Lujan Grisham: State representative under criminal investigation should resign if indicted

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Jul. 29—Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday she was "horrified" by the allegations of criminal wrongdoing against House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton and that the Albuquerque Democrat should "immediately resign" her seat in the Legislature if she's indicted.

"These allegations are significant and incredibly serious," Lujan Grisham said during a news conference in the Governor's Office when asked about Williams Stapleton, who is under investigation on allegations of racketeering, money laundering, receiving illegal kickbacks and violations of New Mexico's Governmental Conduct Act.

"And if and when there is an indictment and arrest, I hope the representative does the right thing here and resigns because the credibility of government, all of us, cannot be tainted," she said. "People need to be engaged. They have to have trust for their government."

Lujan Grisham noted the investigation is ongoing.

"These are allegations. There's due process. Innocent until proven guilty," she said. "But in the information that has been publicly provided, maybe deeply disturbing and troubling aren't strong enough and harsh enough. This is a very serious, incredibly improper set of circumstances, and I'm horrified."

If an indictment is handed down in the case, the governor said Williams Stapleton should step down from elective office immediately and "her colleagues should call for that very same thing."

No charges have been filed against Williams Stapleton.

According to a search warrant affidavit, the allegations involve Williams Stapleton's connections to a Washington, D.C.-based company, Robotics Management Learning Systems LLC, which has provided web-based learning materials to Albuquerque Public Schools for years.

Williams Stapleton, who has served in the Legislature since 1995, headed the district's Career and Technical Education Department for years. She was placed on administrative leave Wednesday.

A search warrant affidavit outlined an elaborate and years-long scheme in which Williams Stapleton was able to be involved with the procurement of a contract with the company and approve invoices for payments. The affidavit also stated she, as well as companies she owns and nonprofits with which she is involved, received money from Robotics Learning.

Lujan Grisham also said her administration has "zero-tolerance for these sorts of issues and aspects."

"We'll do everything in my power to make sure that justice is served [and] monies, if in fact true embezzled, returned and recouped and provided back to the federal government and other entities. All of those things have to happen, if in fact, these allegations are true. There's no question about that. We have an obligation, particularly the executive branch level, to continue to demand truth, fairness, justice and to work on government credibility. This is a national issue now. We're going to lead by example."

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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