Lapse in judgment

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By The Staff

We’re sure San Miguel County Clerk Paul Maez ran the June primary elections in an above-board fashion. But because of a lapse in judgment on his part, some may now question whether that’s the case.

According to campaign finance reports, Jerome Block Jr., a Democratic candidate for the state Public Regulation Commission, gave Maez $300 for a “campaign coordination,” with the county clerk’s office listed as Maez’s address. And the country band, Wyld Country, to which Maez belongs, got $2,500 for a gig at a Block rally.

The weekly Santa Fe Reporter first revealed this information, but Maez wouldn’t return the paper’s calls. The same went for the Optic. Why doesn’t Maez want to answer questions about this arrangement?

Valerie Espinoza, Santa Fe County’s clerk, told the Optic that she wouldn’t take money from a candidate because of the bad appearances to the public. The watchdog group, Common Cause, stated that Maez’s acceptance of the money was highly questionable. Even Maez’s elections supervisor, Melanie Rivera, who is becoming county clerk next year, is distancing herself from her boss, suggesting that she wouldn’t take money from candidates.

Block, who ended up winning the Democratic primary over five other candidates, didn’t have anything to say about the issue, referring questions to his campaign manager, who never returned our message. The manager told the Reporter that most of Maez’s “campaign coordination” was outside San Miguel County. But he wouldn’t say what exactly Maez did for the campaign.

All this silence from Maez and Block likely means that they don’t have any good explanations. Simply put, Maez should have known better than to take money from a candidate participating in an election in which Maez is presiding.

There are no laws against what Maez did. But it certainly gives an unethical appearance. Again, we believe Maez has run elections in an honest manner — there’s no evidence otherwise. But some may have questions now because of Maez’s lapse in judgment in accepting the campaign money. That’s Maez’s fault. By his silence, we suspect he reluctantly agrees.