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Former Gov. Carruthers named to ethics panel

Former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers

SANTA FE – Former New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers was named Monday to a fledgling state ethics commission, bringing the total number of commission appointees to four with just weeks before the commission is officially established.

Carruthers, who served as New Mexico’s governor from 1987 through 1990, was more recently the chancellor of New Mexico State University until stepping down from the position last June. He was appointed to the ethics commission by Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

“New Mexicans will once again benefit from the vast knowledge, expertise and experience of this tremendous public servant,” Ingle said in a Monday statement.

Carruthers, who pushed for approval of a constitutional amendment creating the ethics commission last fall, noted he was also the co-chairman of a 2006 ethics task force established under then-Gov. Bill Richardson.

“I’ve personally spent a lot of time on the issue,” Carruthers told the Journal. “I’m hopeful we can do a good job and establish a level of confidence in our government.”

He also said that in addition to investigating complaints, he hopes the commission plays a significant role in educating elected officials, lobbyists and the public about ethics laws and guidelines.

The three other ethics commission members, who were appointed previously, are Santa Fe attorney Stuart Bluestone, former White Sands Missile Range official Frances Williams of Las Cruces, and health care administrator Judy Villanueva of Carlsbad.

A fifth appointee will be selected by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The five appointed members will then pick the commission’s two final members, with the stipulation that no more than three of the commission’s seven members can be from the same political party.

The ethics commission will hire an executive director, who in turn will be hire a general counsel and other full-time staffers.

New Mexico lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation setting the powers and procedures of the independent ethics commission, which will investigate claims of wrongdoing against legislators, lobbyists, elected officials and government contractors.

The bill’s passage came after a string of ethics scandals involving elected and appointed officials in state government. It also followed the resounding statewide vote last year to approve – by a roughly 3-to-1 ratio – the constitutional amendment to create the commission.

Although the commission can start holding meetings in July, it will not begin accepting complaints and requests for advisory opinions until next year.