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Legislator says harassment claim dismissal vindicates him

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Embattled state Rep. Carl Trujillo said Tuesday that his name had been cleared since a legislative subcommittee dismissed sexual harassment allegations against him after his accuser refused to testify.

Trujillo, who lost a heated primary election in June, is also launching an online fundraiser to help him pay more than $100,000 in attorney’s fees he racked up defending himself.

“I spent a ton of money on this because I wanted to clear my name and vindicate myself,” Trujillo said in a Tuesday interview.

However, an attorney for the lobbyist who accused Trujillo of propositioning her, touching her inappropriately and retaliating when she rejected his advances disputed Trujillo’s description of the subcommittee’s decision.

“To say that Mr. Trujillo was somehow vindicated is laughable,” attorney Levi Monagle said Tuesday.

Sexual harassment allegations against Trujillo prompted the first inquiry under a revised anti-harassment policy that top-ranking New Mexico lawmakers adopted earlier this year.

An internal investigation conducted behind closed doors this summer found “sufficient credible evidence” to move forward with a formal charge against Trujillo and start public hearings that could have resulted in discipline. The investigation did not find probable cause that Trujillo had retaliated against his accuser.

However, the public hearings, which were supposed to start Monday, were canceled after the lobbyist, Laura Bonar of Animal Protection Voters, refused to testify under oath.

Part of the reason she did not testify, according to her attorney, was concern that she might have to disclose the names of other women she had spoken with about sexual harassment incidents.

“Laura’s primary interest in all this has been protecting victims of sexual harassment,” Monagle said. “She wasn’t willing to out them to Mr. Trujillo’s attorneys.”

A final report released this week by the eight-member House ethics subcommittee did not specifically exonerate Trujillo but said the panel could not make a final determination about whether Trujillo violated the anti-harassment policy.

It also defended the Legislature’s authority to launch an investigation of one of its own members without a sworn complaint – Bonar posted a public letter in May with the allegations against Trujillo – but said the accused member has the right to cross-examine his accuser under oath.

Meanwhile, the Legislature had paid $138,000 through October to two outside contract attorneys who worked on the Trujillo case, Legislative Council Service Director Raúl Burciaga said Tuesday. The final tally could increase once November billings are processed.

The alleged incidents occurred in 2014, and Trujillo, a Nambé resident who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory, has described them as politically motivated lies.

However, several House Democrats said they believe Bonar’s account and have called on Trujillo to resign.

Trujillo was defeated in the June primary election by fellow Democrat Andrea Romero of Santa Fe and said Tuesday that he does not plan to run for his House District 46 seat – or any other elected office – in 2020.

He said in a Tuesday letter to supporters that the allegations against him could damage the #MeToo movement, which has prompted sexual misconduct claims against prominent politicians, media figures and business executives nationwide.

He also raised the possibility of legal action against the Legislature but said it was too early to say whether that might ultimately happen.

“This process has been very devastating for me and my family,” Trujillo said.

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