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New Mexico mayor charged with bribery, abusing power

Tonita Gurule-Giron, mayor of Las Vegas, N.M. (Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Optic)

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — New Mexico’s attorney general has charged the mayor of a troubled city with six felony bribery and abuse of power counts after prosecutors said she steered contracts to a construction firm owned by a man they allege she was romantically involved with.

The Las Vegas Optic reported Tuesday that Las Vegas, New Mexico, Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron was charged.

The charges come after the attorney general’s office last summer raided City Hall, Gurule-Giron’s home and the home of Marvin Salazar, who prosecutors say is the mayor’s boyfriend.

Gurule-Giron’s listed attorney, Ben Andrew Mondragon, did not return phone or email messages left by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

In a 2018 interview with the State Auditor’s Office, Gurule-Giron said she did not have a romantic relationship with Salazar and denied having a role in his receiving government contracts, the Journal reported in June.

Gurule-Giron is charged with engaging in official acts for personal financial interest; requesting or receiving something of value while in public service; soliciting or receiving an illegal kickback; conspiracy related to a false public voucher; unlawful interest in a public contract; and demanding or receiving a bribe.

The mayor is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 6.

Salazar was also charged Monday with offering or paying an illegal kickback and making or permitting a false public voucher, according to the newspaper.

It was not immediately clear if Salazar had an attorney.

A message left at a number for his business was not returned and a call to a number listed for his home went unanswered.

Investigators with the attorney general’s office said Gurule-Giron used her position as mayor to send business to Salazar’s construction firm, starting with a 2016 contract for installing hardwood floors at City Hall. The firm initially won a contract for $9,000 for the work, but the contract was later reissued for more than $19,000.

The newspaper reported the firm Gemini Construction was also brought in for $10,000 worth of work for an “emergency” water leak –work that ended up costing more than $90,000.

The charges followed several years of tumultuous local government in the New Mexico city of about 13,200 people that has been plagued by lawsuits from former workers over conflicts with Gurule-Giron.