Copyright Â© 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign paid an additional $ 87,500 over the past six months as part of a settlement with a former staff member who accused her of sexual abuse during a meeting in 2018, a campaign spokesperson said on Sunday.
The payments, the last of which was made on September 29, will be included in a mandatory campaign finance report that Lujan Grisham’s re-election campaign will file on Monday.
They bring the final settlement amount with James Hallinan to $ 150,000, as Lujan Grisham’s campaign previously claimed to have paid $ 62,500 to a law firm representing Hallinan in an April campaign brief.
The Democratic governor has vigorously denied the allegations of Hallinan, who worked as a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham during his 2018 general election campaign.
In a statement on Sunday, campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer said the latest payments were part of a settlement that “resolved the suspicious and varied claims made by Mr Hallinan, including his job search and clients following his tumultuous tenure during the 2018 campaign.
âThe campaign came to this settlement in 2020 because of the costs of trade litigation and to avoid distraction at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,â Witmer said.
âGov. Lujan Grisham will continue to work tirelessly for the people of New Mexico, achieving record economic growth, investments in education and tax cuts for New Mexico families – while leading the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, âshe added.
Hallinan accused Lujan Grisham in late 2019 – about a year after leaving the campaign – of pouring a water bottle on her crotch and then grabbing her crotch through her clothes as she laughed, an incident that , he said, took place in front of other campaign staff. at a meeting in 2018.
Hallinan, who now runs his own communications and public relations firm, told the Journal he was dissuaded from reporting the incident by Lujan Grisham’s campaign manager Dominic Gabello, who later worked in the governor’s office. before resigning at the end of April.
But the governor, Gabello and Lujan Grisham’s campaign deny all of Hallinan’s claims and are confident they would have been refuted in court, Witmer said.
The first 10 settlement payments were each $ 12,500, while the final payment was $ 25,000. They are listed as legal fees, with one payment per month from November 2020 to September. The September payment complements the payments due in the settlement, according to the governor’s office.
The payments were made to the Buckley Beal law firm in Atlanta, where Rachel Berlin Benjamin, an attorney for Hallinan, is the senior partner.
In April, she said the governor and Hallinan “have resolved any disputes or issues to their satisfaction,” but declined to provide further information.
And Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s office said the settlement payments are an eligible expense under the state’s campaign finance laws because they relate to a labor dispute with a former staff member. the country.
Meanwhile, the settlement drew criticism from Republicans across the state and nation, with New Mexico’s GOP describing it as “secret money” paid to a former staff member and could be used as fodder. campaign by rivals Lujan Grisham in next year’s gubernatorial race.
For her part, Lujan Grisham said she had been transparent about the settlement and took issue with comparisons to the sexual harassment allegations made against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
âI was focused on the pandemic and I will stand by this decision every minute of every day,â Lujan Grisham said at a press conference in June, describing the decision to settle down.
The governor also said there had been no other financial settlements or nondisclosure agreements of a similar nature.