Gov.'s campaign settles with ex-spokesman - Albuquerque Journal

Gov.’s campaign settles with ex-spokesman

In this file photo, James Hallinan, left, then-spokesman for Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign, introduces Lujan Grisham and then-Gov. Susana Martinez during a news conference at the Roundhouse on Nov. 9, 2018. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign has paid at least $62,500 as part of a settlement with a former staff member who had accused her of sexual mistreatment during a staff meeting, according to documents filed Monday.

The payments went to a law firm representing James Hallinan, a spokesman for Lujan Grisham during her 2018 general election campaign.

The five monthly payments of $12,500 are outlined in a campaign finance report filed late Monday by Lujan Grisham’s campaign with the Secretary of State’s Office. They are listed as legal expenses, with one payment a month from November through March.

It wasn’t clear Monday how many payments might also be made in future months as part of the settlement agreement.

In a written statement Monday, campaign spokesman Jared Leopold said the payments are part of a settlement resolving “numerous dubious and disputed potential claims made by Mr. Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization and his subsequent search for employment.”

Hallinan, who now runs his own communications company, accused Lujan Grisham in late 2019 — about a year after he left the campaign — of pouring a bottle of water on his crotch and then grabbing his crotch through his clothes as she laughed, an incident he said took place in front of other campaign staffers.

Hallinan said he was talked out of reporting the incident by Lujan Grisham campaign manager Dominic Gabello, who is now a senior adviser in the Governor’s Office.

Leopold said Monday that the settlement was reached to avoid the distraction and cost of litigation.

Lujan Grisham, Gabello and the campaign organization itself “strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims, including his claims about difficulty finding or keeping work after the campaign,” Leopold said. “They reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic.”

Settlement payments were made to the Buckley Beal law firm in Atlanta, where Rachel Berlin Benjamin, an attorney for Hallinan, is senior partner.

She said Monday that the governor and Hallinan “have resolved any differences or issues to their satisfaction.”

“I am not able to provide any further information,” she said.

Hallinan has worked for years in New Mexico politics — both on campaigns and for public agencies. Before joining the Lujan Grisham campaign, he worked for Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Hallinan made his allegations public on Christmas morning 2019 with a tweet: “A governor … is not above the law for her sexual and physical abuse of employees including (me!!!) I’ll talk more when I return to the country.”

The next day, a Lujan Grisham spokeswoman called the allegations bizarre, slanderous and false and said the other staffers present during the meeting referenced by Hallinan say the alleged wrongdoing didn’t happen.

Monday was one of just two campaign reporting deadlines for 2021, an off year for statewide elections.

Among the other filings were:

– Balderas, now in his second term as attorney general, reported $676,000 cash on hand, after raising $22,500 in donations during the period.

– Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, reported about $33,400 in her account after spending about $7,000 in the reporting period. She won one of the most expensive and fiercely contested legislative races of 2020 to flip control of a southern New Mexico district.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop


In Pictures: Scenic Views, Vintage Train
ABQnews Seeker
> iframe {position: absolute;top: 0;left: ... > iframe {position: absolute;top: 0;left: 0;} _psEmbed(''); Tourists from all over the country come to the small towns of Chama, New Mexico, and ...
ABQ stadium bond question is botched
ABQnews Seeker
Ballot correctly describes gross receipts tax ... Ballot correctly describes gross receipts tax issue, then mislabels it as GO bond
UNM regents give up power over purchasing
ABQnews Seeker
Administration given the power to make ... Administration given the power to make decisions
Televised mayoral debate gets personal
ABQnews Seeker
Gonzales accuses Keller of 'serious misconduct,' ... Gonzales accuses Keller of 'serious misconduct,' mayor denies allegations
Man who fell from Pit suite settles for $144K
ABQnews Seeker
State paid one-third of settlement, while ... State paid one-third of settlement, while contractors on renovation paid the remainder
Noncritical amount of toxic chemicals found in private wells
ABQnews Seeker
EPA links exposure to low birth ... EPA links exposure to low birth weights, certain cancers
Suspect held in monthlong string of robberies
ABQnews Seeker
Bandit apologized to victims in over ... Bandit apologized to victims in over a dozen alleged heists
Man charged in mother's slaying on West Side
ABQnews Seeker
She had posted bond for son ... She had posted bond for son on Oct. 5 to clear a warrant
DA to refer Gonzales fraud case to State Police
ABQnews Seeker
Case to be forwarded after mayoral ... Case to be forwarded after mayoral election