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Politics Notebook: Padilla’s firm worked for state despite harassment allegations

Gov. Susana Martinez said last month that it was “shocking” that Senate Democrats elected Michael Padilla for a leadership post even after he had faced sexual harassment allegations in a previous job.

However, the Martinez administration hired a firm founded and run by Padilla in 2011 – several years after the allegations – to help administer a driver’s license verification program for foreign nationals that was eventually halted by the courts.

Specifically, the state paid more than $52,000 for the two-month contract with Altivus CRM Solutions, the company founded by Padilla, a state Department of Finance and Administration spokeswoman recently confirmed.

In a 2011 statement, a Martinez spokesman said that the governor did not condone Padilla’s alleged actions but that she supported using a New Mexico-based company able to “provide its services at the lowest cost to taxpayers” for the task.

Padilla was elected to the Senate in 2012, then elected by fellow Democratic senators as majority whip in 2014. He held that position until last weekend, when Senate Democrats voted to vacate the leadership post.

The two-term senator also ended his campaign for lieutenant governor over the sexual harassment allegations, which stem from Padilla’s tenure as supervisor of Albuquerque’s 911 call center. The city paid more than $150,000 in damages to three women to resolve the claims.

FUNDRAISER: The owner of a southern New Mexico ranch for troubled youths who launched an unsuccessful bid for the state Legislature last year is apparently staying active in politics.

Scott Chandler, who owns the Tierra Blanca Ranch, was one of about a dozen hosts for a Dec. 11 fundraiser in Las Cruces for Republican congressional candidate Yvette Herrell, according to a flier for the event.

Chandler has feuded with the Martinez administration since abuse allegations were first levied in 2013 against the ranch’s youth program. The feud has led to at least four lawsuits being filed.

Herrell, a four-term state representative from Alamogordo, did not respond to questions about Chandler’s support. She is one of four Republicans seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat, being vacated by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, who announced in July that he would forgo a 2018 re-election bid and instead run for governor.

The other GOP candidates are former state Republican Party Chairman Monty Newman, Carlsbad pharmacist Jack Volpato and ex-New Mexico National Guard leader Andrew Salas.

Dan Boyd: