The New Mexico State Ethics Commission is currently looking into a complaint filed last month against Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto that alleges financial and ethical misconduct.
The state agency is not releasing information on the complaint and its investigation. The commission potentially never will, depending on the investigation results.
Santa Fe-based attorney Daniel Yohalem filed the 20-page complaint — that includes another 131 pages of supporting documents and a 95-page addendum — on Aug. 15 to the New Mexico State Ethics Commission.
Representatives with Common Cause circulated his complaint to the media the next day.
Yohalem told Source NM this week the commission is looking into “much of the complaint,” though some of it falls outside the agency’s jurisdiction.
A senator since 2013, the complaint alleges that Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) has not adhered to the Governmental Conduct Act since at least 2017 and has allegedly violated the New Mexico Financial Disclosure Act and the Lobbyist Regulation Act.
Specifically, it alleges Ivey-Soto failed to fully disclose past financial interests and has used his position as a lawmaker to advance personal interests, including sexual favors.
The complaint was filed after a national coalition reiterated calls for Ivey-Soto’s removal from the Legislature following allegations from multiple women in 2022 about inappropriate behavior, which the senator has denied.
Yohalem touches on this subject, specifically referencing a complaint lobbyist Marianna Anaya submitted against Ivey-Soto in February 2022.
National coalition calls for state senator’s removal following 2022 sexual misconduct allegations
Anaya’s complaint went through the state Legislature because it had to do with the legislative anti-harassment policy. After that, the investigation into Ivey-Soto’s behavior was never publicly released, though a leaked copy showed probable cause that the senator violated the anti-harassment policy — which Yohalem points out in his complaint.
A tie vote halted the investigation into the complaint, and Ivey-Soto didn’t face any official punishment.
Yohalem’s complaint alleges that Ivey-Soto has blocked the legislative priorities of women “who refused his advances.”
What would prompt the state agency to release info
Lawmakers didn’t publicly release any information about the investigation into Anaya’s complaint, and some voiced frustration that the report was leaked to the press. Lobbyists have repeatedly said the Legislature’s complaint process lacks transparency, even after changes made in the 2023 session.
Yohalem’s complaint is through the New Mexico State Ethics Commission, an independent state agency, and there could be a similar lack of state officials releasing information to the public. It depends on the outcome of the complaint.
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A spokesperson for the ethics commission said the agency treats all complaints as confidential and can’t comment until they’re made publicly available online.
That only happens if multiple staff at the commission determine there’s probable cause for the complaint or it’s resolved through a settlement.
The information released publicly would include the findings of an investigation into the complaint.
The last complaint publicly available on the State Ethics Commission’s website was filed in September 2022.
If the commission’s general counsel decides there’s no probable cause to the allegations, then the agency doesn’t release any information publicly at all.
How the process works
First, the ethics commission’s executive director, Jeremy Farris, has to decide if a complaint is substantial and the commission has jurisdiction over it, according to the agency’s rules and regulations.
Yohalem said the commission ruled on Sept. 4 that it had a majority of jurisdiction over the complaint. Some of it, he said, was outside the commission’s two-year statute of limitations.
It’s not clear yet which parts of the complaint won’t move forward.
Now, Ivey-Soto has an opportunity to respond.
He should have until Sept. 19 — 15 days after the commission’s ruling, according to the rules and regulations — to present an argument that the complaint is “frivolous, unsubstantiated or not supported by probable cause.”’
The senator said he plans on responding but hasn’t yet.
He said he doesn’t think it’s a serious complaint but declined to share details about what’s unsubstantial in Yohalem’s allegations. He said he wanted to deal with the matter through the commission rather than the media.
This article is part of U.S. Democracy Day, a nationwide collaborative on Sept. 15, the International Day of Democracy, in which news organizations cover how democracy works and the threats it faces. To learn more, visit usdemocracyday.org.
Ivey-Soto said the complaint was only filed to generate media attention.
“It’s a political document,” he said.
It’s up to the general counsel to give Yohalem a chance or not to respond to Ivey-Soto’s future argument.
Meanwhile, the ethics commission’s general counsel has to investigate the complaint to determine whether it’s substantial. That’s likely where Yohalem’s case stands now.
It could be months before the investigation is done.
It took four months for general counsel to finish its investigation in the most recent complaint that didn’t immediately enter into a settlement, according to the state agency’s proceedings portal.
If general counsel determines the complaint has probable cause, they put together an investigative summary and the process then moves to a hearing officer. If the officer agrees there could be evidence that laws have been violated, a public hearing is set.
After the commission tells the person the complaint was filed against that a hearing will ensue, information on the complaint must become public within 30 days.
Most routes end in settlement instead of a full hearing, an agency spokesperson said.
If the commission finds that Ivey-Soto has violated any laws proposed in Yohalem’s complaint, penalties vary but can include fines of up to $5,000 per violation.
You can read the complaint here:
Yohalem Complaint to NM Ethics Commission re Ivey-Soto With Exhibits_Source