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Supporters of Sheriff Manuel Gonzales’ bid for mayor filed a new ethics complaint Tuesday alleging that Mayor Tim Keller violated Albuquerque’s election laws by using a city employee for campaign purposes.
The complaint also alleges Keller’s reelection campaign illegally accepted “seed money” – a form of campaign financing – from six non-city residents in violation of the city’s Open and Ethical Elections Code.
Much of the complaint centers on the actions of Justin Cheney, president of the city firefighters’ union, who allegedly visited city-owned properties and asked firefighters to sign $5 donation cards on Keller’s behalf.
“Cheney is a city employee,” said Pat Rogers, an Albuquerque attorney who represents the two measure finance committees that filed the complaint.
“For (Cheney) to go on city time, on city property, in support of Keller is improper,” Rogers said Tuesday following a news conference outside City Hall where the complaint was announced.
Cheney did not immediately respond Tuesday to voice and email messages seeking comment.
Neri Holguin, manager of the Keller campaign, called the complaint “theatrics” and denied responsibility for Cheney’s actions.
“If the allegation against Mr. Cheney is true – that he collected Qualifying Contributions at a city workplace during working hours – our campaign was unaware of it and we do not condone it,” Holguin said in a written statement.
The complaint was filed by Jason Katz, chairman of the Retired Law Enforcement Officers Measure Finance Committee, together with the Save Our City Measure Finance Committee.
The complaint asks city officials to revoke Keller’s successful bid to obtain more than $600,000 in public campaign funding.
The two campaigns have sparred publicly this summer over their attempts to obtain public financing.
A city hearing officer last month upheld a decision by City Clerk Ethan Watson to deny Gonzales’ bid for about $660,000 in public campaign money, citing evidence presented in two ethics complaints filed against him by Keller’s reelection campaign.
The new complaint also alleges Keller’s campaign improperly accepted seed funding ranging from $25 to $250 from six non-city residents. Four list out-of-state addresses.
Holguin responded Tuesday that prior to the most recent campaign finance report, seed-money contributors listed their employers’ address, not the voter’s home address. At least one contributor cited in the complaint who listed an Oregon address is in fact a city voter, she said.