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Attorney: Keller Campaign 'Cheated'

A city hearing officer said he'll rule by the end of Tuesday on whether he has jurisdiction to hear a complaint that alleges that mayoral candidate Tim Keller and a PAC formed on his behalf illegally coordinated election activities.

The hearing officer, Stan Harada, made the statement Monday morning after hearing arguments from both sides in the case about whether he had jurisdiction over the matter. Attorneys for Keller argued that he didn't and that the case belongs before the city's Board of Ethics.

But attorney Pat Rogers, who represents former mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson, who filed the complaint against Keller, argued that the rules of the City Clerk's office rules give it jurisdiction.

The case involves an allegation that Keller's campaign and the PAC that supports him, ABQ Forward Together, coordinated expenditures in July when each group paid $15,000 to the same vendor within a day of one another.

Rogers wants to subpoena records and emails from officials in Keller's campaign and from ABQ Forward. And, he wants a full-blown hearing on the matter before the Nov. 14 runoff election between Keller and Dan Lewis.

Keller is receiving public money to finance his campaign, and Rogers said the public deserves to know whether he broke the rules that prohibits such coordination.

Keller's attorneys have asked that the complaint be dismissed.

“Mr. Keller has cheated. It's important that this be addressed before the election,” Rogers told Harada Monday morning. “Taxpayers deserve to know whether there has been cheating. To delay or to dismiss this will violate the letter and the spirit of [the city's] Open and Ethical Elections Code,” Rogers said.

Whether Harada can actually hear the case is a question. Johnson and Rogers originally filed the case with City Clerk Natalie Howard, who forwarded it to the Albuquerque Board of Ethics.

But the board said it couldn't accept the complaint because it didn't comply with its rules and regulations. So Rogers asked that a hearing officer take the case to determine if Keller's campaign violated city election rules.

If Harada were to take case and rule that Keller's campaign and the PAC did illegally coordinate campaign activities, he could order Keller's campaign to return $15,000 of the public money it has received.

A second ethics complaint against Keller – that is publicly-financed campaign improperly accepted cash “in-kind” donations, is pending with the ethics board.

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