Rep. Carl Trujillo with his wife Ellen and son Thomas. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The final dismissal document has been filed by the Interim Legislative Ethics Committee for charges of sexual harassment against three-term New Mexico state Rep. Carl Trujillo.
The dismissal notes that because the complainant has declined to testify under oath, the Hearing Subcommittee cannot make any determinations or conclusions regarding alleged violations of the Legislature’s Anti-Harassment Policy by Trujillo. The policy requires that an accused legislator be given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses against him.
The allegations were made by Laura Bonar who was a lobbyist for Animal Protection Voters when she accused Trujillo of inappropriately touching and propositioning her when she worked with him in legislation in 2013 and 2014.
One allegation was that on Jan. 28, 2014, Bonar asked to sit next to Trujillo at a hearing before the House Consumer and Public Affairs Commission and that he allegedly responded, “You can sit next to me anytime, Laura. At dinner, by the fire, in the pool”. The second allegation was that on Feb. 5, 2014, Trujillo “pulled” Bonar aside in the corridor outside the House Chamber and asked her, “When can we meet?”
Bonar shared an online open letter to Trujillo May 2 and distributed it to media throughout the state. The letter accused Trujillo of sexual harassment and asked him to resign from office and end his election campaign. Trujillo has adamantly denied the accusations since they were first made public. Trujillo lost the Democratic primary election to Andrea Romero who defeated write-in candidate Heather Nordquist in the general election.
The allegations were investigated by Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, Majority Leader Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton and Minority Leader Rep. Nate Gentry and outside counsel and were referred to the Interim Legislative Ethics Commission for investigation. A determination of probable cause on the two allegations was issued July 27 and a two-day formal hearing was set for Dec. 3-4 at the State Capitol.
Trujillo has vehemently and consistently denied the allegations and since July has unsuccessfully sought to depose Bonar under oath. He has said that details of the specific allegations made by Bonar were not disclosed to him until some seven weeks after she published her open letter. Throughout the process Trujillo has requested subpoena power which would have prevented Bonar from refusing to appear for deposition and producing relevant records.
On Nov. 9, Bonar wrote to Special Counsel saying that she had made a very public accusation against Trujillo May 2 to stand up for herself after years of feeling powerless and to protect other omen at the Legislature experiencing the same harassment she experienced. She said she believes she has achieved both of those objectives. She said the truth of her account was corroborated by multiple credible witnesses with nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by standing with her. She indicated that as things stand she could not move forward with deposition or discovery in the case as things stand saying she “cannot violate the trust of other victims”.
The dismissal notes that a written sworn statement as a triggering event for an investigation but that all witnesses supporting or refuting charges have to be cross-examined under oath and that anonymous sources are given no weight in determining existence or absence of probable cause for charges.
Trujillo told the Los Alamos Reporter Monday late Monday afternoon that he continues to maintain my innocence and has fully cooperated with the entire process. He said he is extremely confident that the same result would have been reached if Bonar’s allegations had been heard by the Committee and she had been cross-examined under oath.
“While I respect the policies that I helped to put in place to protect people from sexual harassment at the Roundhouse, it is also equally important to ensure that such policies have safeguards to prevent spurious allegations to be made from pure political motive, as was the case here. The #metoomovement is a much-needed movement for those who have experienced sexual harassment, but false allegations, like the those that Ms. Bonar leveled against me, do nothing but harm the progress of #metoo,” he said.
Trujillo said the allegations have had a devastating impact on him and his family and have misled his constituents.
“I have learned from this terrible ordeal and I have the highest hope that the gains of the #metoo movement are not undone by these sorts of political tactics. I remain an ally of victims everywhere. I will continue to work to make sure that the process empowers women to come forward and confront their accusers with the confidence that the process works in the interests of justice,” he said.
Trujillo said defending himself from Bonar’s claims cost his family more than $100,000 in legal fees. He said he believes the Legislature spent $200,000 to $300,000 on attorney’s fees without the allegations even making it to a formal hearing.