Eichenberg Settlement with Ethics Commission

By Jennie Lusk

In what should be the last chapter in the unfortunate conflict between outgoing New Mexico treasurer Tim Eichenberg and Democratic Party treasurer candidate Laura Montoya, Eichenberg agreed to pay a $250 fine for violations of the Governmental Conduct Act, which prohibits a public officer such as the treasurer from using state property for other than authorized purposes—such as campaigning.

The State Ethics Commission (SEC) announced Oct. 17 that it approved a settlement with Eichenberg for the violation, charging the maximum fine of $250.

The conduct at the center of the matter began when Eichenberg backed his chief of staff at the treasurer’s office for the statewide office against Montoya in the June primaries. Eichenberg admitted paying from his own pocket for a mailing to state party leaders on behalf of his staffer and used the state treasurer’s official seal in the political mailing. In April, Montoya filed a complaint with the SEC to get its opinion whether doing so violated the Act. In May, the Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe County Democratic Party chairs wrote Eichenberg, urging him refrain from “mudslinging” against Montoya.

In June, Laura Montoya won the primary election and began her statewide campaign. On Monday, SEC announced its approval of the settlement and on Tuesday, the Albuquerque Journal endorsed Laura Montoya for New Mexico Treasurer. Eichenberg, a former senator who is term-limited as treasurer, sponsored the legislation (SB432) that prohibits the use of state property for improper purposes in 2011.

Laura Montoya has the credentials, experience and smarts needed for election as treasurer and deserves strong party support. It’s unfortunate that even just weeks before Election Day the old conflict once again made headlines, but fortunate that Laura Montoya was vindicated and the SEC affirmed the difference between the treasurer’s office and the treasurer’s office-holder. (One has authority to act on behalf of the State; the other doesn’t.) Laura Montoya’s GOP opponent shares her last name though the two are not related. Her name follows his on the ballot. Laura Montoya deserves solid Dem support for holding the office of the New Mexico State Treasurer.