SANTA FE – Pressure is mounting for embattled Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. to resign.
The other members of the PRC on Tuesday endorsed a statement calling on Block to step down.
Also Tuesday, the Republican leader in the state House of Representatives sent a letter to Speaker Ben Lujan requesting the appointment of a committee to review the flurry of allegations surrounding Block. That could lead to impeachment proceedings.
And another letter was sent to Block, a Democrat, from eight Democratic Party county chairs within Block’s northern New Mexico PRC district, also asking him to resign.
It reads, in part, “We are hopeful you will make the right, honorable decision.”
Block is facing criminal charges for allegedly misspending public campaign funds and is the focus of a stolen car investigation after he failed to return a car he borrowed from a Santa Fe dealership. He also faces a probe over his use of state-issued gas cards.
PRC records obtained by the Journal this week show someone used Block’s PIN-coded PRC account two times or more in a single day to pay for gas, often at the same Española convenience store. Often the buys were only minutes apart.
For example, on June 7, there were six charges between 4:07 p.m. and 9:17 p.m. at two gas stations in Española and one in Santa Fe. The charges ranged from $17.55 to $87.03.
In mid-June, Block voluntarily gave up his gas card and state vehicle after a staff check of gas accounts turned up questionable charges on his account, according to PRC chief of staff Johnny Montoya.
State Auditor Hector Balderas has said he is reviewing Block’s gas-account records. More than $8,000 in charges were racked up on Block’s gas account from January through mid-June.
At Tuesday’s PRC meeting, the other four commissioners adopted a statement that expresses sympathy for Block, saying, “We wish the best for Jerome and his family while he deals with these issues and sincerely hope that he receives whatever help he needs to get through this.”
But the statement adds, “Given the allegations and recent evidence that has surfaced, we urge Commissioner Block to immediately resign his position as soon as possible.”
Block said Monday he hadn’t decided whether to resign and that he has been undergoing therapy for “depression issues.” He did not attend Tuesday’s PRC meeting and couldn’t be reached for comment.
PRC Chairman Patrick Lyons told reporters after the meeting that he had heard “through the grapevine” that Block had been “in rehab for three weeks.”
If Block, a Democrat, does resign, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez would appoint his replacement.
“If he doesn’t resign, we need him here at the meetings so we don’t have 2-2 votes,” Lyons said. He said he hasn’t spoken to Block in days, despite repeated attempts to reach him by telephone.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal