SANTA FE – The Las Vegas, New Mexico, City Council will meet on Friday to discuss the removal from office of Mayor Tonita Gurule-Gíron, who last month was indicted on bribery and kickback charges.
City Councilor Barbara Perea-Casey said the council can vote for Gurule-Gíron’s removal and that the matter would then go to a state district judge for consideration.
But Dan Cron of Santa Fe, Gurule-Gíron’s attorney, said it appears that nothing in the Las Vegas city charter allows for removal of a mayor other than by a recall election.
“I think it’s an illegal action,” Cron said of the council’s potential vote to remove Gurule-Gíron. A section of the charter cited by Cron says, “The power of recall is hereby reserved by the voters of the City.”
Perea-Casey maintained the city charter does support the proposed vote to remove Gurule-Giron. A Las Vegas city ordinance says, “Any person elected or appointed to an elective office of the municipality may be removed for malfeasance in office by the District Court upon complaint of the Mayor or governing body of the municipality.”
She also cites a charter provision that says the city 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.”
Cron also said Gurule-Gíron, who pleaded innocent to her criminal charges in a Las Vegas courtroom Monday, will not run for re-election the March 3 municipal election. Perea-Casey has announced that she will run for the position.
Perea-Casey said she and two other councilors — Vince Howell and David Romero — asked for the special meeting on Friday. The three councilors make up a majority on the city governing board. David Ulibarri is the fourth councilor.
In a case brought by the state Attorney General’s Office, Gurule-Gíron faces several indictments in a criminal case that accuses her of pressuring city employees to give contracts to her boyfriend’s contracting company and receiving kickbacks as “an active participant, business partner, and financier” in the boyfriend’s company.
She is charged specifically with engaging in an official act for personal financial gain, violation of ethical principles of public service, soliciting or receiving an illegal kickback, conspiracy to commit making or permitting a false public voucher, unlawful interest in a public contract and demanding or receiving a bribe by a public officer or employee.