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SANTA FE – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign paid an additional $ 87,500 in the past six months as part of a settlement with a former employee she accused of sexual abuse during a meeting in 2018, a campaign spokeswoman said Sunday .
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham
The payments, the last of which was on September 29, will be included in a mandatory campaign finance report that Lujan Grisham will file for re-election on Monday.
They bring the final dollar amount of the deal with James Hallinan to $ 150,000, as Lujan Grisham’s campaign previously reported that it paid $ 62,500 to a law firm that Hallinan represented in an April campaign motion.
The Democratic governor has vigorously denied the allegations made by Hallinan, who served as spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham during her 2018 parliamentary election campaign.
In a statement on Sunday, campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer said the latest payments were part of an agreement that “resolved suspicious and various claims by Mr Hallinan, including his job and client search after his tumultuous tenure in the 2018 campaign”.
“The campaign reached that deal in 2020 because of the cost of resolving business disputes and avoiding distractions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Witmer said.
“Reg. Lujan Grisham will continue to work tirelessly for the people of New Mexico, delivering record economic growth, investment in education and tax cuts for New Mexico families – while guiding the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, “she added.
Hallinan accused Lujan Grisham in late 2019 – about a year after he left the campaign – of pouring a bottle of water into his crotch and then laughing his crotch through his clothes at a meeting in 2018.
Hallinan, who now runs his own communications and public relations firm, told the Journal he had been stopped from reporting the incident by Lujan Grisham campaign manager Dominic Gabello, who resigned before stepping down in late April.
But the governor, Gabello and Lujan Grisham’s campaign deny all of Hallinan’s claims and are confident they would have been refuted in court, Witmer said.
The first 10 settlement payments were each $ 12,500 while the final payment was $ 25,000. They are listed as legal fees, with one payment per month from November 2020 to September. The September payment completes the payments owed in settlement, the governor’s office said.
The payments were made to Buckley Beal law firm in Atlanta, of which Rachel Berlin Benjamin, Hallinan’s attorney, is a senior partner.
In April, she said the governor and Hallinan had “resolved any differences or problems to their satisfaction,” but declined to provide additional information.
And Foreign Secretary Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s office has stated that the settlement payments are eligible under the state’s campaign finance laws as they relate to a labor dispute with a former campaign employee.
Meanwhile, the deal has been criticized by state and national Republicans. The New Mexico GOP described them as “hush money” paid to a former employee that could be used as campaign fodder by Lujan Grisham’s rivals during next year’s gubernatorial race.
For her part, Lujan Grisham said she was transparent about the settlement and denied comparisons with sexual harassment allegations made against former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“I have focused on the pandemic and I will stand by this decision every minute and every day,” Lujan Grisham said during a press conference in June, describing the decision to reach an agreement.
The governor also said there had been no other financial settlements or nondisclosure agreements of a similar nature.