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Rio Arriba official is facing 4 felony charges

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A Rio Arriba County Commissioner has been indicted on four felony charges related to public contracting and campaign financing.

On Thursday, Barney Trujillo, 38, whose second four-year term on the County Commission ends Dec. 31., was indicted on three counts of unlawful interest in a public contract over $50 and one count of failing to disclose a campaign contribution.

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Barney Trujillo

The indictments were handed up by a Rio Arriba grand jury Wednesday. The case is being prosecuted by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.

In January 2017, investigators with the AG’s Office raided Trujillo’s Chimayó home and collected items. The Rio Grande Sun weekly newspaper reported on the raid and published photos of agents at the house. The AG’s Office also used a search warrant listing Trujillo as a target to collect records from the Española Public Schools offices, but the Attorney General’s office wouldn’t confirm it was conducting an investigation at that time.

“The allegations stem from failing to provide required and correct information to the Secretary of State surrounding contracts with the Española Public Schools and failing to disclose campaign donations in the contracting process,” AG spokesman David Carl said in an email Thursday.

“We are unable to comment beyond the filed indictment at this time. Prosecutors are unable share information about grand jury proceedings as they are secret as a matter of law.”

The indictment against Trujillo says he first took unlawful interest in a contract in August 2014.

That year, Rio Arriba County government, with Trujillo sitting as one of three county commissioners, hired then-Española school board member Annabelle Almager as the county’s human resources director.

Alamager was hired about two weeks after she and others on the Española school board voted to award Trujillo a $50,000-a-year, no-bid contract to provide marketing services to Española Public Schools, according to reporting by the Sun.

The fourth charge in Trujillo’s indictment alleges a violation of “campaign contribution disclosure or prohibition.” But the wording is unclear as to whether Trujillo, as a prospective contractor, made improper contributions related to a sealed bidding process or was the one who received the contributions. The contributions exceeded $250, and a transaction involved was greater than $50,000, the indictment says.

The alleged crime took place on or about July 7, 2016, says the indictment.

Trujillo’s lawyer, Dan Cron, said by phone Thursday, “I haven’t seen the indictment yet or had the opportunity to look at discovery from the state, so we’re in the dark as to what the specifics are on these charges. We just plain don’t know.”

The AG’s office also filed a suit against Española Public Schools that sought documents related to Trujillo’s marketing contract.

“Public school funds should be used on the needs of students,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas in a news release Thursday. “I will continue to bring charges against candidates and officials who fail to serve our communities by pursuing or failing to disclose improper financial interests.”

The AG’s Office also used the state Inspection of Public Records Act to get documents from Rio Arriba County regarding projects Trujillo was involved in, including construction of a park in Chimayó. The state Construction Industries Division brought charges against a local contractor who worked on the project for contracting without a license.

Two others were indicted in June in an apparently related investigation. Married couple Joseph Torres and Liane Martinez are charged with 15 total counts, including fraud, making or permitting a false public voucher, racketeering and conspiracy. Their indictments say the couple bilked Española Public Schools out of thousands of dollars since January 2015.

The Sun reported the charges are related to a contract the district had with Martinez’s company, Enviro-Kleen LLC. Their house was raided by the AG’s Office the same day Trujillo’s was, according to the newspaper.

Trujillo ran unsuccessfully for the House District 40 seat in Democratic primaries in 2016 and again in June of this year.

In May, for a report on the House race, Trujillo told the Journal no one had ever told him what he was being accused of and that the only time he’d spoken to the AG’s Office was when officers came to his house.

“Last I checked, we do live in America and I’ve never been informed of what I’ve actually done wrong,” he said.

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