Bernalillo County Treasurer Manny Ortiz faced two hours of stern questioning when he took the stand during his recall hearing Thursday.
But he had some good news afterward: The county’s Legal Department and Elections Bureau say it would take 82,436 signatures to force Ortiz into a recall election, far more than his opponents had expected.
The treasurer’s testimony came in a hearing before state District Judge Alan Malott.
Opponents of Ortiz are asking Malott to allow them to start the signature-gathering required to trigger a recall election. They’re trying to show “probable cause” that Ortiz committed malfeasance or misfeasance in office.
The hearing will resume late next week.
On Thursday, Ortiz’s opponents called him as a witness, and their attorney questioned him about a variety of topics, including investment activity, record-keeping and a critical state audit that alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act.
Ortiz and the attorney for the recall effort, Colin Hunter, tangled several times over investment losses. Ortiz acknowledged selling bonds last year at a $758,000 loss, but he said he’s earned investment income that more than offsets the loss.
Hunter also asked about “paper losses” in the county’s investment portfolio. The county administration contends the portfolio has lost roughly $20 million in value, a fact that must be reflected in county financial records.
Ortiz disputed that the loss of value hurt county operations.
“We never have not paid a bill,” he said.
Ortiz was most animated when discussing the state audit critical of his office.
“It’s trash,” he said.
- Ortiz’s attorney, Chris Lucero, tried to get the judge to recuse himself. Lucero said Malott’s brother had worked more than a decade ago as an expert witness in a legal matter involving ex-Treasurer Patrick Padilla. Padilla served as the investment officer under Ortiz for most of last year.
Malott denied the motion. He said Padilla isn’t a party to the recall hearing and isn’t being called as a witness. Furthermore, he said, he had no knowledge of the Padilla case to which Lucero was referring.
- Opponents of Ortiz agreed to drop one of the five counts in their complaint against him.
- Outside the hearing, the county’s Legal Department and Elections Bureau said it would take 82,436 signatures from voters to trigger a recall election. That’s equal to one-third of the number of people who cast votes in the treasurer’s race in 2012.
The state Constitution doesn’t specify how much time Ortiz’s opponents would have to gather the required signatures.