Recrimination Season

Union Protectíva hits back with an ethics complaint against Mayor Webber with grievances new and old

“These irresponsible and immature rants are embarrassing for a public official at any level, much less the highest elected official of our beloved City,” reads a recently filed ethics complaint by the Hispanic fraternity organization, Union Protectíva de Santa Fé.

The organization is not on good terms with Mayor Alan Webber.

The group on Tuesday filed the season’s third complaint with the Ethics and Campaign Review Board, this one further cementing existing divisions in the city ahead of the Nov. 2 municipal elections. This time around, Union Protectíva accuses Webber of violating a host of city ethics code provisions, including Webber’s alleging that some of his political opponents and detractors are slumming around with “MAGA and QAnon” types in an effort to unseat him.

The complaint comes three weeks after the board threw out an accusation against the mayor filed by one of his opponents, Alexis Martinez Johnson. The day before that, Aug. 18, Webber’s campaign had filed a complaint with the ethics board accusing Union Protectíva of engaging in political activity without filing as a political action committee. Webber’s charge also implicated his other opponent in the mayoral race, Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, of conspiring with Union Protectíva, pointing to an email of support the group sent the councilor in February.

The newest accusation from Union Protectíva against Webber recycles some previously heard criticisms that Johnson filed in her July 15 complaint, while bringing some fresh protests to the table.

In the first violation outlined, Union Protectíva reiterates claims made by Johnson that the mayor used city resources and communication platforms for personal gain by including his campaign logo on flyers for a “Cool Down” event hosted by the city Fire Department. Johnson failed to indicate which part of the Election Code was allegedly violated, which resulted in the complaint’s dismissal—despite lukewarm support from the board.

Citing a misuse of city resources and improper political campaigning, Union Protectíva filled in the gaps of Johnson’s initial grievance.

An additional violation outlined in the supporting documents accused the mayor and his campaign spokeswoman of bullying. The complaint reads, Webber “has called members of the public, city employees, and city public officials ‘Trump Maga operatives’ in an attempt to discredit and taint the reputation of these members of the community.”

Union Protectíva cites a provision in the city’s Code of Ethics that prohibits governing body officials from using “devaluing language” or engaging in workplace bullying.

In a statement emailed to SFR by Sascha Anderson, Webber’s campaign spokeswoman, the mayor did not address the allegations directly, but instead said, “Union Protectiva engaged in negative campaigning and then refused to disclose its donors, leaving voters in the dark about who is funding their political activity. We look forward to discussing their complaint and ours at the upcoming ethics hearing.”

In the group’s final charge against the mayor, they broadly target Webber’s legal defense team. Union Protectíva says the mayor hired the law firm Egolf, Ferlic, Martinez and Harwood LLC, because the group could “exert unjust influence” on the ethics board.

The complaint takes the step of suggesting remedies the board can take, which range from requiring the mayor’s campaign to reimburse the city for the “Cool Down” events to recommending Webber be suspended or removed from the governing body.

Union Protectíva also wants the district attorney and the New Mexico Bar Association to investigate their allegations.

In addition to those recommendations the complaint seeks the removal of two members of the ethics board: Ruth Kovnat and Kristina Martinez. The latter, a partner of Webber’s campaign legal defense team, recused herself from discussions of the last complaint filed against the mayor. Union Protectíva maintains Martinez cannot impartially perform the duties of the ethics board given the alleged conflict of interest.

Brian Egolf, state House speaker and a partner at the firm, tells SFR he has not seen the ethics complaint and adds: “In my experience and in the experience of every judge she has appeared before and every board that knows her, is that Kristina Martinez operates with the highest degree of professionalism, ethics and integrity.”

Kovnat, Union Protectíva says, has made “political contributions in multiple instances to the campaigns of Alan Webber, Brian Egolf...and political action committees that regularly donate to Alan Webber’s Campaign.” The group insists Kovnat should have recused herself from discussions of the complaint against Webber; instead Kovnat voted to dismiss the complaint.

The ethics board is scheduled to hear from both sides in Thursday’s meeting in the discussion of Webber’s complaint from last month against Union Protectíva, VFW Post 2951 and American Legion Post 1, the groups accused of illegal political activity.

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