State Ethics Commission settles 'revolving door' allegations - Albuquerque Journal

State Ethics Commission settles ‘revolving door’ allegations

Sandoval County Administration Building

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s independent ethics agency has reached a $13,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit it filed alleging violations of a “revolving door” ban.

The case centered on a former Sandoval County Assessor’s Office employee who went to work for a property tax consulting firm.

The State Ethics Commission accused the employee, Gabriel Vargas, and Double Eagle Property Tax Consultants of violating the revolving door law, which prohibits an ex-government employee from leaving an agency and then representing clients before the agency on a matter they’d worked on, or from being paid to represent anyone before the agency at all for one year.

Vargas and Double Eagle contend they did nothing wrong and took steps specifically to comply with the law and honor the one-year ban.

Double Eagle owner Scott Clark said the settlement cost less than continuing to fight the ethics commission in court.

The agreement includes a provision describing it as a compromise to avoid the cost of litigation, and notes that the parties deny wrongdoing.

In announcing the settlement, the ethics agency said the $13,000 paid to the state of New Mexico is roughly equivalent to the fee Double Eagle received for work on the property-tax dispute that triggered the lawsuit.

The agreement was reached with help from a mediator, Michael Cadigan.

At issue in the ethics lawsuit was testimony by Vargas in 2020 – working for Double Eagle at the time – to support reducing the proposed tax assessment on an office building in Rio Rancho.

Sandoval County argued Vargas shouldn’t have testified because he had “entered” the value of the property for the prior tax year, in 2019, while working for the county.

Vargas, in turn, disputed the allegation, saying he hadn’t inspected or appraised the property while working for the county.

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