Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has paid $150,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim from a former campaign spokeswoman, according to financial documents filed Monday.
A campaign finance report from April showed that Lujan Grisham’s campaign had paid $62,500 to a law firm representing James Hallinan, which alleged that the then-gubernatorial candidate made a payment to other employees during a meeting. He had put a bottle of water on his crotch and then grabbed his genitals while laughing through his clothes.
Monday’s filing included an updated schedule of payments of $87,500 between April and September, bringing the total to $150,000. The Albuquerque Journal reported that the last payment was made on September 29.
Lujan Grisham, who served three terms in the House of Representatives before his successful 2018 run for governor, has repeatedly denied Hallinan’s claims, including that he struggled to find a job after leaving his campaign. Campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer said in a statement to the Journal that the settlement was made last year “to prevent the expense of litigation of business disputes and any distraction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Hallinan, who now runs a public relations and political consulting firm, came forward in 2019 with his claim against Lujan Grisham, alleging that he was talked into reporting it by then-campaign manager Dominic Gabello. Gabello, who has denied that claim, became the governor’s senior policy adviser before stepping down in April, though he is likely to play a key role in his bid for re-election next year.
The New Mexico Secretary of State’s office states that payments are allowed under state law as they relate to an employment dispute. Meanwhile, the state’s Republican Party accused Lujan Grisham of “silently giving money” to Hallinan.
“This governor is habitually hypocritical,” party spokesman Mike Curtis said in a statement on Monday. “During the former New York Gov. [Andrew] Lujan Grisham calls for transparency and a full investigation into Cuomo’s sex scandal. However, when she is accused, our governor embraced it and paid her accuser in cash, conveniently disguised as ‘legal expense’ in the campaign finance report.
“The governor’s latest payments again expose his hypocrisy and his true character,” Curtis said.
“Sexual harassment is a serious crime, and she seems content to pay her own way,” said Republican National Committeewoman Tina Dzuk. “It’s offensive, and tells you a lot about his moral character. He doesn’t deserve a second term.”
Lujan Grisham has been lambasted over the past year for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes some of the most stringent public health orders in the nation. Meanwhile, limited surveillance of fraud claims, the use of an auto-deleting messaging app at the state’s child welfare agency and a missed deadline for the state to receive federal education led to an estimated $250 million of unemployment benefits. His administration has also been criticized for overpaying. .
Monday’s report revealed that Lujan Grisham has raised $2.5 million for his re-election bid since April. Six Republicans have already announced that they intend to challenge him next year. Among them is state Representative Rebecca Dow, who has raised more than $440,500 since announcing her candidacy in early July. His campaign said he has received contributions from more than 1,300 donors.
post with wires