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Trouble with truthfullness

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By David Giuliani

In June, Jerome Block Jr. won with 23 percent of the vote in the six-way Democratic primary race for northern New Mexico’s seat on the Public Regulation Commission, which oversees a host of industries, including utilities and insurance.

He has no Republican opponent, but the Green Party is running Rick Lass. If history is any guide, the odds are that Block will be our next PRC commissioner in this heavily Democratic district.

But he’s had a number of problems of late, so he may think twice before taking this race for granted. Just a decade ago, the ethically challenged Eric Serna, a Democrat, lost to Republican Bill Redmond in the race for northern New Mexico’s congressional seat. That’s because plenty of Democrats refused to vote for Serna, casting their ballots for the Green candidate instead.

Block doesn’t seem to have learned from that history and is already acting as if he has won the November general election. Last week, he rejected Lass’ invitation for debates through an e-mail sent to the media. One word came to mind when I read the letter — arrogance.

“Regardless of your motivation or agenda in conducting debates, I do not intend my campaign schedule to be influenced by a minor-party candidate who had to be drafted to run,” Block wrote.

Does it really matter what Lass’ motivation is? Heck, maybe Lass wants the two candidates to get in front of voters and take their questions? Is Block so important that he has no time for such forums?

Then Block throws a dart at Lass’ experience.

“You and your supporters tout you as the most qualified candidate. While there is nothing wrong with your real-life experiences and employment as a pizza delivery person and a food market clerk, I do not feel it qualifies you to be a PRC commissioner,” Block stated.

It sounds like an attack on the working person. Who is Block to be talking? He is a former sales manager at a Santa Fe title insurance company. Sure, title insurance is one of the PRC-regulated industries, but what does he know about utilities and other forms of insurance? Block, it must be noted, was one of the least experienced of the six candidates in the primary race.

I sure don’t like Block’s attitude toward service-industry jobs. Maybe he never had to work such jobs because he’s the son of Jerome Block Sr., a former PRC member and a well-connected political player.

If little Block has such a great resume, he’s sure not letting people know about it. I visited his Web site, and no matter what menu item you choose, all you end up seeing is the same picture of Block that is Photoshopped into scenes of solar panels, mountains and a sunset. There’s no information on Block’s education and experience or his positions and philosophy on the PRC.

If Block is so experienced, then he should have no problem debating Lass. What’s he afraid of?

Maybe he’s fearing having to answer questions about his past lack of truthfulness. Before the primary election, the Albuquerque Journal asked candidates about whether they had been arrested before. Block responded that he had been charged with DWI but that he was found not guilty. It was left to the weekly Santa Fe Reporter to reveal the truth about the matter: The newspaper found that Block’s explanation didn’t square with the facts; the DWI charge was dropped because the court didn’t adjudicate the matter within the required six months.

Additionally, the Reporter revealed that Block pleaded guilty to DWI-related charge a year later, but he never disclosed that information to the Journal. In that case, he was accused of “unlawful riding,” a charge in which a passenger should reasonably know that the driver is too intoxicated.

The Reporter also revealed that Block had been arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct after he was reportedly caught urinating on Albuquerque Police Department property. He missed two court dates in the matter and was charged with failure to appear, but the whole matter was later dropped, according to the Reporter. The records in the case were destroyed.

Block told the Santa Fe media after the Reporter story that he didn’t remember this charge. Is the 31-year-old really that forgetful? It only happened a decade ago.

In fairness, Block was a young man when he allegedly committed these crimes, and as such, these allegations won’t factor in my vote. What really bothers me is his lack of truthfulness.

Making matters worse for Block is that the Albuquerque Journal reported over the weekend that Block had been claiming an associate’s degree that he doesn’t have from a school that doesn’t exist. Oops.

As yet, Gov. Bill Richardson hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the race, even though he is a Democrat like Block. Two of Block’s primary more experienced opponents, Joseph Maestas and Bruce Throne, also have declined to back Block so far.

That has to be troubling for Block. Maybe he’s going to have to tap into his dad’s political connections once again.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.