Tuesday, January 8, 2013

AG Joined in Fight Against Double Dipping/Human Trafficking

The Attorney General’s Office is pleased to hear about proposed legislation to end the practice of “double dipping” for expenses by New Mexico legislators and encouraged to see that the City of Albuquerque’s is promising action against human trafficking.  The AGO has been advocating for both ideas for some time and we welcome the support now being shown by State Representative Nate Gentry and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.

When we found that no laws had been violated in our investigation into former State Representative Ray Begaye’s travel reimbursements for various trips taken by him involving Legislative business, simply put---it was because there are currently no laws that expressly prohibit the practice. AG King believes that is unacceptable and in a letter urged the state Legislative Council to address the problem. Our letter stated:

“We strongly recommend Legislative Council adopt and your office implement a new explicit policy regarding reimbursement for Legislators when conducting officially sanctioned Legislative business trips.  We suggest they be limited to receiving expense reimbursement from only a single entity for any particular trip.  A Legislator should choose to accept only per diem, mileage, and expenses from the State or solely from an outside source.  The supplementation or duplication of public funds reimbursement from private organizations should not be allowed due to the appearance of  “double-dipping”.”

Representative Gentry has announced he plans to tackle the problem through legislation.  We are enthusiastic that our recommendation has begun the process of addressing the issue.

And Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has reportedly begun an initiative to step up the city’s battle against human trafficking.  Again, we applaud the city’s efforts as we continue our own statewide anti-human trafficking actions. After working to get a state law on the books making human trafficking a felony in New Mexico, AG King has been following up with many training sessions across the state to familiarize the public, prosecutors, and law enforcement with all aspects of combatting what is termed as “modern day slavery.”  In 2008 the Attorney General was summoned to Geneva, Switzerland by the United Nations Committee on Rights of the Child as part of a U.S. delegation that would address issues such as trafficking of children and child pornography. The CRC had heard of AG King’s successful efforts to get a new state law passed that makes human trafficking a felony.  Committee members were also aware of the AGO’s collaboration with the Mexican state of Chihuahua to aggressively combat the sale of children and adults in the black market.  AG King has recently been asked to update the CRC on what New Mexico has done since then to combat human trafficking.

Incidentally, January is designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  

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