Governor: Jewelry purchase met pandemic rules

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In this file photo, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivers an update on New Mexico’s response to the virus pandemic. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham made a remote purchase from a retail store in Albuquerque last month, triggering fierce criticism from the Republican Party, which accused her of hypocrisy amid the pandemic.

Lujan Grisham’s office says the transaction – buying some jewelry from Lilly Barrack, which has a location at Paseo del Norte and Wyoming NE – complied with the emergency public health orders in effect at the time.

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Wednesday that the governor asked an employee of the store – where she has a long-standing personal relationship – if she could make an online or remote purchase. The employee went to the store to retrieve the jewelry and later left the merchandise bought by Lujan Grisham outside the employee’s home, where a friend of the governor’s picked it up, Sackett said.

“There were no state guidelines broken,” she said. “It was an entirely contact-free purchase.”

KRQE News 13, which first reported the transaction, interviewed other jewelry stores, which said they did not interpret the orders the way the Governor’s Office did. A manager at Gertrude Zachary said the store would not risk making such a transaction because of concern over being fined by the state.

The Republican Party of New Mexico subsequently accused the governor of hypocrisy, arguing that she didn’t follow her own administration’s instruction that people should stay home to limit the spread of coronavirus.

In a public health order issued April 6, Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel directed any business not deemed essential to reduce its in-person workforce by 100%. The health order, which did not address home delivery, did not allow retail curbside pickup until May 1.

The April 6 order required “the closure of physical office spaces, retail space or other public spaces of a business and does not otherwise restrict the conduct of business operations through telecommuting or otherwise working from home in which an employee only interacts with clients or customers remotely.”

Lujan Grisham’s office said that the purchase met the requirements of the public health order and that she received no special treatment.

The Republican Party disagreed.

“It’s shocking that the governor would go behind people’s back and break her own order just to benefit herself,” state GOP Chairman Steve Pearce said. “She’ll go to any lengths to get her way and refuses to take care of New Mexicans in a fair and just way. This was really disgraceful, especially since so many people have been hurting for so long.”

Sackett said the transaction “was entirely contact-less and remote.”

“The store was never ‘opened,’ and a good safe process was followed,” Sackett said.

The Lujan Grisham administration has began gradually lifting restrictions on businesses this month. Retail stores are now allowed to open at 25% capacity.

A representative of Lilly Barrack didn’t return a phone call from the Journal.

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