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Las Vegas, NM, mayor may face vote on removal from post

SANTA FE – A member of Las Vegas, New Mexico, City Council wants to put removal of Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron on the council’s agenda for consideration.

“I think it is important for people to know that we on the council are making every effort to end the corruption that has been going on for far too long,” said Councilor Barbara Casey, a frequent critic of the mayor.

Tonita Gurule-Giron, mayor of Las Vegas, N.M.

On June 27, agents from the state Attorney General’s Office raided Gurule-Giron’s home, the Las Vegas City Hall and the home of a contractor identified as the mayor’s former campaign manager and “paramour.”

Documents associated with the raid say the investigation is over “potential collusion” and kickbacks between the mayor and boyfriend Marvin Salazar over city contracts.

A search warrant affidavit by investigators from the AG’s Office delves into city work by Salazar’s company, Gemini Construction, on floor installation, repair of water damage, installation of a Little League scoreboard and flagstone for a park.

One witness, a “former close friend” of Gurule-Giron, alleges that the mayor told her that Gurule-Giron “would receive payments from Salazar in the form of money for assisting Salazar with receiving City contracts,” according to the court affidavit.

Casey has submitted a formal request to Gurule-Giron to place discussion of the mayor’s removal from office on the council’s July 17 agenda.

The mayor controls the agenda.

Casey’s request dated July 1 asks for a written explanation if Gurule-Giron rejects the proposed agenda item.

“Although she has rejected every agenda request I have made since 2016, I thought I would try it, anyway,” Casey said in an email to the Journal.

Gurule-Giron has not returned messages from the Journal since the raid.

Casey’s proposed agenda item cites a Las Vegas city charter provision that says, “The Governing Body shall be the judge of the qualifications of its members, and of the grounds for removal from office, consistent with state law provisions regarding qualifications and removal.”

The agenda request proposes: “Discussion and Approval/Disapproval of the removal of mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron, for malfeasance in office.”

In an interview for a special audit by the State Auditor’s Office last year, Gurule-Giron said she and Salazar did not have a romantic relationship, nor did she play any role in his receiving city government contracts.

In March, the AG’s Office acknowledged that it was investigating Gurule-Giron, with a statement that there were “allegations of fraud and misconduct while in office.”

“For the AG’s Office to make that statement is pretty heavy, because we’ve done nothing wrong,” Gurule-Giron said then. “Nothing. I know I haven’t.”

Gurule-Giron also said in March she was aware of complaints made to the attorney general by Councilor Casey.

Casey told the Journal she filed a complaint about the mayor in 2017. Her complaints were about matters including a contract for City Hall improvements and other financial issues that were mentioned in the special audit by the State Auditor’s Office last year.

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