A new complaint was filed alleging nepotism committed by Yvonne Otero, Torrance County Clerk. This is not the first, nor the second complaint filed against her recently. The first complaint was filed with the Secretary of State on July 28, 2022 alleging she failed to publicly disclose the Election Board list, as required by law. The second complaint was filed on August 5, 2022. That complaint was filed, like the first, with the Secretary of State. The complaint requested the Secretary investigate wither Nepotism laws were broken.
The same day the second complaint was filed with the Secretary of State, another complaint was filed locally with the Torrance County. Whereas the complaints filed with the Secretary of State cite possible violations of New Mexico Statutes concerning election and nepotism laws, the complaint filed with the Torrance County Manager cites County Ordinance 2000-1:
6.3. NEPOTISMTorrance County Ordinance 2000-1
A. Definition of Nepotism
Nepotism, for purposes of this personnel-policy manual, is defined as the practice of giving preferential treatment in areas of employment including, but not limited to selection, benefits, pay, promotion, and discipline to an employee’s near relative. For purposes of this nepotism policy, near-relatives are defined as the employee’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, first cousins, and all like-relations of the employees’ spouse, and any former spouse (s), or unrelated persons sharing a spousal relationship. This definition is to cover any person related to the employee by birth, adoption, or marriage.
B. Prohibited Practices
The practice or appearance of nepotism is prohibited. Near-relatives shall not work in the same department when there is a supervisory relationship between them. Any problems arising from such a situation should be referred to the County Manager for review. Near-relatives cannot be promoted into a position which requires supervision by a near relative. Neither shall any Elected Official or county employee give employment as clerk, deputy, or assistant, or other class of departmental employee to any near relative when that person’s compensation is six hundred ($600.00) dollars or more per year. NMSA 1978, 10-1-10 (1987 Replacement). Any exceptions to this rule must be approved by the County Commission.
In the complaint by Rob Wagner, he provides records showing over $4,000 paid to the Clerk’s mother, Mary Theresa Otero, to date. Mr. Wagner provided the Estancia News with the following statement:
Since before being appointed County Chair pro tem of the Libertarian Party here in Torrance County, and as promised after, election integrity has and will continue to be a top priority of mine here in the county. This commitment to fairness has caused me to look into issues and concerns brought up recently by county residents.
As I stated during public comment at a recent county commission meeting, my ballot was among the numerous cast ballots placed in a spot that was promised to be hand-counted instead of being put through the Dominion voting machines. This was promised to county residents both in an open county meeting and at the time of ballots being cast. Upon learning they weren’t hand-tallied but instead were run through the voting machines, I wanted to know who the election judge was who presided over the location I voted at, so I went looking for the list of Election Board workers at the County Clerk’s office.
The Election Board list is a public list showing who has been appointed by the County Clerk to work as poll watchers and judges. It also proves equal party representation among those appointed to work as poll workers. This list is required to be posted for 45 days prior to an election and must remain posted for 42 days after the canvas of said election is concluded.
The list was nowhere to be found. I searched every public wall inside and outside of the building, in every publicly accessible location possible throughout including the Clerk’s Office. I asked for a copy of the Election Board list and was told that it was inaccessible because it was only on the clerk’s computer and copies couldn’t be obtained because the clerk was out of town.
A missing Election Board list seemed problematic. A complaint was filed with the Secretary of State’s office because, according to statute, the public (and by this point, the County Chair of a political party with candidates on the ballot) should have access to that list for election integrity reasons. I couldn’t help but wonder, why is this list being kept from public access and view?
After filing an IPRA request, I finally received the list from the county. There wasn’t a single registered Libertarian selected and assigned to the Election Board in Torrance County. That was alarming.
Seemingly shutting the party out from the board would be enough reason to be frustrated, but that wasn’t the biggest part of all of this. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the clerk had appointed her mother to work as a presiding judge. In New Mexico, there are statutes that dictate how much a close relative of someone in a supervisory role can make in a calendar year. An IPRA request was made for the amounts paid out to the clerk’s mother. The amount paid year-to-date far exceeded the amount that is allowable by statute.
What started off as a concerning claim of not posting public lists publicly turned into much more than was expected. Maintaining transparency in government is vital to the freedoms promised by the constitutional republic we enjoy living under in this great nation, and this shows why we must verify that our elected servants are maintaining the statutes they are elected to uphold.Robert Wagner, Complainant
A copy of the complaint submitted to Torrance County on jAugust 4, 2022 is found below:
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