Sex, drugs and deleted ballots? New Mexico elections official hit with ethics charge

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A county clerk in New Mexico abused the ability of her workplace and broke the legislation within the run-up to the 2022 elections, a state company alleged in court docket this week, claiming that the official deleted and mishandled midterm ballots; sought, obtained and mentioned medication; and even deployed a Taser close to a coworker.

The complaint additionally alleges that Yvonne Otero, a Republican who was elected Torrance County clerk in 2020, violated election procedures round certifying election machines, alluded to having intercourse and doing cocaine throughout work hours and threatened workers — earlier than she ultimately simply stopped doing her job within the fall, earlier than the election.

Otero’s lawyer, Jacob Candelaria, mentioned the criticism included false, “outlandish, and dramatized” allegations, and argued election deniers had been attempting to punish his shopper for not accepting false claims about voter fraud.  

“My shopper absolutely intends to defend herself in opposition to these false allegations,” he mentioned, including that she is individually searching for a court docket order to get her job again.

The extraordinary allegations had been made by the New Mexico State Ethics Fee, an unbiased state company that enforces governmental conduct and anti-corruption legal guidelines, in a court docket submitting this week.

Torrance County requested the fee examine the matter, mentioned Jessica Randall, deputy normal counsel on the fee.

Torrance is a small, rural county east of Albuquerque that has been a scorching mattress of false fraud claims. The county commissioners confronted important backlash for ultimately certifying the June main election, they usually later authorized an unbiased recount of the county’s paper ballots.

The county, whose commissioners first sought to oust Otero final fall, not too long ago employed a brand new county clerk, after voting to take away her for abandoning her publish. A January posting says the job pays $69,148 plus advantages.

Tabulators, belief and a TASER

A number of of the allegations deal with Otero’s dealing with of the 2022 midterm election.

Otero pre-signed poll tabulator certification varieties earlier than the certifications befell so she might go on trip, in response to the criticism, and she or he deleted or ignored a handful of emailed ballots from abroad. Navy and abroad voters can forged absentee ballots electronically, in accordance with federal law.

Candelaria mentioned the criticism was the primary he and his shopper had heard of deleted ballots, however he mentioned she did not deny signing the election certification varieties upfront.

Data flash cards sit on certification forms for ballot-counting machines bearing the signature of Torrance County Clerk Yvonne Otero as testing begins at a county warehouse in Estancia, N.M., on Sept. 29, 2022.
Knowledge flash playing cards sit on certification varieties for ballot-counting machines bearing the signature of Torrance County Clerk Yvonne Otero as testing begins at a county warehouse in Estancia, N.M., on Sept. 29, 2022. State and native authorities mentioned that Otero signed the certification papers earlier than the gear was examined and inspected to be used within the normal election, with out ever attending the inspections.Andres Leighton / AP file

Alex Curtas, director of communications for New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, mentioned Toulouse Oliver was “unaware, however extraordinarily troubled” by the allegations that abroad ballots weren’t correctly dealt with and counted and would conduct her personal inside overview.

He mentioned the county’s deputy clerk, Sylvia Chavez, had labored carefully with state officers to supervise the county’s midterm election and that “she did a terrific job.”

The remainder of the criticism’s allegations vary from the misuse of presidency sources — giving a staffer’s pc to her brother, for example — to the weird and inappropriate.

Otero was noticed “intimately touching” a member of the general public at work, in response to the criticism, earlier than going into her personal workplace with the person. She allegedly alluded to having intercourse in her workplace after rising with remarks like, “that’s the way you break within the probate decide’s desk,” and “I wanted that stress reduction.”

Candelaria mentioned she was visited at work by a male pal and closed the door for privateness however didn’t have intercourse at work.

“These are maybe a number of the most outlandish and are, in my shopper’s view, sexist and discriminatory allegations being made in opposition to her,” he mentioned.

One incident that each Candelaria and the fee agree on is that Otero discharged a TASER close to an worker within the county clerk’s workplace, in what she claimed was a joke.

Candelaria mentioned she did it to startle a sleeping coworker and acknowledges now the joke was in “poor style.”

Otero allegedly sought “unprescribed narcotic medication” from a subordinate worker — threatening “mutual destruction” if the worker didn’t do as requested — and spoke about doing cocaine.

In a single April 2022 occasion, she advised her workers she wanted a “small bump” to get by means of the day, the criticism alleges, and mentioned that Otero had acknowledged utilizing cocaine for the final six years.

Candelaria mentioned Otero requested a colleague to acquire a prescription drug for her whereas she was between main care medical doctors — however didn’t threaten the coworker — and mentioned she’d used cocaine exterior of labor someday up to now six years to assist along with her ADHD. He denied she’d used cocaine at work.

“Having served in the legislature for 10 years, if the Ethics Fee needed to punish each single one that used cocaine at any level within the prior six years, a superb majority of the legislature can be topic to self-discipline,” he added.

The criticism additionally alleged that Otero stopped each coming to work and signing on to her pc at residence. Candelaria mentioned she’d been instructed to work at home by the county lawyer after an worker complained in regards to the TASER incident. That incident can be why she signed the election certification varieties earlier than the certification had taken place.

“There has by no means been a cut-off date the place she has deserted her job duties, interval,” he mentioned.

Mario Jimenez, govt director of Frequent Trigger New Mexico and a former elections official, applauded the ethics fee for investigating the matter, however mentioned he was nonetheless disheartened to be taught of the allegations.

“Once I learn it, I used to be nothing wanting infuriated,” he advised NBC Information. “We’re shedding public belief.”

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