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Co-op denies bribery claim

SANTA FE, N.M. — Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative is denying an attorney’s claim that the co-op attempted to bribe an ousted board member with a $50,000 check. It says the money was part of a “good faith effort” to settle a lawsuit brought by Bruce Duran, who sued the co-op after it failed to certify his June reelection in which he ran unopposed.

Duran’s attorney, A. Blair Dunn, last week shared with the media – and, he says, the Department of Justice – an email from attorney K. Stephen Royce, who is representing the co-op in a case brought against it by Duran. The email offers to pay Duran $50,000 if he agreed to drop his lawsuit, keep the terms of the settlement secret and never run for the co-op board again.

The co-op says that Dunn mischaracterizes the offer as a “bribe” when it’s actually a settlement proposal.

“The Board’s counsel acted in the long-term interest of the entire membership and the JMEC’s 31,000 customers to bring to resolution the pending litigation, rather than continue in protracted and expensive litigation,” says a news release dated Oct. 11.

The co-op maintains that it did not certify Duran’s election because the board determined that Duran, who is considered a reformist, was ineligible to run for reelection because he did not live in the district he was representing and was not a co-op member because his wife paid the electric bill.

The co-op’s news release says that in making the settlement offer, it considered “the potential exposure from litigation JMEC faces from potential contractors and employees if Mr. Duran continues on the Board.” A previous news release from the co-op said that Duran was facing sexual harassment allegations from two women.

Meanwhile, co-op member Heather Nordquist says she filed a complaint with the judicial Disciplinary Board against another attorney who represents the co-op.

Nordquist claims she was present at a July 3 meeting to determine Duran’s eligibility and was willing to sign an affidavit attesting that Duran lives on the same road as she does, but was ignored by the co-op attorney, Charles V. Garcia. She also said that she attended court hearings on Sept. 3 and 30 at which Garcia allegedly told District Judge Bryan Biedscheid that Duran did not previously dispute claims regarding his marital status and place of residence.

“I believe that Mr. Garcia has willfully and knowingly lied to the tribunal, and should, as a result, be disbarred from practicing law in the State of New Mexico,” she wrote to the Disciplinary Board.

While Judge Biedscheid last week ordered the co-op board to certify Duran’s reelection and reinstate him as a board member, the co-op board has yet to take action to do so.

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