Gov: Wiener Should Resign

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Michael Wiener has heard calls for his resignation before.

But this time they are coming from the governor, the county Republican Party chairman, the state Republican Party and a colleague on the Bernalillo County Commission. Two other commissioners, including Democrat chairman Art De La Cruz, said action against Wiener, a Republican, would be premature.

This week’s controversy was triggered by the release of photos this week showing Wiener posing with young women in the red-light district of Angeles City in the Philippines. The Journal published the photos Thursday.

Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, said in a prepared statement Friday that Wiener should resign.

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The governor “is deeply troubled by Commissioner Wiener’s pattern of behavior and earlier today endorsed his Republican primary opponent, Lonnie Talbert; she believes Commissioner Wiener should step down,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said.

Chris Collins, chairman of the Bernalillo County Republican Party, said the group’s executive committee will discuss the matter this weekend.

“I have great concern over the content of the photos,” Collins told the Journal. “I spoke with him over the telephone on Thursday, when I asked him to resign.”

Wiener, for his part, has said he was simply walking around Angeles City with his fiancee during an airline layover. A photographer, he said, asked to take his picture.

“When you have layover, you want to take a look around,” Wiener said earlier this week. “I was with my girlfriend. I did absolutely nothing untoward.”

Wiener didn’t return Journal calls for comment Friday. He said earlier that he was in the Philippines to visit his 12-year-old daughter, who lives there.

Reaction from his fellow commissioners was mixed.

County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said Wiener ought to resign.

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“There is a pattern of behavior and practices that’s not befitting of an elected official,” Grisham said.

Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, a Democrat, said Wiener should step down from his leadership position as vice chairman of the commission.

“I find the whole situation utterly disgusting,” Stebbins said. “For him to be frolicking … in a town that’s known around the world for the sexual exploitation of women just sends a message that he condones that.”

Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican, said he will wait for more information before drawing conclusions.

“This is something he did on private time,” Johnson said. “On the other hand, it certainly doesn’t make one feel comfortable.”

Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz, a Democrat, said it’s too early to respond.

“Michael Wiener’s visit to the Philippines was not associated with Bernalillo County business,” De La Cruz said. “Absent any additional information beyond the two photos and his comments to date, I believe it is premature to pass judgment or seek remedies at this time.”

The photos surfaced this week when they were posted to the Web by a Seattle photographer, John Keatley, who was in the Philippines for more than a week last month documenting sexual exploitation.

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In one photo, Wiener is posing with a group of young women outside a Texas-themed bar. In another, he is with a women he identified as his fiancee.

Wiener said earlier this week that he simply had a four- to five-hour layover and took a cab into town that night. He ran into two Americans, he said, and they wanted to take his picture.

Keatley, a professional photographer who shot the cover photo for Sarah Palin’s autobiography, offered a different account. He said it was Wiener who approached him, not the other way around.

Wiener wanted him to email the photos, Keatley said, and he later learned he was an elected official.

Wiener, 57, said it was a personal vacation and he did nothing wrong.

Kristelle Siarza, a board member of the Filipino American Foundation of New Mexico, said the controversy is no reflection on the local Filipino community.

“We are a proud, honorable, and ethical group of Filipinos in New Mexico,” she said in a written statement.

State GOP Chairman Monty Newman said Wiener should resign. “While I have no idea what Commissioner Wiener was doing at the time the pictures were taken, it is unsettling to see an elected official behaving so cavalierly in a situation prone to victimization and abuse,” he said.

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Wiener is up for re-election this year in a district that stretches from the Northeast Heights to the West Side.

He is opposed by Talbert, a former chairman of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. The winner of the June primary will have no Democratic opponent in November.

Wiener is no stranger to controversy. Some recent incidents:

♦ He was the subject of an investigation last year after a staffer alleged sexual harassment. The county, after the inquiry, concluded Wiener had offended the staffer and other elected officials with “inappropriate” sexual comments but that his behavior didn’t meet the legal definition of a “hostile work environment.”

♦ In 2010, the state Democratic Party demanded he resign after he forwarded a racist joke in an email. Wiener later said he doesn’t have a “racist bone in my body.”

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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