Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A 2014 ethics complaint against former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego that triggered a secretive internal investigation and ultimately led to Griego’s resignation from the Senate was filed by ex-Rep. Stephanie Maez.
Maez, who was not a member of the Legislature at the time she filed the ethics complaint, confirmed this week that she was the complainant and said she did not know what it might uncover.
“I’m glad that we did the complaint,” Maez told the Journal. “More than anything, I just wanted there to be an independent investigation from an unbiased party into what happened.”
Ethics complaints against state lawmakers are usually kept off-limits to the public under the Legislature’s rules.
But the 2014 complaint lodged against Griego – with Maez’s name redacted – was obtained by the Journal via a public records request from the Legislative Council Service, after a judge had ordered the agency to hand over that and other ethics investigation records to the Attorney General’s Office.
At the time the complaint was filed, Maez was the executive director of the Center for Civic Policy, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit group that advocates for progressive causes.
She was appointed to the House of Representatives about a month later, in December 2014. Maez stepped down from the Legislature in October 2015 to focus on family after her teenage son was arrested on a murder charge. Prosecutors dismissed charges against her son, Donovan Maez, last month.
In the 2014 ethics complaint, Maez asked the interim legislative ethics committee to determine whether Griego’s role in the sale of a historic state-owned building in downtown Santa Fe might have violated laws and rules governing the conduct of lawmakers.
She said she based the complaint on news reports about Griego, who received a $50,000 broker’s fee for his involvement in the 2014 real estate deal.
Griego, a San Miguel County resident, resigned from the Senate in March 2015 rather than face possible discipline as a result of the internal ethics probe into his conduct.
Attorney General Hector Balderas then filed fraud, bribery and other public corruption charges against Griego earlier this year. One of the criminal charges is an alleged violation of a law cited in Maez’s complaint, a statute prohibiting legislators from using the powers and resources of their office to obtain personal benefit or pursue private interests.
Griego has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has previously insisted he committed no crimes. However, a district judge ruled last week that Griego should face trial on nine of the 10 counts brought by the AG’s Office. His arraignment has been set for July 22.
Both Griego and Maez are Democrats, but Griego occasionally clashed with progressive groups during his 18-plus years in the Legislature, and Maez said the nonprofit group she worked for had been tracking his legislative actions.
Though no longer a member of the Legislature, she also said she’d like to see state lawmakers enact a more transparent system for investigating ethics complaints.
“The fact (the case) is moving forward and it has gone this far shows the system is working, but there’s always room for improvement” Maez said.