SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – The final price tag for a settlement reached by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and a former campaign spokesman to settle accusations of harassment is now $150,000.
The latest round of payments were disclosed in a mandatory campaign finance report that the Democrat’s campaign filed Monday. The twice-annual report on spending and contributions shows the incumbent has raised $2.5 million for her reelection bid as several Republicans are vying to take back the office.
The staffer, James Hallinan, had accused Lujan Grisham of dropping water on his crotch and then grabbing his crotch in the midst of a campaign staff meeting prior to the election — accusations that the governor denies. Lujan Grisham said earlier this year that she decided to resolve the matter because she wanted to focus her attention on the pandemic.
Asked whether there have been any other financial settlements and nondisclosure agreements of a similar nature, the governor said no.
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Lujan Grisham’s political committee paid an additional $87,500 over the past six months to an attorney for Hallinan, who now runs a public relations and political consulting firm. The political committee reported in an April campaign spending report that it had paid $62,500 as part of the settlement.
Campaign spokeswoman Kendall Witmer told the Albuquerque Journal in a statement Sunday that the settlement was reached in 2020 “due to the expense of litigating business disputes and to prevent any distraction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The settlement has drawn criticism from Republicans and it could be used as campaign fodder by rivals in the gubernatorial race. And while the governor has defended her management of the pandemic, she has been the target of criticism over the public health mandates.
The following is the full statement from the governor’s campaign:
“The Governor, Dominic Gabello, and New Mexicans for Michelle unequivocally deny the false, dubious, and meritless claims made by Mr. Hallinan and feel certain the claims would have been disproved in court. The settlement resolved suspect and varied claims made by Mr. Hallinan, including his search for employment and clients following his tumultuous tenure on the 2018 campaign. The campaign reached this settlement in 2020 due to the expense of litigating business disputes and to prevent any distraction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Lujan Grisham will continue to work tirelessly for the people of New Mexico, delivering on record economic growth, educational investment, and tax cuts for New Mexico’s families — all while leading the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.”Campaign Spokeswoman Kendall Witmer