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City ethics board opens investigation into city council candidate

Brittany Costello
August 02, 2017 07:21 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Javier Benavidez, a candidate for Albuquerque City Council District One, says he has a passion for social justice and improving the community. He points to those attributes to explain why he would be perfect for the job.

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But how far is he willing to go to get his name on the upcoming municipal election ballot?

New allegations are painting a picture of deception and fraud. The Albuquerque Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices voted unanimously to launch an investigation into those allegations.

The allegations include a number of things from questionable signatures, to people denying campaign contributions altogether. Benavidez said these documents are not only incorrect, but they are merely a smear campaign.

"It’s really an unscrupulous, intimidating effort, but now we're the target of it," he told KOB on Tuesday. "Now we want to push back because we think this is an effort to discredit public financing."

Benavidez and his campaign gathered hundreds of signatures and the hundreds of donations needed to publicly fund his campaign. It requires a $5 donation from one percent of the registered voters in District one.

However, a private investigator, Carlos McMahon said he discovered a number of discrepancies. Under his previous name Carlos Villanueva, McMahon was charged with multiple counts of voter fraud in September 2016.

Some of the documents included written affidavits from people saying they did not contribute the $5, something Benavidez claims is untrue.

"We actually have a couple different examples," Benavidez said. "I could show you a text message and we have other witnesses that are going to testify when the hearing actually happens that they were intimidated by Mr. Villanueva. That they regretted what they signed."

Another person said they only donated $1, not $5. A different person who signed an affidavit claims they didn’t contribute any money or sign any document.

Benavidez claims the reason for these changes in stories is that people were harassed even intimidated until doing so. He said to find the answers, you have to go to the source of the discrepancies -- the private investigator and those who funded the investigation.

A campaign volunteer for Benavidez called these allegations a scare tactic.

“Desperation sets in and these challenges are an act of desperation,” said that volunteer, Romaine Serna.

But it's not just one or two claims. The documents contain nearly 50 exhibits.

"So the archbishop is in there. I personally went to his door, actually, I saw him at a Starbucks. We got the $5 contribution from him, and he's included in there because his address is different than his address in the voter rolls," Benavidez. "I know for a fact he lives in the district. So those are the kind of nit picking things they put in the complaint."

Benavidez said the truth will be revealed with an independent investigation utilizing the Office of Internal Audit and the Inspector General. That independent investigation will be presented to the Albuquerque board of ethics by Aug. 25. Benavidez said he's confident all of these allegations will fall flat.

Credits

Brittany Costello

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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