The board voted 4-0 to move the case along after a preliminary hearing.
Johnson has been accused of accepting a $2,500 donation from a “restricted donor,” which was filed by Dennis Maez, a retired Secret Service agent who lives in Albuquerque.
The complaint said that Kevin Yearout contributed $2,500 to Johnson’s campaign in July 2017. Yearout is the CEO and owner of Yearout Companies. Yearout Energy Service Co., a New Mexico firm also known as YESCO,
is wholly owned and operated by Yearout Companies.
Johnson in December 2017 voted to enter a so-called guaranteed energy performance contract with YESCO. The nearly $14 million contract is to improve energy efficiency at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Johnson, a Republican, campaigned for mayor and ultimately lost. During the campaign, several complaints were filed against Johnson and Tim Keller, the eventual winner. Johnson has since been appointed state auditor to complete a term that is up for election this year.
Johnson is running to keep the position. He has announced his resignation from the commission effective at the end of the month.
In an interview Thursday after the hearing, Johnson said he disagreed with the board’s decision.
“I think it’s retaliation for the complaints made against candidate (Tim) Keller … by an activist,” Johnson said in an interview. The complaint is “about funds received from an individual in a mayoral election that is not covered by the county’s code of conduct policy.”
During the hearing, Alan Wilson, Johnson’s attorney, argued that the case should be dismissed for several reasons, including that the county’s code of conduct policies don’t cover municipal elections. Also that, under the county’s code of conduct, a person affiliated with a company isn’t barred from donating to political campaigns just because their business has a contract with the county.
Nicholas Hart, Maez’s attorney, said that such an interpretation of the county’s code of conduct would essentially lift all campaign restrictions.
“We’d like to make it clear once and for all that accepting contributions from individuals that are associated with companies that do business with the county, in any type of election, is prohibited,” he said.
“My biggest concern is that commissioner Johnson is running for state auditor, and my concern is that if we’re going to have these type of issues at this point, what can we expect when he’s auditor,” Maez said in an interview.