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Court reverses ethics board finding on Wayne Johnson

Wayne Johnson

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A state district judge has reversed a review board’s determination that Wayne Johnson, then a county commissioner, violated the county’s code of conduct during an unsuccessful run for mayor.

The issue centers on a $2,500 donation to Johnson’s mayoral campaign by Kevin Yearout, CEO, officer and shareholder for Yearout Services LLC, which had an HVAC contract with the county at that time.

Bernalillo County’s Code of Conduct Review Board found in April 2018 that Johnson violated a section of county code by accepting more than $1,000 from a “restricted donor.” County code describes a restricted donor as a person or entity doing business with the county.

Judge Clay Campbell in an April 9 opinion wrote that Yearout Services LLC meets that criteria. But he held that the code definition does not equate a CEO, owner or manager of a company with the company that has a county contract.

In its own filings in the appeal, the county said the board did not find that Yearout was a restricted donor, but that Johnson “knew or had reason to believe the source of the contribution in question came from a restricted donor.” The board decided that Yearout was “merely the conduit through which money from Yearout Services LLC (a restricted donor) could flow to Appellant.”

Campbell wrote that the board’s determination was not supported by substantial evidence.

A spokesman for Bernalillo County said in a statement Thursday that the county and review board respect the court’s opinion.

“No determination has been reached as to an appeal of the District Court ruling,” he wrote.

Johnson said Wednesday that he helped craft the ordinance at issue, and always felt he was on firm ground.

“The fact of the matter is I followed the ordinance as written and everything that I did was permissible,” Johnson said. “And the frustration of it is, despite going before the board, what you got was a political decision rather than a decision based on the law.”

His attorney, Pat Rogers said he appreciates Campbell’s ruling, but it leaves undone the “serious political problem of an ethics board acting like a kangaroo court with a politically partisan chairman.”

“The ethics board should not be used by anyone to settle political scores or punish minority parties,” he said.

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