Risk Update

Political Conflicts News — State AG Conflict Allegation/DQ, Lt. Gov ‘Poking Around’ Lawyer Departure (Potentially Positional Conflict)

High-Powered Attorney Disqualified From PNM Merger Case” —

  • “An attorney representing an international energy company involved in a utility merger in New Mexico has been disqualified because of an alleged conflict of interest stemming from ongoing contracts with the state attorney general’s office.”
    “A hearing examiner with the state Public Regulation Commission issued the order Friday, saying Marcus Rael Jr. can no longer represent Iberdrola in connection with the utility case.”
  • “Watchdog groups had filed complaints in July with the state auditor, the state Ethics Commission and the disciplinary board of the New Mexico Supreme Court that highlighted Attorney General Hector Balderas’ relationship with the law firm where Rael works. They alleged that Rael used his influence to convince Balderas to sign off on the merger and that Balderas awarded numerous contracts to Rael and approved improper invoices.”
  • “Balderas and Rael both graduated from the University of New Mexico law school in 2001 and briefly worked together before Balderas ran for public office.”
  • “Matt Baca, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, suggested the claims about a conflict were a ‘sideshow’ and the case needs to proceed on the actual merits.”
  • “New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi is among those who have raised concerns about the merger and Rael’s relationship with the attorney general’s office. Public records obtained by her group and a review by Searchlight New Mexico showed that since taking office in 2015, Balderas has hired Rael or others at his firm to help represent the state in at least 19 cases, which is at least triple the number of cases farmed out to any other private law firm.”

Top lawmaker poking around election commission chair’s law firm exit” —

  • “Lt. Gov. Randy McNally is asking questions about Davidson County Election Commission Chair Jim DeLanis’ recent departure from law firm Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz.”
  • “DeLanis said recently that he was fired after decades at the firm because of ‘threats and pressure’ from two firm clients related to his actions as chair of the election commission. There, he has in recent months been trying to force an anti-tax ballot referendum to a countywide vote, despite repeated decisions by judges agreeing that the proposal is unconstitutional and was improperly submitted. The firm countered that the lawyer had retired.”
  • “Jamie Hollin, an attorney representing the Nashville Business Coalition, speculated that conflict of interest was the cause of DeLanis’ departure. ‘This is a classic conflict of interest. If another one or more of the firm’s clients had a conflict with the things DeLanis was doing, then it would be very appropriate for the client to notify the firm and how the actions of the firm’s employee was materially adverse to the interests of its employee. When that happened, and with notice of the conflict, the firm did what was responsible: get him to stop acting adverse to the firm’s client or termination, if failing to resign.'”
  • “DeLanis said the law firm claimed his alleged dismissal was because of a business conflict, not a legal or ethical conflict… DeLanis declined to name the two firm clients who he claimed pressured the firm to oust him, saying that Baker Donelson officials told him that would be revealing privileged communication.”