ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – In a contentious race for the next mayor of Albuquerque, Mayor Tim Keller‘s campaign is accusing Sheriff Manny Gonzales of breaking the rules again. This time, Keller’s camp is alleging Gonzales’ team is committing fraud. The attorney for Keller’s campaign claims high-ranking Gonzales staffers forged signatures of voters to secure more campaign funding from taxpayers.

Tuesday, Keller’s campaign accused Gonzales’ campaign of felony fraud. “The campaign was using forged documents to get public money,” Keller campaign attorney Lauren Keefe said.

Keefe said it all started earlier this month when Keller’s campaign was combing through Gonzales’ filings. Keefe claims they discovered Gonzales campaign staffers forging signatures on receipts. “As we started to look, we noticed the signatures did not match voter registration cards or petitions that voters had signed recently for the Gonzales campaign,” Keefe said.

Keller’s campaign filed a complaint Tuesday with the city clerk’s office, submitting 24 instances where they say signatures on receipts for qualifying contributes were forged. Keefe said they have talked to a few people who say the signature for the qualifying contribution is not theirs, and they have no recollection of telling someone it was okay to sign for them. “These voters did not know their names were put on these documents,” Keefe said.

Qualifying contributions are $5 that a voter signs and pay to show the candidate has support in the community. Candidates get nine weeks to collect 3,779. If a candidate reaches that, the candidate receives $650,000 in public funding for their campaign. Keefe claims Gonzales was falling behind close to the deadline and claims his team started forging receipts. “$650,000 of taxpayer money would go to them based on fraud and criminal activity,” Keefe said.

The Gonzales campaign released the following statement:

This is yet another baseless publicity stunt by the Keller campaign designed to distract attention away from the real issues facing this city, particularly Keller’s failure to address the crime crisis.

The Manny Gonzales campaign submitted more than enough $5 contributions and petition signatures.

At the end of the day, these appear to be nothing more than innocent administrative mistakes made by volunteers in a handful of the over 8,000 signatures and contributions we turned in, such as signing the wrong line of the form or otherwise incorrectly completing the contribution book. In fact, the campaign turned in nearly 1,000 additional contributions above the required amount, so there is no question the campaign has qualified.

Campaigns routinely turn in additional signatures and contributions because administrative mistakes happen across the board, such as the clerk improperly rejecting State Senator Sander Rue’s $5 contribution claiming he is deceased. He is very much alive, but we are not accusing the clerk of felony fraud.

Mayor Keller is so desperate to avoid a debate about his record on crime that he’s willing to say or do anything to distract voters and the media.

MannyforABQ campaign

The city clerk said it’s referred the complaint to the city’s board of ethics which will set a hearing date within 30 days. Keefe said the board can hold a vote to recommend Gonzales’ funding be revoked. “It would not mean he is not on the ballot,” Keefe said. “It ultimately would be up to him to decide in light of these allegations of what happened that perhaps it is not appropriate to go forward.”

Keefe said she is contacting state agencies like the AG’s Office and New Mexico State Police for potential further action. This is the second complaint Keller’s campaign has filed against Gonzales. Earlier this month, Keller alleged Gonzales personally told a voter he did not have to pay the $5 contribution and his campaign would pay for it. Keefe said the Board of Ethics is hearing that case next month.

Documents attached to the complaint compare real petition signatures from city voters, as well as signatures on voter identification cards, to the $5 qualifying contribution signatures. The Keller campaign claims most of the alleged forgeries were countersigned by Gonzales’ campaign spokeswoman and the executive assistance to Gonzales at the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

Documents of alleged forged signatures