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SANTA FE – Outgoing House Speaker Brian Egolf has avoided an ethics hearing by resigning from the state nominating committee he had appointed himself to earlier this year.
His resignation came on the same day an attorney for the State Ethics Commission found probable cause to support moving forward with allegations that Egolf had violated state law by appointing himself to a committee screening applicants for the Public Regulation Commission.
The ethics agency notified Egolf on Friday that he could either resign from the panel or dispute the complaint before a hearing officer.
Egolf submitted his resignation the same day, saying he had always planned to step down after helping the new committee get off to a good start. He made no mention of the ethics complaint in his resignation letter.
Instead, the speaker – who did not seek reelection to the Legislature this year – said he wanted to participate as a member of the newly created PRC nominating committee to “help establish the core principles for future committees: transparency, openness, fairness, efficiency, and adherence to the law that created the Committee.”
The ethics complaint – filed by fellow Democratic Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, who has long been at odds with Egolf – accused the speaker of violating state laws on abuse of public office and ethical conduct when he appointed himself to the panel.
In a 15-page report, Walker Boyd, general counsel for the State Ethics Commission, found enough evidence to support sending the allegation to a hearing officer to determine whether Egolf had abused his office.
To support his finding, Boyd cited a provision in the state Constitution that prohibits legislators from being “appointed to any civil office in the state” during their term, among other restrictions.
Egolf, in any case, is set to leave the House after 14 years as a legislator. He appointed himself to the nominating committee in July.
In his response to the complaint, Egolf contended that his appointment did not violate any law and that he had consulted with the Legislative Council Service – the administrative arm of the Legislature – to ensure there was no prohibition against self-appointment.
Garcia, for his part, said the probable cause finding demonstrates the merits of New Mexico’s independent ethics agency.
“It was a dereliction of his duties as speaker to self-appoint himself,” Garcia said.
The PRC regulates utilities in New Mexico. A constitutional amendment passed in 2020 is transforming it into an appointed body, with candidates screened by a nominating committee, which in turn forwards qualified finalists to the governor.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the state House and Senate were each empowered to appoint one person to the nominating committee. The committee voted last week to send nine names to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for consideration.