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New Mexico Telegram » Albuquerque Elections, Featured, Local » Dinelli wants Berry to return some campaign donations (updated)

Dinelli wants Berry to return some campaign donations (updated)

Richard BerryJust days after Albuquerque mayoral candidates filed their first round of campaign finance reports, questions are being raised about the legality of some of the private contributions given to Mayor Richard Berry.

The city’s election code bans contributions from business entities and city contractors and agents on behalf of any business entity, but it appears the Berry campaign accepted at least $7,500 in contributions from business owners and principle business agents who have or had contracts with the city.

A person is deemed, by a city ordinance approved by voters in October 2007, to have business dealings with the city if the principal contributor’s business has received $20,000 or more pursuant to a contract with the city within 24 months of their contribution.

Former city councilor and Public Safety Director Pete Dinelli, who hopes to defeat Berry, opted for public financing. He received a single check for $362,000 from the city to spend on his campaign.

Berry’s campaign field operation manager Tito Madrid told NM Telegram they are reviewing the donations and the law.

Update: Berry’s campaign responded with the following statement.

“Mayor Berry’s campaign is committed to following both the letter and the spirit of the city’s finance laws and we believe we are in full compliance,” Madrid said. “Our compliance team is constantly in contact with the clerk’s office to ensure our campaign is in-line with their current guidelines and interpretations and that will continue through election day.”

Post continues as originally written below.

But Dinelli says he thinks the campaign should return the questionable donations and avoid the appearance of a conflict.

“We must hold our elected officials to the highest ethical standards and transparency,” Dinelli told NM Telegram. “Voters deserve to know whether or not the Mayor has taken illegal contributions and if so, they should be returned immediately.”

After reviewing the Berry’s contributions, NM Telegram compared some of his donations to city contracts using the mayor’s own transparency website – ABQ View and discovered the possible violations.

Berry accepted a total of $3,000 in donations from Summit Electric President/CEO Victor Jury, but Summit has collected over $316,238 from the city during the prohibited time period. The mayor also received $500 from James Trujillo, the Vice President of Accounting with REDW. Trujillo’s accounting firm has been paid nearly $500,000 since April 2011.

Business Environments co-founders Scott and Bruce Hoover each donated $500 to Berry’s re-election campaign, while their firm has received over $40,750 from the city in the past two years. John Andrews, who owns the Larkin Group, a professorial consulting engineering company, contributed $1000, but his firm has billed the city over $253,141. Attorney Don Bruckner donated $1000 and his firm Guebert and Bruckner, PC has received $25,666 from the city coffers. (See update below). AIC General Contractor’s Vice President Tiffany Gaede donated $1000. Her firm has been paid $48,542 from the city.

On Monday, Berry, who opted out of public financing, reported that he’d raised over $250,000 in the first two months of his campaign.

In 2009, Berry avoided the possible conflicts with city contractors, when he ran a publicly financed campaign with $319,000.

Dinelli’s campaign staff said they’re reviewing all their options including filing a complaint with the Board of Ethics.

Update:

Bruckner wrote to NM Telegram, informing us that his law firm does not contract with the city — instead, the money was part of a settlement on behalf of a client.

Written by

Peter St. Cyr is a freelance writer and veteran New Mexico reporter covering government and politics.

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