ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico state representative Paul Pacheco is accused of using his position to get funding for a project that his brother benefited from. However, Pacheco calls the allegations a “smear campaign.”
A complaint was sent to the Attorney General’s Office Monday alleging state representative Paul Pacheco failed to disclose a conflict of interest in a major project.
“We realized that something didn’t look right,” Pat Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico told KRQE News 13.
Davis is referring to the funding behind the building of Ask Academy, a private STEM charter school in Rio Rancho.
“All of the public money they needed to make this happen came in one scoop from one legislator in one session,” Davis added.
ProgressNow New Mexico is now asking the Attorney General’s Office to investigate Pacheco’s role in securing taxpayer money for the project.
The complaint filed Monday claims Pacheco requested more than $1.2 million in capital outlay funds, and ultimately secured roughly $230,000 in state funds for the project managed by his brother, David Pacheco, who happened to be the architect.
“All that happened without any of the disclosures that seem to be required by state law, and that’s a big flag,” Davis explained. “The law says if you have this relationship, you can still give them the money, but you have to go through this extra level of public scrutiny.”
ProgressNow New Mexico’s complaint against Pacheco alleges he broke state law, and violated house ethics rules by failing to disclose that his brother was behind the school’s construction.
“All this is is a smear campaign against me and they’re trying to make something out of nothing,” Republican representative Paul Pacheco told KRQE News 13.
Pacheco claims he didn’t even know his brother was the architect for the school until later when someone mentioned a David Pacheco working for the developer.
He claims once he found out, he never kept it a secret that his brother was the architect.
“There was nothing questionable or dark about this, it was purely coincidental,” Pacheco told KRQE News 13.
Pacheco said he initially supported the charter school’s remodel, which was initially in his district.
“Like many other representatives and senators, we have a lot of constituents’ children who go to that school,” Pacheco told KRQE News 13.
When that first building went into foreclosure, Pacheco said he continued to support Ask Academy’s new building outside of his district with capital outlay funds. However, he maintains his motive was not to benefit his brother.
“I’m a big supporter of STEM schools,” Pacheco told KRQE News 13. “It’s important for my constituents and that’s the only reason that I supported it.”
Davis said there is no documentation Paul Pacheco made it clear that his brother was the architect on a project he was helping secure state funding for.
“When there’s the opportunity for a conflict of interest, people are right to ask questions about the relationship,” Davis said.
The complaint also alleges David Pacheco was in charge of public funds for the project. That’s something the state representative denies.
The president for the Ask Academy Foundation, the non-profit which helped lobby for state funds to build the school, told KRQE News 13 that the architect was not directly in charge of public funds.
The Attorney General’s Office wouldn’t comment except to say its office is currently reviewing the complaint.