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New Mexico Telegram » Albuquerque Elections, Featured, Local » Mayor Berry to face ethics hearing

Mayor Berry to face ethics hearing

01cityhallMembers of Albuquerque’s Board of Ethics have decided — on a 3 to 2 vote — that they want to hear the facts concerning some of Mayor Richard Berry’s recent campaign contributions.

The hearing comes after mayoral candidate Pete Dinelli filed an ethics complaint against the incumbent in early May. He alleges Berry’s camp accepted donations from business owners whose companies have contracts with the city.

City election laws and ethics rules prohibit contractors from contributing to city council and mayoral candidates.

During the hour-long preliminary hearing on Thursday, attorneys for both candidates offered reasons why the complaint should be dismissed or move forward.

Attorney Paul Kienzel reminded the board that they had already dismissed a similar complaint filed by Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman, but the board’s Chairman Robert Tinnin, Jr. said Dinelli’s complaint had one important difference. It listed seven specific individuals listed on the city clerks’ website as contractors or vendors.

But Kienzel told the board they should consider a rule that would have required them to dismiss the complaint if they considered it frivolous.

“If the complaint is groundless the board is duty bound to dismiss it,” Kienzel said.

He also contends Dinelli’s complaint is “demonstrably false” because the individuals listed in the complaint do not have contracts with the city.

But several board members said their interpretation of the hearing rules required them to vote for a full hearing if the facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true.

“It’s important to look at the process,” said board member Cliff Richardson.

Kienzel says now that the board has voted for a hearing Federal Judge Christina Armijo may take another look at halting the city process since they’ve taken a contradictory position in a lawsuit filed by several of the mayor’s donors, along with another who wishes to donate to Berry. The plaintiff’s allege their first amendment rights are being violated by the city’s ban.

Former City Councilor Michael Cadigan, who helped write the 2007 campaign finance rules, told board members they only have to answer two questions before determining if there was a violation. He suggests if the donors are agents for their companies or determined to be principles in businesses that have city contracts they’ll have to cite Berry’s camp.

Kienzle told NM Telegram he’ll show the seven individuals listed in Dinelli’s complaint do not have city contracts. He believes Berry is in full compliance with the rules. He said the board can’t say one thing in Federal Court and then another thing at a city meeting.

Before deciding to accept the ethics complaint, the board met in closed session with their attorney Greg Wheeler to discuss the federal case.

After the meeting, Kienzle told NM Telegram he’ll be able to absolutely show the seven individuals listed in Dinelli’s complaint do not have city contracts.

The board did not set a date for the hearing.

Dinelli and mayoral candidate Paul Heh attended the afternoon hearing, but were not allowed to address the panel. Berry did not attend.

Updated:

All three candidates attended a candidate forum at the Albuquerque Country Club on Thursday evening.

Written by

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

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