SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico State Investment Council has decided to bar the state land commissioner and treasurer from participating in closed-door meetings and certain votes because they haven’t signed paperwork acknowledging they’ve read the council’s ethics code.

The Albuquerque Journal reports ( ) the dispute surfaced in a public meeting on Tuesday when the council — led by Gov. Susana Martinez — voted 7-2 in favor of imposing sanctions on four members who haven’t signed the ethics code. Those members are Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, Treasurer Tim Eichenberg and two former lawmakers appointed by the Legislature to serve on the council.

“It’s the people’s money,” Martinez said. “I’m trying to understand what is hard about saying, ‘I was appointed in order to properly handle the funds that are in my control.'”

Martinez said the ethics code is especially important, given the investment scandal under the administration of her predecessor. But Aubrey Dunn said the sanctions are simply an attempt by the council to force him and others into a confidentiality agreement that shields the council’s work from public view.

“What the SIC is trying to do is take away our constitutional duties to serve on the council by forcing us to sign a code of ethics,” Dunn said. “I already pledged an oath to the state that covers all this.”

A spokesman for the governor, Michael Lonergan, said it was “absurd” to suggest the ethics code was intended to keep people quiet. The new code, he said, is an important step toward preventing fraud, waste and abuse.

Information from: Albuquerque Journal,

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.