During Sunday night’s mayoral debate between City Councilor Dan Lewis and state Auditor Tim Keller, Lewis said he has never had an ethics complaint filed against him.
He can’t say that anymore.
A University of New Mexico political science student filed an ethics complaint against Lewis on Wednesday, alleging that he has an unlawful financial interest in a city contract. The complaint also alleges that he has failed to properly disclose his financial interest in the contract and that he has illegally voted on budgets that appropriate money to his company.
Brendon Luke Jaramillo also states in a document filed with the city’s Board of Ethics & Campaign Practices that Lewis “has violated the Conflict of Interest provisions of the City Charter by being an officer and agent of a city contractor that has been paid over $3.1 million in taxpayer dollars under a contract that was approved during his term.” He calls it unlawful emolument, essentially profiting from a City Council position.
Given notice requirements, it’s unlikely that the complaint will be resolved before Election Day, which is Nov. 14.
“I feel this is something important that voters should know about,” Jaramillo told the Journal.
Keller also brought up the contract that Lewis’ employer, wholesale fuel supplier Desert Fuels, has with the city. Lewis is the company’s executive vice president.
“The inspector general audited and found there was nothing wrong,” Lewis responded during Sunday’s debate.
The city’s Office of Inspector General did look into the Desert Fuels contract in 2015 at Lewis’ request.
“… Nothing has come to our attention to indicate improprieties in the award or administration of the current contract,” then-acting Inspector General Peter Pacheco wrote in an October 2015 letter to Lewis.
He went on to state that, “Regarding the City Charter, Code of Ethics, only the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices committee can give an advisory opinion concerning the Code of Ethics. However, with the information reviewed, there does not appear to have been any past or running violation of the City’s Code of Ethics.”
But Jaramillo said the IG letter doesn’t address the “emolument violation,” which is the main reason he filed the complaint.
According to the IG letter, Desert Fuels obtained the contract about four months before Lewis went to work for the company. The letter also states that Desert Fuels is in a pool of multiple vendors, and when fuel is needed, price quotes are requested and fuel is ordered from the vendor offering the lowest price.
Keller ethics complaint
Meanwhile, one of three ethics complaints filed against Keller has been dismissed, although Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers said it would be refiled. That complaint alleged that Keller and a political action committee supporting him have been coordinating, in violation of city rules. Keller has denied the allegation.
That complaint had been filed with the city’s Office of Administrative Hearings, but a hearing officer decided Tuesday that he doesn’t have jurisdiction and that the complaint should be refiled with the city’s Board of Ethics.
“Hearing Officer (Stan) Harada made the right decision … and stopped political operatives from trying to circumvent the rules in an effort to do or say anything to tear down Tim Keller,” Keller attorney Molly Schmidt-Nowara said in a statement.
Rogers said in a statement that Keller and the committee backing him should release their invoices and communications to prove they aren’t coordinating.
“It is a serious disservice and an insult to Albuquerque voters to hide the truth and the coordination until after the election,” he said.