SANTA FE — An internal House panel will investigate allegations of sexual harassment against state Rep. Carl Trujillo, after House leaders met with an outside attorney Tuesday and decided the claims merit further scrutiny.
The investigation will be the first of its kind under a revised anti-harassment policy adopted by lawmakers earlier this year and could be launched just weeks before the June 5 primary election.
And political pressure is building on Trujillo, too, as three of his Democratic colleagues called on him to resign Tuesday.
Laura Bonar, a staffer for an animal welfare group, posted a public letter last week with allegations that she was sexually harassed on multiple occasions by Trujillo, a Democrat from the Santa Fe area, as they worked together on legislation in 2013 and 2014.
Specifically, Bonar accused Trujillo of propositioning her, touching her inappropriately and retaliating when she rejected his advances. She also called on him to resign.
Her attorney requested the investigation Tuesday.
Trujillo, a business owner and scientist who serves as vice chairman of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, described the allegations as “vicious and politically motivated lies” that will be proven false.
“I’m troubled,” he said Tuesday, “that we’ve created a culture where we’re expected to believe anything someone says based solely on their gender, and in which I’m expected to pretend there is any truth to these allegations solely out of political correctness.”
Trujillo is seeking re-election this year to a fourth term in House District 46. He faces a challenge from fellow Democrat Andrea Romero of Santa Fe.
In a Tuesday statement, Legislative Council Service Director Raúl Burciaga said a four-member subcommittee — two House Republicans and two House Democrats — will be charged with investigating the allegations and will retain outside legal counsel to help.
Under the Legislature’s revised policy, sexual harassment complaints filed against a sitting legislator are considered by three top-ranking legislators — from both political parties — and the outside expert.
In the case involving Trujillo, that stipulation prompted House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, to meet Tuesday with Democratic floor leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton of Albuquerque, Republican floor leader Nate Gentry of Albuquerque, and the outside attorney.
Their determination that the allegations should be investigated further triggered the involvement of the internal subcommittee. After investigating the complaint, the panel can decide whether probable cause exists to recommend disciplinary action against Trujillo. Such sanctions can include reprimand, censure or expulsion.
The pressure on Trujillo increased last week — when Democratic Rep. Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque said that at least two other women have confided in her with “credible stories” of sexual harassment by Trujillo, which he denies.
And on Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Miguel Garcia, Christine Trujillo (no relation) and Debbie Sariñana, all of Albuquerque, called on Carl Trujillo to resign.