Last week the State Libertarian Party Chair, Chris Luchini, filed a complaint naming the Torrance County Clerk, Yvonne Otero, as the respondent. Yesterday, Luchini filed a new complaint with the Office of the Secretary of State. In the complaint, Luchini names Otero as respondent while citing a nepotism law. The nepotism complaint is just the most recent filing.

While yesterday’s filing cites a nepotism statute, last week’s July 28th filing with the Secretary of State’s office cited a part of the Election Code involving election boards. Yesterday’s filing by Luchini reported to provide information given to him by the Torrance County Chair Pro-Tem, Robert Wagner.

The July 28th ethics complaint filing by Luchini involving the Torrance County Election Board is pending “validation” by the Secretary of State. If a complaint is validated by the Secretary of State, the disposition of the case depends upon the severity of the findings.

Yesterday’s complaint cites 10-1-10 NMSA 1978, “Nepotism prohibited; exceptions” as the statute potentially violated by the Clerk. The statute prohibits public officials from using their public office or position to employ close family members. The complaint involving the Clerk requests an investigation into whether she appointed her mother, Mary Theresa Otero, to work on the Torrance County Election Board as Presiding Judge during the recent 2022 “Primary” election.

Luchini Names Otero as Respondent While Citing a Nepotism Law

The July 28th complaint questions whether the Clerk failed to publicly post the list of Election Board members she selected and appointed. The complaint questioned whether the Clerk provided the list of Election Board members to the Libertarian Party, as directed by law.

Responses to Last Week’s Complaint Regarding the Election Board List

The Estancia News met Clerk Otero at her office to obtain her response to the July 28 allegations. During the discussion she stated she posted the list in her office, outside [the building], on Facebook, on Instagram, and other places. The Clerk further stated she had “nothing to hide” and was “very open”. However, when informed there were witnesses who refuted her claims, she abruptly ended the interview and stated she wanted her attorney present before answering any more questions.

Last week we reached out to the Republican party chair, Rick Lopez. We asked Lopez whether he received his copy of the list from Clerk Otero. He stated he did not recall whether or not he received the list. When asked if he had any comments about the ethics complaint filed by the Libertarian Party on July 28th regarding the Election Board List, he had the following to say:

“I don’t understand what the Libertarians are getting at, at this point…they’re griping because the Clerk didn’t get them a letter that has nothing to do with the election results because they didn’t even have a candidate in this fight, for any of the races. If they want to be nitpicky about something like that, I have much more important things to do, and it’s called getting my candidates elected in Torrance County. I see it to be pretty petty, unnecessary, and it sounds like they’re just whining to me.”

Rick Lopez, Torrance County Republican Party Chair

The Libertarian Party did not question the results of the 2022 Primary Election in their July 28th complaint. The complaint narrowly questioned whether the Clerk fulfilled her obligation to make public the Election Board member list. When asked for his reaction to the possible belief the Clerk had motive for withholding the list, the Republic Chair responded:

“they are throwing out allegations with zero, zero proof. Zero. And it’s a shame to be even giving a group traction, that they’re making allegations with nothing to substantiate those allegations. And I think that is what is hurting this country.”

Rick Lopez, Torrance County Republican Chair

The Democrat Party chair, Dennis Wallin, was also asked to comment on the July 28 complaint regarding the Election Board as well. He responded with the following:

“The Democratic Party of Torrance County has complete faith in the integrity of the election process in our country. We are confident that Secretary of State Toulouse-Oliver will review the complaint and provide instruction and guidance.
On a personal note, I know that County Clerk Otero is a woman of integrity as are her predecessors and mentors, and that office has historically taken great care to ensure fair and lawful elections. I know she will work with the Secretary of State to improve the process if necessary.”

Dennis Wallin, Torrance County Democrat Party Chair

This time is different

Yesterday’s ethics complaint citing the Nepotism statute appears to be more serious than the July 28th complaint. The complaint made on July 28th questions whether Election Board information was withheld from the public. The Secretary of State must validate the complaint before it is “substantiated”. While a substantiated complaint of failing to make Election Board details public might tarnish the reputation of a Clerk claiming to be open and transparent, most believe the actual consequences for such a failure would be tantamount to a “slap on the wrist.”

Contrasted with the July 28th complaint involving the Election Board, yesterday’s complaint cites statute involving the prohibition of public officials employing close family members. If validated by the Secretary of State, she would refer the matter to the Attorney General for investigation. Nepotism violations can carry both civil and criminal penalties.

Below is a copy of yesterday’s ethics complaint filing citing nepotism statute, along with attachments included in the filing.

Torrance County Clerk Nepotism Complaint

Election Workers 2022

2022 Compensation Mary Theresa Otero