s about the kind of thing we are...supposed to do.”
Disappointed with the outcome of the board’s decision, Johnson tells SFR, “At this point I do not have the resources to further this complaint.”
The appointed citizen board will next take on a complaint filed Wednesday by the Webber campaign accusing Union Protectíva de Santa Fé and a local VFW and Foreign Legion Post of illegal political activity. The complaint also names Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, the third mayoral candidate, as suspected of illegally coordinating with the groups.
Members set a tentative date of Sept. 9 for its next meeting, providing the board can secure a quorum.