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Outgoing auditor, successor clash before power shift

Just days before the office changes hands, outgoing State Auditor Wayne Johnson and his Democratic successor, Brian Colón, are lobbing new allegations at each other.

Brian Colón

Colón on Wednesday called for Johnson – the man he defeated in last month’s election – to relinquish his official duties early, hand over operations to a deputy and immediately “stop using the office for his alleged criminal activity, personal vendettas, and political gain.”

Johnson, in turn, accused Colón of trying to interfere with a routine audit inquiry that involves his friends – Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas and attorneys at a law firm that won a state contract. Johnson is a Republican and former Bernalillo County commissioner.

The Attorney General’s Office, meanwhile, said Wednesday that it has launched a criminal investigation into allegations against Johnson, centering on the use of campaign funds and conduct in public office.

Here’s where the investigations and allegations stand:

• Johnson last week asked a judge to grant his office subpoena power to compel the Attorney General’s Office to turn over documents as part of an audit. Johnson said his staff is just doing its job, following up on a tip about a state contract awarded by the AG’s Office “to a close personal friend’s law firm.”

Wayne Johnson

Johnson said that there’s no indication of wrongdoing at this point but that the inquiry is still underway. His office initially requested the documents in October.

The law firm involved, Johnson said, used to employ Colón.

• The Attorney General’s Office, in turn, is investigating Johnson.

The office notified him in October that it had received complaints about him centering on the state laws that cover campaign fundraising and conduct in public office.

Matt Baca, a spokesman for the attorney general, said Wednesday that he “can confirm that we have received numerous referrals from (state election officials) and have ongoing criminal investigations into those allegations.”

“The Office of the Attorney General encourages all public officials to comply with the mandates of the Governmental Conduct Act and to refrain from interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations,” Baca said.

Johnson called the AG’s investigation frivolous and partisan.

• Colón, meanwhile, said he will investigate “misconduct and abuse of power” by Johnson when he takes office Tuesday.

Colón, an Albuquerque attorney and former chairman of the state Democratic Party, won the auditor’s race in November, defeating Johnson by 15 percentage points.

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