Wednesday, April 21, 2021

New Mexico Mayor faces charges of bribery and abuse of power in “romance-contract” allegations


A New Mexico mayor has been charged with six felony bribery and abuse of power counts after prosecutors claim she pushed contracts to a construction firm owned by a man they say she was romantically involved in.

The charges against Las Vegas Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron include officials acts for personal financial interest, ethical principles of public service, soliciting or receiving illegal kickbacks and conspiracy to commit making or permitting false public voucher.

Gurule-Giron has also been charged with unlawful interest in a public contract, and demanding or receiving bribe by public officer or public employee.

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The Las Vegas Optic reports that the criminal complaint was filed by the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Monday afternoon.

This comes after the AG’s office raided Gurule-Giron’s home, City Hall and the home of Marvin Salazar, a man described as her ‘boyfriend’ and ‘paramour’ in June 27 search warrants.

Salazar was reportedly arrested just before 3pm on Monday for felony counts of offering or paying an illegal kickback and, making or permitting false public voucher.

The June warrants provided suspicion among authorities of criminal activities being performed by Gurule-Giron and Salazar.

According to an affidavit by Special Agent Lindsay McIntosh obtained by the Las Vegas Optic, the mayor used her political influence to award a contract to Gemini Construction of $8,998 for the installation of hardwood floors in City Hall.

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That price, after revision and reissue, would later inflated to $19,123.35 despite being underbid by Price’s Furnishings, who offered $6,529 in April 2016.

Price’s bid was reportedly rejected because of a note scrawled at the bottom of the bid claiming the company does not do hardwood flooring. It is unknown who wrote the note.

Martin Gonzalez, the former public works manager in Las Vegas, said that Gurule-Giron requested the contract be given to Benavidez Construction.

Gonzalez told the mayor that Benavidez Construction must bid before being assigned the job, which prompted Gurule-Giron to ask the project’s cost.

‘I am the chief operating executive officer of the city and I was elected to know everything and I will know everything,’ she reportedly said in response, according to the affidavit.

Gonzales felt pressured and revealed to the mayor that the installation would cost around $9,000 based on a second bid of $9,052 received from Ron’s Flooring in April.

Gurule-Giron then asked to give the contract to Gemini Construction, to which Gonzalez responded he could not.

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A bid from Gemini Construction later entered was $54 less than Ron’s Flooring in May 2016 and the company was awarded the contract two days later.

In March 2017, a water leak caused an emergency purchase order at City Hall that was issued to Gemini Construction for $10,000.

However, other city officials maintain that the water leak did not warrant an emergency order.

‘This was not an emergency; it absolutely wasn’t,’ former Risk Manager Darlene Arguello said.

Arguello said the only visible damage was on the carpet, but various invoices by Salazar describe replacing the wooden floor.

She believes the invoices were a misrepresentation of the work actually completed.

Also listed in invoices is the mayor’s office requesting to replace the wood floors, despite Arguello’s claims that the flooring in that office was recently installed and did not appear damaged by the leak.

The project cost a staggering $94,204 without undergoing any procurement process or discussion.

Corinna Lazlo-Henry, former City Attorney, said the current interim City Manager, Ann Marie Gallegos, did not want the flooring to be mismatched and signed off on purchase orders from Gemini Construction.

It is in Gonzalez’s professional opinion that the water fountain leak would have taken weeks to flood City Hall.

Arguello reportedly said the cost was high and found repairs done in rooms where there had been no water leak damage when submitting information on the incident to city insurance.

In total, the city received $42,069.50 from the insurance company.

Gurule-Giron is scheduled for arraignment on January 6 at 9am.

These charges come in connection to an ongoing investigation that is determining if Gurule-Giron engaged in bid-rigging, fraud and abuse of power.

KOB 4 reports that Gurule-Giron directed the solid waste director to allow her alleged lover to dump trash for free.

When the solid waste director explained that doing so was illegal, the mayor allegedly continued to push him.

‘Don’t worry about who gets upset, the only toes you need to worry about stepping on are mine. I’m the biggest executive there is,’ she is accused of saying.


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