SANTA FE (KRQE) - The legal advice that has the governor waffling on new limitsfor state salary and pension double dippers remains secret asattorney-client privilege, Attorney General Gary King saidWednesday.
In this case, as Gov. Bill Richardson decides whether to sign abill passed by the Legislature, the AG is acting as the governor'slawyer.
"Because of the potential threatened litigation we are bound bylegal ethics to keep our advice to the governor as attorney clientprivilege," King told KRQE News 13.
King confirmed that lawyers for some state employees affected bythe bill have contacted him about the legal issues. He filledRichardson in on the objections but has not advised him on whetherto veto the bill, King said.
The bill would extend to one year the time a state employee mustwait after retiring before returning to work and drawing both astate salary and a state pension. The law would cap the statepaycheck at $30,000 a year.
Currently a state worker must sit out 90 days, and there is nocap on the salaries. A recent report by KRQE News 13 investigativereported show how some public employees were ignoring the 90-dayrule and not even bothering to clean out their offices.
Richardson had said he would sign new limits, but that wasbefore the Legislature produced a final version of the bill.
King did say that he told the governor that if there were alawsuit over the new rules, there's no guarantee the state wouldwin.
"If the state were involved in protracted litigation it mightactually cost taxpayers a lot in litigation expenses.” Kingsaid.
State Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, sponsored thebill and said Tuesday a court fight is OK with him.
"If it's got legal questions the only way to find out is for thegovernor to sign the bill and let someone challenge it," Varelasaid in an interview. "Let's see who is going to challenge it, andif it gets challenged then the AG would have to defend the stateand the governor.
"The courts would ultimately make that decision."
On Wednesday Varela told News 13 he's disappointed the AG isstill not explaining what the legal questions are.
He also said this bill was so important that the AG's officeshould have been involved during its drafting.
Varela said he's not mad at anyone but is passionate about doingwhat's right for taxpayers.
For his part King said he's not against limits on double dippingbut thinks this bill needs revising. He also said there are severaldouble dippers in his office although that is not bearing on hisadvice to the governor.
Richardson has until Friday to sign bill passed by the recentsession of the Legislature.
Santa can't do it all alone. He needs elves to help with the toys and he needs the post office to help with the deliveries.
After joining a program that helps disadvantage kids, a man entrusted with children is accused of using the program to prey on a young boy.
Thieves are leaving big, gaping holes around Roswell.
A pedestrian is in critical condition Thursday night after being struck by a car in downtown Albuquerque.
New Mexico honored a fallen hero Thursday as family, friends and law enforcement officers gathered for the funeral of Sandoval County Sheriff's Sergeant Robert Baron.
It seems with every game this season he looks like the best player on the court. Lobos senior forward Cameron Bairstow continues to shine.