Clerk tosses complaint against Keller

·3 min read

Aug. 10—The Albuquerque city clerk has tossed an election ethics complaint against himself and Mayor Tim Keller, saying it fails to meet standards requiring a detailed description of the allegations and how they violated specific rules.

In addition, the complaint erroneously, and repeatedly, identifies Clerk Ethan Watson as "Nathan Watson."

"There is no known City Official named Nathan Watson. This presumably is a typographical error, but I mention it because it should be corrected," Clerk Ethan Watson wrote last week to complainant Jason Katz and Keller campaign manager Neri Holguin.

Katz can appeal Watson's decision to the city's Board of Ethics, but an attorney representing the complainant would not say Monday if he would.

Attorney Pat Rogers did, however, take issue with Watson's rejection, saying it "ignores 90% of the complaint.

"It ignores everything — everything — that is not helpful to Keller," he said.

Katz is chairman of the Retired Law Enforcement Officers political action committee, which joined the Save Our City Measure Finance committee to file the complaint on Aug. 3. Both committees are supporting Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales' bid for mayor.

The complaint alleges Keller violated rules when pursuing over $600,000 in public campaign financing. It also identifies the city clerk, saying that he failed to follow his own published rules when he approved Keller's qualifying contributions.

It alleges that Keller's campaign used a city employee for campaign purposes, and illegally accepted "seed money" contributions from six people who listed non-city addresses. It also alleged irregularities in nominating petitions and qualifying contributions submitted by Keller's campaign. Watson has certified Keller for public financing and already disbursed the money.

Watson, meanwhile, rejected Gonzales' application for public financing, citing evidence presented in two ethics complaints Holguin filed against Gonzales and his campaign.

The Journal was able to verify that at least one of the qualifying contribution forms the Katz complaint cited contained a signature written by someone other than the donor.

Vivian Sanchez Valencia acknowledged on Friday that she gave permission to a friend, Catherine Jaramillo, to sign her $5 qualifying contribution form while Sanchez Valencia was out of town. She also said Jaramillo paid the $5 donation from money she owed to Sanchez Valencia.

The Journal was unable to reach Jaramillo for comment.

In his letter rejecting the complaint, Watson explained that rules and regulations prohibit complaints against more than one person, but Katz named both Keller and Watson. He also wrote that the seed money allegation did not comply with rules requiring a "reasonably detailed description of the alleged violations," including the relevant codes, and an explanation of how the respondent had allegedly violated them.

Watson's letter explained why seed money contributions appeared to come from outside the city, saying that campaign treasurers were initially allowed only to enter the address of the contributor's employer, but not a home address, in the city's campaign finance system. The city and its election auditor then audited the reports to determine the validity of each contribution.

"Under these circumstances and especially because these reports (cited in the complaint) were already audited, this does not describe a violation of the code," Watson wrote.

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