A New Mexico GOP state lawmaker and congressional candidate failed to disclose that her real estate company earned nearly a half-million dollars in contracts with two state agencies over five years, according to an analysis of campaign finance disclosure records by The Associated Press.
The review of documents by the AP found that Rep. Yvette Herrell’s company, Herrell Properties, took in $440,000 by renting property to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department and New Mexico Environment Department since 2013.
However, Herrell, R-Alamogordo, did not disclose that income on ethics disclosure statements, but listed herself as the company’s owner, according to public documents AP reviewed.
Those nondisclosures could put Herrell at odds with state ethics officials, just as she is seeking the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Congressional seat in southern New Mexico. The race is one of many expected to draw national attention in the 2018 midterms.
State law requires that lawmakers who provide “goods and services in excess of $5,000” from state agencies report the income annually to the state secretary of state’s office. Anyone who “knowingly and willfully” violates the state’s financial disclosure act faces a $1,000 fine or a year in jail.
The secretary of state’s office can also impose fines up to $5,000 and send the case to an independent arbitrator to resolve disclosure disputes.
In a statement, Herrell said she has always diligently submitted the necessary paperwork required by the secretary of state’s office and other entities since becoming an elected lawmaker in 2011.
“While I am a partner in a company that has owned real estate in which the state leased, I have never personally been paid by or collected any monies from the state of New Mexico,” Herrell said.
Herrell said the secretary of state’s office has never brought up any irregularities about her disclosures since she’s been a lawmaker.
But Joey Keefe, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said state ethics officials were unaware of the nondisclosure of state contracts by Herrell until the AP made inquiries.
“Now that it has been brought to our attention, we are going to review Rep. Herrell’s paperwork to ensure that she is complying with all disclosure requirements,” Keefe said.
James Hallinan, a spokesman for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, said the office couldn’t confirm or deny if it was investigating Herrell over the financial disclosures.
Herrell said news of the nondisclosures were “an attack on my moral character,” orchestrated by a political consultant of Hobbs businessman Monty Newman, one of her opponents in the Republican primary for the open 2nd Congressional District seat.
Joseph Cueto, Newman’s campaign manager, brushed off Herrell’s charge and said the nondisclosures raised serious concerns.
“Sweetheart deals for politicians shake the confidence of voters and is why so many feel so strongly about draining the swamp,” Cueto said.
Gavin Clarkson, another Republican seeking the GOP nomination, said he was also disturbed by the lack of disclosure.
“As the deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development in the Trump administration, I completed numerous background checks and financial disclosures,” Clarkson said. “I do not see how this level of insider dealing and conflict of interest could have been omitted accidentally.”