Governor Susana Martinez held a press conference today at the Metropolitan Courthouse in Albuquerque to urge legislators to pass four important anti-corruption measures during this year's legislative session. During her State of the State address, the Governor announced her support for four specific measures that will protect taxpayers and increase penalties for public officials who are convicted of corrupt behavior. Governor Martinez was joined today by Sen. John Ryan (R-Albuquerque), Rep. Al Park (D-Albuquerque), Rep.
Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque), and Rep. Zachary Cook (R-Ruidoso).
"State law needs to be changed to better hold corrupt public officials accountable for their actions and better protect taxpayers from having to pay for their crimes," said Governor Martinez. "Public officials found guilty of engaging in corrupt activity should be immediately removed from office, lose their state pension, and be prohibited from conducting any future business with the state. In a bipartisan way, we must send a message during this legislative session that corruption in New Mexico will not stand."
A bill sponsored by Rep. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) and Rep. Cook will immediately remove elected officials from office upon conviction of public corruption. Last September, former Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. pleaded guilty to serious felonies but remained in office and collected a taxpayer-funded paycheck for 10 more days.
Another proposal by Sen. Ryan will protect taxpayers from having to paying for a corrupt official's legal bills when the state seeks restitution and compensation for corrupt behavior. A third bill, sponsored by Rep. Gentry, will enhance sentences for convictions of public corruption, prevent those individuals from conducting business with the state, and require them to forfeit their public pensions. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Al Park supported this legislation during last year's legislative session, and helped usher it through the House with unanimous bipartisan support. After passing through Senate committees, the bill failed to come up for a vote on the Senate floor.
"We are sending a message to any elected official or public employee who thinks they can get away with taking advantage of New Mexico taxpayers," said Rep. Gentry. "Increasing penalties, taking away pensions, and preventing corrupt individuals from doing business with the state sends a strong signal that we will not tolerate public officials who put their financial interests above those of our fellow New Mexicans."
A final proposal, also sponsored by Rep. Gentry, would prevent legislators from acting as lobbyists for two years after leaving their positions as government officials. Governor Martinez has already required that her appointees commit that they will not lobby state government for two years after leaving her administration.