ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There are calls for State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto to sit out from committee meetings while he’s under investigation for sexual harassment allegations. The allegations against Ivey-Soto came out in February but it’s unclear when the investigation will be completed. Now, some groups are demanding he stays out of meetings until it is.
In an open letter to state senate leadership, nearly 30 groups call for Senator Ivey-Soto to take a leave of absence pending an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.
“If it is with out education departments, or if it is with our law enforcement departments, that those individuals are place don leave while the investigation is being conducted, and that would seem appropriate for this time,” said Heather Ferguson, Director of State Operations for Common Cause.
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In February, a lobbyist accused the Albuquerque democrat of touching her inappropriately and pressuring her to drink. She also accused him of sexually harassing other women. Ivey-Soto has said he’s ‘horrified’ by the accusations and has denied them from the get-go. Out of session, he sits on four interim committees including one for courts and justice. Now, those behind the letter are saying he shouldn’t for the time being.
“So that the victims can feel that they are presenting legislation for consideration by this committee in an unbiased manner where they would feel free from possibilities of intimidation and added harassment,” said Ferguson.
She said the state hired an attorney to do the investigation. The findings will be submitted to a subcommittee who will decide if there is probable cause for further action. Groups behind the letter say there is too much secrecy.
“These subcommittees have no published membership, there is no timeline for meetings, no public agenda for any of these meetings. All of this is happening behind closed doors,” said Ferguson. She said they are looking for policy changes in investigations like this in the upcoming session.
“We feel it’d be really important that investigations of this manner be conducted by the State Ethics Commission, which is an independent body that would have timelines, they have process and procedure, for when a probably cause report or findings, are determined by the Ethics Commission. That report is then made public,” said Ferguson.
The open letter was not sent to Senator Ivey-Soto. Over the phone, Senator Ivey-Soto said he is innocent until proven guilty and there are processes in place to review the allegations. While the investigation is pending, he said it is incumbent on him to be professional and only if he is unprofessional in committee should action be taken.
“The subcommittee work is not yet completed and until it is we must follow the procedures, confidentiality and due process required by policy. The subcommittee leads this process, not outside council or leadership, and they must be afforded the time to gather all the information they need before any decisions or further action related to this matter will be made. I respect the concerns of the advocates and will take them into consideration at the appropriate time.” – Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart.