Thursday, March 29, 2012

Positive Things That Came Out of the Block, Jr. Case

No surprise that the AGO is disappointed in the sentence handed down to Jerome Block, Jr. His punishment amounted to probation, get a job, keep up with child support payments, don’t even think about getting off probation early, and don’t forget to pay back taxpayers all the money that was embezzled.

Our investigators and prosecutors did their jobs well. Block pled guilty to two (2) separate embezzlement charges; fraudulent use of a credit card; theft of identity; violation of the state Election Code, Campaign Reporting Act, and Voter Action Act; and conspiracy to commit violation of the Election Code. As I told reporters after the court proceeding, the Attorney General’s Office does not control sentencing.

Let’s not forget the significant positive things that came out of this prosecution and subsequent plea agreement. At our insistence, Block, Jr. resigned his $90,000 a year post of the Public Regulation Commission and also agreed never to seek public office again. The agreement also saved about a million dollars in expected costs for impeachment proceedings in the legislature that became unnecessary as a result.

Leaving the courthouse in Santa Fe yesterday I overheard a conversation in which one person asked, “Does this mean a public official can steal money from the public, violate election laws, and then get off because he claims he’s a drug addict?”

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Website for AGO

A new look and new functionality is coming to the Attorney General's website in the next few days. The website will offer important information and resources for New Mexicans as well as provide an in-depth look into the structure and function of the AG's office. Our aim is to improve the website's usefulness to visitors and make it easier to navigate for all users. We expect to continually update and improve functionality so that all webpages contain the latest information.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

AG Opinion on Appointed NM Probate Judges

Earlier this month Attorney General King issued a formal Opinion on appointment questions involving probate judges; questions that have persisted for almost 90 years in New Mexico. The following is text from an AGO news release regarding the Opinion:

Probate Judges Must Run in Next Election After Appointment

AG Opinion Suggests That Legislature Could Clear Up Appointment Issues

(SANTA FE)---Attorney General Gary King says any individual appointed to replace a probate judge who was in the first year of a four-year term does not finish the original office-holder’s term and must run in the first general election following appointment if the appointee wishes to continue to hold the position.

The AG Opinion is in response to a request from NM State Senator John Sapien, of Corrales, who asked, “Does a person appointed to replace a county probate judge who passed away during the first year of her four-year term finish the original office-holder’s term in office?”

Senator Sapien also asked, “If the appointee must run for the office prior to the expiration of the original office-holder’s term in office, must he run in the primary and general election?” The response: The appointed probate judge is subject to all of the normal legal requirements of any candidate running for that office and therefore must comply with the applicable provisions of the Election Code.

Additionally, the Senator asked, “If the appointee must run for the office in the next election cycle and wins, must he run again two years later when the original office-holder’s term would have expired?” The response: If the appointed probate judge is elected in the next election cycle, the appointee must run again two years later when the original term expires.

In closing, the AG Opinion states: The core issues raised here are, admittedly, difficult ones that require thoughtful contemplation. We note, again, that the basic advice of the Attorney General has not changed regarding these issues since 1924 and that the legislature has not changed the applicable law during that time. Perhaps the best course to eliminate future debate is for the legislature to address the issues and amend relevant statutes in order to clearly reflect legislative intent.