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Auditor probes travel expenses of Cowboys for Trump founder

October 26, 2019 GMT
FILE - In this March 12, 2019, file photo, Otero County Commissioner and Cowboys for Trump founder Coy Griffin denounces gun control and pro-abortion rights bills in the New Mexico State Legislature at a protest outside the Statehouse in Santa Fe, N.M. The New Mexico state auditor is investigating an Otero County travel reimbursement allegedly connected to the Cowboys for Trump group. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)
FILE - In this March 12, 2019, file photo, Otero County Commissioner and Cowboys for Trump founder Coy Griffin denounces gun control and pro-abortion rights bills in the New Mexico State Legislature at a protest outside the Statehouse in Santa Fe, N.M. The New Mexico state auditor is investigating an Otero County travel reimbursement allegedly connected to the Cowboys for Trump group. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Democratic state auditor is investigating a county’s travel reimbursement to one of its commissioners who founded the group Cowboys for Trump.

The Office of the State Auditor confirmed it’s examining whether the reimbursement to Otero County Commission Chairman Couy Griffin violated state law, The Alamogordo Daily News reports .

Griffin traveled to Washington in part to attend a Sept. 12 conference with representatives from western states. A travel voucher listed a meeting with President Donald Trump as the reason for the expense.

The reimbursement of more than $3,200 included mileage for the trip made while hauling a horse trailer.

Griffin said discussions with the president were centered on county business and not done as a representative of the for-profit group, which bills itself as an organization of people around the U.S. who support the president and are concerned about liberal agendas eroding the principles the nation was founded upon. The group has held rallies on horseback in New Mexico and elsewhere.

Griffin returned the money after consulting with county officials about possible violations of established travel requirements.

“Taking his horse trailer would never be a justifiable taxpayer expense,” State Department of Finance and Administration Local Government Division Special Director Michael Steininger said via email.

The investigation comes after an Oct. 13 post to the Cowboys for Trump Facebook page read the group was grateful “for the Otero County Commission for increasing our travel budget.”

Griffin said the post was made by a Colorado-based Cowboys for Trump member and was later deleted because it was not accurate.

At the Oct. 10 county commission meeting, the board unanimously approved an overall increase in Griffin’s overall annual travel per diem by $5,000. Under the previous commission, the amount for that position had been set at $5,000 but was reduced by half earlier this year to realign the amount with that allotted to other commissioners.

Griffin has taken three trips to Washington since taking office in January. No reimbursement requests were submitted to the county for the other trips, but he said earlier this month that the last two trips were more than he could afford.

Even with Griffin paying back the money, Steininger said the county will most likely receive at least one audit finding for the mileage reimbursement for the most recent trip.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Griffin’s overall annual travel per diem was increased by $5,000, not to $5,000.