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Treasurer Vigil Returns To Office, Gov. Objects

By Barry Massey/
Associated Press
      SANTA FE — Indicted state Treasurer Robert Vigil returned to his office on Wednesday, a move that drew immediate criticism from Gov. Bill Richardson.
    Richardson said Vigil shouldn't be in the treasurer's office while he's facing extortion charges as part of a federal investigation into alleged kickbacks involving state investments.
    "I believe it sends the wrong message. We want to have a treasurer's office without a cloud of suspicion,'' Richardson said at a news conference when told that Vigil had returned to the office for a meeting of the treasurer's investment committee.
    The governor said Vigil should step aside from running day-to-day operations of the office pending the outcome of the federal prosecution.
    Vigil and former Treasurer Michael Montoya have pleaded not guilty to extortion charges. Prosecutors allege they demanded kickbacks from investment advisers in exchange for steering state business to them. The advisers arranged for brokers to bid on state investments and they received commissions from brokers winning state business.
    Vigil's return to the office came as political pressure was building for the House to impeach him.
    The Legislature convenes in a special session Thursday, and an impeachment resolution is expected to be introduced.
    Sam Bregman, a lawyer for Vigil, asked in a letter Wednesday that the House issue subpoenas for several potential witnesses — including Montoya and people who are cooperating with federal prosecutors — as part of Vigil's defense in any impeachment proceeding.
    Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokeswoman for the treasurer's office, confirmed that Vigil returned to the office.
    The treasurer's investment committee reviews and can recommend changes in the office's investment policy and its investment procedures.
    Bregman had no immediate comment on whether Vigil planned to resume his duties full-time.
    Deputy Treasurer Elaine Olah had been running the office since Vigil was arrested Sept. 16. Vigil returned to the office for about on a hour on Sept. 22 to speak to his staff.
    Under the Constitution, a majority vote in the 70-member House would be required to impeach Vigil, which would at least temporarily force him out of office. A two-thirds vote in the Senate would be necessary to convict Vigil and permanently remove him from office.
    There's never been an impeachment proceedings against an elected official in New Mexico history.
    Vigil had agreed to temporarily step aside from his office with pay if the state Supreme Court sanctioned an agreement he had with Richardson and Attorney General Patricia Madrid. It called for the court to recuse Vigil — with his $85,000 a year salary — and allow Richardson to appoint an interim treasurer pending the outcome of the federal prosecution.
    Last week, the court rejected the request.
    Since the court ruling, Richardson has said he supports the House starting impeachment proceedings against Vigil.
    Bregman, in a letter to the director of the Legislative Council Service, asked that the House subpoena five people on behalf of Vigil: Montoya, Angelo Garcia, Kent Nelson, Leo Sandoval and George Everage.
    "Should such (impeachment) proceedings take place in the House of Representatives, it is imperative that we be allowed a fair opportunity to provide a defense for Mr. Vigil,'' Bregman wrote.
    Garcia, an Albuquerque businessman, and Nelson, a California-based investment adviser, have pleaded guilty to federal felonies and agreed to provide testimony for the prosecution in exchange for sentencing reductions.
    Sandoval used to work in the treasurer's office and is cooperating with prosecutors. Everage worked in the treasurer's office and had sought a contract position as a securities lending oversight manager for the office. According to an FBI affidavit, there was an extortion attempt to try to force the contractor to hire Montoya's wife.