Hallinan spars with governor over settlement - Albuquerque Journal

Hallinan spars with governor over settlement

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James Hallinan

SANTA FE – James Hallinan – the former campaign spokesman who in 2019 accused Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of sexual misconduct – said this week he believes the governor and her campaign staff have violated the terms of a settlement reached to resolve the allegations.

He also said he has faced threats on social media – one of which said “watch your mouth the desert is very large” – and filed a State Police report seeking protection.

But the governor’s campaign denies Hallinan’s claims the settlement terms have been breached, with a spokeswoman on Friday citing a statement that both sides had agreed to as part of the agreement. In part, that statement includes Lujan Grisham’s denial of any wrongdoing.

“The governor and the campaign stand by the statement – agreed to by Mr. Hallinan – and deny that there is any merit or truth to his allegations,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Delaney Corcoran told the Journal.

The settlement has emerged as a key issue during the closing stages of this year’s race for governor, with Republican Mark Ronchetti launching TV ads attacking Lujan Grisham for paying $150,000 out of her reelection account to settle allegations that she grabbed Hallinan’s crotch while laughing in a 2018 campaign meeting.

Ronchetti also pressed the governor on the issue during a recent debate, describing her as a “hypocrite” who has never come clean on the issue.

Lujan Grisham’s campaign has strenuously denied both Ronchetti’s and Hallinan’s allegations, with the governor saying the settlement had been publicly disclosed. The settlement was intended, the campaign said, to avoid a drawn-out legal fight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign developments – and their fallout on social media – led to Hallinan speaking publicly about the settlement, as he had previously declined comment through his attorneys.

During a series of interviews with Journal reporters this week, Hallinan said his life had been turned “upside down.” He spoke from Philadelphia and Phoenix, where he now lives.

“It’s obviously taken a toll on me,” said Hallinan during one interview, while adding the experience has been “absolute hell.”

Hallinan contends the terms of the settlement require the two sides to say only that they had agreed to resolve the dispute and said comments made by the governor and her campaign staffers might lead to arbitration.

“She’s blown it a million times,” Hallinan told the Journal.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

The Lujan Grisham campaign on Friday cited language agreed to by both sides saying the settlement was reached to resolve “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.”

The governor and other members of the campaign “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,” the shared settlement language also said.

Hallinan, for his part, has sparred with critics on social media.

He has shared and responded to tweets that he said represent threats and urged people to treat him like a human being.

Hallinan also has dished out harsh criticism of his own, slamming a number of public officials in New Mexico and Arizona.

New Mexico State Police released a police report and audio recordings Friday outlining Hallinan’s call to a dispatcher Wednesday morning.

The report filed by Lt. Kurtis Ward described Hallinan as seeming “extremely agitated and unable to speak in complete sentences” during the dispatch call.

Ward said that when he called Hallinan back later that morning, Hallinan described death threats on social media from someone named “Angel” but was difficult to follow.

“Because he was unable to complete a single sentence dedicated to a single topic,” Ward said, “it was nearly impossible to understand what he wanted a police report about.”

He said Hallinan talked over him when he asked questions, began ranting about the governor and cursed.

Hallinan 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 during a meeting in 2018.

A former Attorney General’s Office spokesman who now runs his own communications and public relations company, Hallinan told the Journal at the time he was talked out of reporting the incident by Lujan Grisham campaign manager Dominic Gabello, who went on to work in the Governor’s Office before stepping down to work as a political consultant.

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