Balderas cleared of ethics charges in public service case

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Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Three government entities have now dismissed complaints of ethics violations by Attorney General Hector Balderas in regulatory proceedings over the proposed merger between PNM Resources and Connecticut-based energy company Avangrid.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Nonprofit group New Energy Economy filed a complaint in July with the State Ethics Commission, the State Auditor’s Office, and the New Mexico Supreme Court Disciplinary Board against Balderas and another lawyer, Marcus Rael Jr.

NEE claimed that Albuquerque-based Rael de Robles used his personal influence to persuade Balderas to back the merger after Avangrid’s parent company Iberdrola, SA hired Rael to promote the deal to the Commission de state public regulation. NEE called this a conflict of interest because Raël has separately represented the Attorney General in other cases.

In addition, NEE alleged that Balderas committed procurement and billing violations when hiring and paying Rael in cases unrelated to the merger.

But the Supreme Court’s disciplinary board dismissed NEE’s complaint this summer, along with two NEE appeals for the board to reconsider its decision.

Now, the ethics committee has also approved a motion from Balderas to dismiss the case, based on advice from the attorney general.

“Having considered the recommendation of the Advocate General, as well as the relevant pleadings, I conclude that the motion should be granted,” wrote the commission’s examiner, David Buchanan, in an order signed Nov. 5.

And on November 16, the state auditor’s office released its annual GA audit, which included a review of procurement and billing practices by an independent auditor, who found no violations of the G.

“We have always been convinced that these complaints would be dealt with fairly and found to be without merit,” Balderas told the Journal. “… We have always acted transparently and all three complaints were dismissed. “

New Energy Economy executive director Mariel Nanasi said she had “no comment” on the denials of complaints.

If approved by the PRC, Avangrid would acquire PNM Resources and its two utility subsidiaries – Public Service Company of New Mexico and Texas New Mexico Power – in a $ 4.3 billion cash transaction. of dollars.

Avangrid will spend more than $ 300 million on tariff relief and other economic benefits for New Mexico, thanks to lengthy negotiations with the GA and other parties in the case.

Today, 23 of the 24 parties involved support the merger. Only NEE is opposed to it.

And despite NEE’s allegations of collusion between Rael and Balderas, the GA has aggressively defended the name of the taxpayers in the negotiations, said Steve Michel of Western Resource Advocates, which supports the merger.

“I did not see the GA pull the slightest punch in this affair,” Michel told the Journal.

Nonetheless, PRC hearing examiner Ashley Schannauer barred Rael in August from representing Iberdrola in the merger case based on NEE’s allegations. And Schannauer has since recommended that commissioners reject the deal when they review it, likely next month.

But given the denials of complaints, NEE’s allegations should not influence the PRC’s decision, Rael said.

“There has never been a conflict of interest,” Raël told the Journal. “It was a blatant attempt by NEE to distract from a deal that is going to be very good for the state of New Mexico and its citizens.”


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