Senate Democrats to discuss Padilla’s fate

SANTA FE – Senate Democrats will meet this weekend to talk about state finances, the coming 30-day legislative session and the elephant in their room.

That, of course, would be the leadership position of Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, an Albuquerque Democrat who withdrew from the lieutenant governor’s race last week amid fallout over decade-old sexual harassment allegations.

Although Saturday’s caucus meeting in Albuquerque won’t focus solely on whether to strip Padilla of his leadership post, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, confirmed Monday that the issue would be addressed.

Padilla has repeatedly denied the harassment allegations, which stem from his time working to overhaul Albuquerque’s emergency call center – years before he was elected to the Legislature.

However, the city paid out thousands of dollars to three women to settle claims stemming from Padilla’s tenure as a supervisor, and the issue has flared up during a national movement targeting sexual misconduct in politics, entertainment and the media.

HARASSMENT POLICY: When top-ranking lawmakers meet later this week in Santa Fe to talk about revising the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy, one state representative wants top staffers to answer questions about how complaints have been handled in the past.

In a letter sent Monday to leading legislators, Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, asked that Legislative Council Service Director Raúl Burciaga and Legislative Education Study Committee Director Rachel Gudgel give a report during a Friday meeting.

Specifically, Fajardo called on them to explain how they handled three sexual harassment allegations that were disclosed in recent weeks.

“We cannot determine the best for the Legislature on this matter until we have a thorough comprehension of the limitations of the existing policy,” Fajardo wrote in her letter.

The Legislative Council is expected to consider changes to the harassment policy at Friday’s meeting. The changes could be enacted in time for the session, which starts Jan. 16.

Dan Boyd: dboyd@abqjournal.com