Ethics Complaint Alleges Top-level Democrats Using Taxpayer Funds to Shield Themselves from Campaign Finance Violations Defense

May 15, 2024

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The Editor

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Two new ethics complaints have been filed against Lt. Governor Howie Morales and Governor Michelle Grisham’s chief counsel, Holly Agajanian. The complaints request that the Ethics Committee investigate the apparent use of state funds to improperly defend Lt. Governor Morales against an ethics complaint filed last September which related to his campaign finance reports. The original complaint alleged he exceeded the limit for anonymous donations, miscounted out-of-state travel as a campaign expense, and failed to address $15,000 in outstanding fines from past campaign finance violations. Morales has since amended his campaign finance reports, and the Secretary of State (SOS) has acknowledged that the issues were corrected, although the fines still appear unpaid on the SOS’s campaign finance portal.

According to case documentation, all communications with the Ethics Committee and the SOS’s office to defend Morales were handled by Holly Agajanian.

Holly Agajanian is compensated by taxpayers to serve as counsel for the governor’s office. Under some circumstances, government officials are entitled to taxpayer-funded legal assistance to defend themselves against complaints by the Risk Management Division, but only if the complaint pertains to a violation committed during their public duties. Morales’ campaign activities are distinctly separate from his official duties, and official resources should be completely segregated from campaign activity.

Ms. Agajanian’s response to the complaint against her admits that she used state resources to defend Morales, but she argues that the use was so minimal that it falls under the state’s provision for “occasional and incidental personal use of IT resources.” Moreover, Ms. Agajanian’s response includes accusations against the private citizen who filed the complaint, Ramona Goolsby, suggesting she has a “continued vendetta” against Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales.

“The appearance that official state resources were used to defend a politician’s campaign is precisely why I filed the complaint,” stated Goolsby. “New Mexicans are fed up with the incestuous corruption in this state. Ms. Agajanian’s unfortunate decision to resort to personal attacks and accuse me of having a ‘vendetta’ against Howie Morales for following the proper channels to request accountability for the appearance of impropriety highlights just how entitled New Mexico’s political class has become.”

Agajanian must be confident that her ethics complaint will be dismissed, as her 41-page response was penned by another attorney from the governor’s office, Kyle Duffy. Should the Ethics Committee find that it was improper for a state employee to defend matters related to an official’s campaign, it would suggest that Agajanian’s continued use of state resources to defend her actions is ill-advised.

The editor reached out to Agajanian for comment; no response has yet been received.

Screenshot of Holly Agajanian’s LinkedIn page where her experience as partner at Hinkle Shanor Law is listed.

According to her LinkedIn page, Agajanian was a partner at Hinkle Shanor Law Firm until 2020. This law firm has been accused of colluding with the state to bend rules, as it holds active contracts with the state of New Mexico while at least three Hinkle partners serve in legislative positions.

Screenshot of archived Hinkle Shanor Law web page featuring Holly Agajanian as partner.

Written by The Editor