Editorial: Ivey-Soto fiasco fueled by secrecy and flawed process - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Ivey-Soto fiasco fueled by secrecy and flawed process

Whether one thinks state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto should stay or go, the shrouded process in which sexual harassment claims against him have been investigated has proven opaque and deeply flawed. It’s been a case of a subcommittee of senators investigating a fellow senator behind closed doors, some of the parties involved being required to clam up but not always doing so and with little or no apparent consequences for breaking said confidentiality.

To recap last week’s twists and turns, the Journal on Thursday published a front-page story about, and a guest column from, Ivey-Soto in which the Albuquerque Democrat said a legislative ethics committee investigation into sexual harassment claims against him had been closed with no finding that could lead to discipline. Discipline could range from a reprimand to expulsion from the Senate.

Later Thursday, his accuser, Roundhouse lobbyist Marianna Anaya, filed a lawsuit in state district court claiming the confidentiality rule in the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy had placed an unconstitutional limit on her free speech rights. Prior to filing the complaint, she released an open letter accusing Ivey-Soto of sexual harassment but has not publicly spoken about the case since.

Later again Thursday, the Santa Fe Reporter published a story based on the report by the special counsel tasked with investigating the complaint. The 29-page supposedly “confidential” report recommended lawmakers serving on the subcommittee find probable cause existed on two of Anaya’s allegations against Ivey-Soto and also outlined a previously unreported incident in which the senator was accused of pinning a woman to a couch after a consensual encounter turned non-consensual.

No wonder Ivey-Soto didn’t release the special counsel report; the leaked report portrays him as a misogynistic big mouth. As the accused, Ivey-Soto is the one involved party who can have the ethics documents released; he can do so by giving the committee permission in writing to waive the confidentiality rule.

Instead, Ivey-Soto on Friday said he had reported Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, a fellow Albuquerque Democrat, to the FBI for threatening to leak the confidential special counsel report unless he agreed to step down as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. She denies it.

Cue the circus music.

The Legislature’s anti-harassment policy has proven so unworkable that it demonstrates the need for a complete overhaul, and the need to turn over sensitive investigations to a more apolitical venue.

Under the Legislature’s anti-harassment policy, public findings are not issued unless an internal investigation determines there’s enough evidence to merit a hearing. The intent is to protect the wrongly accused. But, as in the Ivey-Soto case, we’re left with a spin cycle of allegations.

Anaya says Ivey-Soto asked her sexualized questions and also groped and pinched her in 2015. Ivey-Soto denies the allegations, adding he has PTSD and a hearing loss that can lead to his loud voice that some might find intimidating. Of course, that’s irrelevant to an allegation of a lawmaker touching someone inappropriately.

Debates in the Roundhouse get heated, sure enough. But sexual harassment and intimidation have no place in our lawmaking and must be purged from the process. Yet it’s hard to do so when lawmakers are left to investigate each other, the process is shrouded in secrecy and the public has zero access to an official version of events. In their quest to “protect” staffers, lobbyists and lawmakers, our legislators have embraced partisan backroom deals.

What is clear at this point is the case against Ivey-Soto/his accusers is anything but over, and the process to investigate harassment complaints against lawmakers is deeply flawed. Even Stewart says it’s “broken” and she will push for a group of legislators to propose revisions to the anti-harassment policy.

Unless and until they have a truly independent, apolitical process done in the sunlight, keep the circus music handy.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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