No money available for ACLU settlement, secretary of state says

There’s a new snag in the long-running legal saga over disputed allegations of voter fraud by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran: the Secretary of State’s Office now says it can’t afford to pay the $124,636 in legal fees it owes in a related public records lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint under the Inspection of Public Records Act in 2011 after Duran’s office refused to turn over records related to her assertions that an internal inquiry found proof that undocumented immigrants had voted in New Mexico elections.

Even after the IPRA case was settled in 2013, the office fought all the way to the state Court of Appeals to dispute the amount of attorney fees the ACLU had been awarded for prevailing.

The legal tab was nearly $90,000 before the Secretary of State’s Office decided to appeal a district judge’s order approving the ACLU fees as “reasonable.” Now the bill has jumped by more than $36,000 to account for ACLU fees and costs incurred in the appeal. The final amount was approved by a state district judge on Aug. 17.

Meanwhile, Duran is out of office, convicted of crimes related to a gambling habit. And her temporary successor is effectively asking the ACLU to take an IOU.

Secretary of State Brad Winter, who was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to fill the seat until Duran’s term expires Dec. 31, said his agency doesn’t have the money, especially with costs of the November general election coming up.

“We understand what our obligation is,” Winter told the Journal, “and what we are looking at is to try to find some alternative funding to pay that.”

He said his agency planned to ask the Legislature for a special appropriation next year.

“It’s tough because that’s a significant amount of money,” Winter said.

ACLU attorney Philip B. Davis said, “It’s really frustrating. It’s an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Not covered

The agency in fiscal year 2015 paid nearly $370,000 for insurance coverage through the state Risk Management Division, or RMD. But the division won’t pay the fee award in the ACLU case, Director Lara White Davis said in an email to the Journal .

Attorney fees awarded in IPRA suits are considered “fines, sanctions, assessments, penalties, restitution … or punitive damages,” which are excluded from coverage, she said.

Duran announced shortly after taking office in 2011 that an internal investigation revealed 117 instances in which foreign nationals registered to vote in New Mexico, of whom 37 had actually cast votes.

Public records suit

The ACLU filed a public records request asking for the supporting documentation. After initially refusing to turn over information, citing privacy concerns, Duran’s office provided data that included motor vehicle information. She also withheld emails showing that her office had been contacted beforehand by the Secretary of State’s Office in Colorado, which planned a similar announcement of voter fraud in early 2011.

In 2011, she referred the voter fraud issue to State Police, citing irregularities in 64,000 voter registration records.

The state Department of Public Safety, which oversees State Police, told the Journal in February that investigators weren’t able to confirm the presence or absence of any voter fraud based on the materials provided.

Duran resigned in October 2015 after pleading guilty to felony charges related to her embezzlement of campaign contributions. She served 30 days in jail and is serving a sentence of five years’ probation.

Share Your Story

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop


Man accused of setting roommate on fire in NW ...
ABQnews Seeker
An Albuquerque woman was airlifted to ... An Albuquerque woman was airlifted to a burn center in Texas and her roommate is behind bars after allegedly dousing her with gasoline and ...
APD: Driver who caused fatal crash may have been ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police say narcotics appear to ... Albuquerque police say narcotics appear to be a factor in a Friday night crash on Central Avenue that left a motorcyclist dead. The crash ...
APD investigating overnight shooting
ABQnews Seeker
Police are investigating an overnight shooting ... Police are investigating an overnight shooting in Northwest Albuquerque that left one person in critical condition. Officer Chase Jewell, a spokesman with the Albuquerque ...
Prosecutor: Airman accused of murder tried to cover his ...
Actions actually helped highlight his movements ... Actions actually helped highlight his movements after woman's killing, state says
Victims of crime found a champion
Edith Surgan's true legacy is the ... Edith Surgan's true legacy is the trail she blazed for those who refuse to let her work ever stop
Woman doused in gasoline, set ablaze in NW Albuquerque
ABQnews Seeker
Victim has been hospitalized with 'significant ... Victim has been hospitalized with 'significant injuries'
Auto theft suspect killed by APD was holding a ...
ABQnews Seeker
Man fled during police pat down ... Man fled during police pat down
APD looking for driver who almost ran over officer
ABQnews Seeker
Police are trying to find the ... Police are trying to find the person who attempted to hit an officer with a stolen truck Monday afternoon in a motel parking lot. ...
Amber Alert: Kids taken by father west of Gallup
ABQnews Seeker
Authorities are searching for four children ... Authorities are searching for four children taken by their father Thursday following a domestic incident west of Gallup. The Navajo Nation Police Department is ...