On Tuesday, it was reported that state Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Bernalillo), who has alienated both Democrats and Republicans, is now planning to sue Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Health secretary, Dr. Tracie Collins, over what he describes as “retaliation” for his Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests.
Collins filed an ethics complaint in March against Candelaria for alleged violation of the state’s Governmental Conduct Act by voting on a bill during this year’s 60-day legislative session while representing legal clients who “would be substantially affected by the outcome.”
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Collins “noted a lawsuit he had filed on behalf of the client, New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health, over reciprocity in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, in which people from out of state who are authorized patients of other cannabis programs can enroll in New Mexico’s program. The legislation in question, Senate Bill 340, would have amended the state’s medical cannabis law to define a ‘reciprocal patient.’”
Ironically, other similar ethics complaints have been filed against individuals such as Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), who was accused of benefitting off of the passage of H.B. 4, dubbed the “Civil Rights Act,” which would bankrupt local communities with frivolous “civil rights” litigation claims. Egolf’s firm is now directly benefitting from the new law, signed by Gov. Lujan Grisham, as 60% of its business comes from civil litigation.
In Candelaria’s complaint, he says Collins’ claims are “without merit, defamatory in nature, and swiftly dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by the [New Mexico] Ethics Commission six days later.”
Nora Sackett, Gov, Lujan Grisham’s press secretary, insisted that “No such ‘retaliation’ ever occurred, and it’s troubling that this legislator continues to be seemingly motivated solely by his own personal animus.”
“I will also be filing an ethics complaint against the governor for the same behavior,” said Candelaria.
Candelaria previously requested “a large trove of emails pertaining to how the governor and her senior staff have handled various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and also with respect to how federal funds are being spent or appropriated or moved between agencies,” according to the New Mexican.
After the mammoth request, which he was told would be delayed due to the large volume of emails he asked for, he claims Majority Leader Peter Wirth and then-Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen requested a meeting with him at his Albuqerque office.
The New Mexican writes:
According to Candelaria, Wirth started the meeting by saying they were there because the governor and the Governor’s Office were “furious” that he had submitted the public records requests.
“Peter stated to me that the message he was there to deliver from the executive was that unless these [public records requests] went away, there would be quote-unquote escalating consequences for me,” he said.
In an email, a spokesman for Senate Democrats said Wirth confirmed he and Papen met with Candelaria last fall at his law office in Albuquerque “to discuss internal caucus matters.” Neither Wirth nor the spokesman responded to Candelaria’s allegation that he was warned of “escalating consequences.”
Candelaria said he was “terrified” and decided to withdraw his requests after his meeting with Wirth and Papen.
But he said there was still fallout, including being told that his requests for records were a “determining factor” in him not being appointed to certain legislative committees.
The report says Candelaria has no plans to settle with Collins out of court or to settle the suit he plans to bring against the governor. “I fully intend to take both of these cases to a judge or jury,” he said.
Previously, Candelaria and Wirth got into a shouting match on the Senate floor, where Wirth told the Albuquerque-area senator to “f**k off.” Last year, Candelaria disrespected police officers after making a big deal over a few phone calls he received from a constituent, which he claimed threatened his life. Once officers got to his house and told him there was not much they could do, he kicked them out and threatened to call the Governor on them. Now, it appears, Lujan Grisham is no ally of Candelaria.