The board voted 3-2 that Johnson violated the code after accepting a $2,500 donation from a “restricted donor,” individuals or companies doing business with or seeking to do business with the county. Restricted donors can contribute a maximum of $1,000.
District 1 member Katy Duhigg, District 3 alternate Rachel Higgins and District 4 member Catherine Howell voted that Johnson violated the code. District 2 member Luis Hernandez Jr. and District 5 member Peter Vredenburg voted in opposition.
The complaint, filed by Dennis Maez, a retired U.S. Secret Service agent and Albuquerque resident, stated that Kevin Yearout contributed $2,500 to Johnson’s campaign in July 2017.
Yearout is the CEO and owner of Yearout Cos. Yearout Energy Service Co., a New Mexico firm also known as YESCO, is wholly owned and operated by Yearout Cos.
Johnson voted in December 2017 to enter a guaranteed energy performance contract with YESCO. The nearly $14 million contract is intended to improve energy efficiency at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
The board made the right decision, Maez told the Journal after Monday’s hearing.
“The evidence was overwhelming that there was a violation. We respect their decision. I think it’s very important that the electorate know that Mr. Johnson violated this code at the same time that he is running for state auditor,” Maez said.
“He made it well known that his campaign was based on transparency and integrity. This shows that wasn’t the case during the mayor’s elections with this contribution.”
Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Johnson to the state auditor post in December after Tim Keller resigned before he was sworn in as mayor.
Voters will elect an auditor to a four-year term in November.
Johnson continues to deny the allegations and argues that the county’s code of conduct doesn’t cover municipal elections.
“I think the process was tainted from the beginning. Political influences was manifest in the first decision. They should have gone back and reconsidered at the preliminary hearing,” Johnson said.
“I know as somebody who worked on the code of conduct, I know what it was intended to do. The section that they referenced – I absolutely did not violate. It was never intended to stretch beyond county offices and county candidates.”
Johnson said he will appeal the decision to District Court.
The board will meet May 11 to consider possible sanctions or censures against Johnson.