Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Ethics Board Makes Quick Work of ABQPAC Case
By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
The Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices reviewed the ABQPAC case Tuesday during a meeting that lasted six minutes.
It's been more than a year since the ethics board reprimanded Mayor Martin Chávez for his former relationship with ABQPAC, but a district court judge recently asked the board to clarify its decision.
Andres Valdez of New Mexico Vecinos United, one of several people who launched the ABQPAC case by filing complaints against Chávez in 2002, has been pursuing an appeal in District Court. He contends Chávez should have been punished more harshly.
As part of that proceeding, Judge Robert Thompson asked the ethics board to provide a written statement of the facts that led to its decision.
The board on Tuesday approved a four-page statement presented by its attorney. The statement said Chávez accepted gifts from people with an interest in city affairs, failed to report certain campaign contributions and failed to abide by a legal limit on the size of those contributions.
Chávez received nearly $60,000 in assistance from ABQPAC, a political action committee that raised money from city contractors, city employees and others. The money helped pay for Chávez family travel and other expenses.
He voluntarily refunded the money when the issue sparked controversy.
David Berlin, an attorney for Chávez, said Tuesday the mayor accepted the decision of the ethics board last year and the Valdez appeal is "entirely without merit."
Valdez said the ethics board should have taken more time to rehash the case Tuesday. He said the brief meeting "smells of a total sham."
ABQPAC continues to exist, but it ceased taking contributions after Chávez made his refund and it gradually has spent nearly all of its money.
It ultimately used its funds for polling, research, legal fees, donations to campaigns, printing, mailing and other expenses. Last month, ABQPAC gave $5,000 to the New Mexico Republican Party, according to a financial report ABQPAC filed with the state.
ABQPAC has a balance of about $9,800, according to the report. The balance reflects recently reported income of about $13,300 from an investment account that held ABQPAC's money.