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New Mexico House speaker seeks dismissal of ethics complaint

February 27, 2021 GMT
State House Majority Speaker Brian Egolf takes his oath on the opening day of the legislative session on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. State lawmakers convened for the opening day of a two-month session. Capitol buildings are closed to the public due to the pandemic, and under strict security lockdowns due to the Jan. 6 attack against federal lawmakers in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
State House Majority Speaker Brian Egolf takes his oath on the opening day of the legislative session on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. State lawmakers convened for the opening day of a two-month session. Capitol buildings are closed to the public due to the pandemic, and under strict security lockdowns due to the Jan. 6 attack against federal lawmakers in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Attorneys for New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf have asked the State Ethics Commission to dismiss a complaint that a retired judge filed against the Santa Fe Democrat over his sponsoring legislation potentially helping his law practice.

The complaint filed by Aztec resident Sandra Price, a retired state district judge and former district attorney, accuses of Egolf of sponsoring legislation that would financially benefit his legal practice without disclosing the conflict of interest.

Egolf is a co-sponsor of pending legislation that would open the way for civil rights lawsuits to be filed in state district court against state and local public officials.

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The bill builds on recommendations of a civil rights commission, chartered by the Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in June as protests over police brutality and racial injustice swept the nation and New Mexico’s largest city.

Price’s complaint said Egolf failed to disclose during deliberations on the bill that his legal practice in Santa Fe handles civil rights claims and other civil litigation and stands to benefit financially.

The House has approved the bill, sending it to the state Senate for consideration.

The motion filed Friday by Egolf’s attorneys to dismiss the complaint called it frivolous and unsubstantiated.

Egolf is not required to treat every piece of proposed legislation as a possible conflict of interest because it might hypothetically allow him to represent a potential client in the future, the motion said.

The motion said the complaint ignores the fact that New Mexico has a part-time legislature with many members having jobs in a variety of professions.

Price told the Santa Fe New Mexican that she’d reviewed the dismissal motion, including its contention that farmer-legislators may end up voting on bills that affect the agricultural industry as a whole:

“But this is much closer for him (Egolf). He is an attorney pushing a bill directly tied to cases his firm handles,” she said.

It’s up to the commission to decide who’s right, Price said. “I’m glad they’re there to look at those things.”