State senator questions Gov. Lujan Grisham over spending of federal funds

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A state senator is taking the governor back to court over federal pandemic relief money.

Last month, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled the state legislature should decide how more than $1 billion of that money should be spent.

"The Supreme Court was very clear in its November 18th order that the governor and no one under her control could touch this money," said state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque.

Now, two weeks later, Candelaria has filed a motion asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to order Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Department of Finance and Administration secretary, Deborah Romero, to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court.

KOB 4 asked Candelaria if he thinks they should be held in contempt of court.

“It’s ultimately a decision for the Supreme Court, but as a party to the case and having reviewed the documents, absolutely I do," he said.

That’s because the governor’s administration made two payments from the federal pandemic relief fund totaling $283,000 after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

A spokesperson for the governor’s office told KOB 4 there was no malintent and sent this statement:

“The money at issue was for services rendered and was obligated before the Supreme Court issued its stay. DFA informed the state treasurer on Wednesday that it would immediately redeposit the funds, which it has done.“

“I think it’s nonsense,” Candelaria responded. “The mere fact that they encumbered these funds prior to the court’s order does not absolve them from following the court’s order. What’s clear is they failed to take any reasonable steps to stop these transactions from hitting this account."

The New Mexico Supreme Court is expected to act on Candelaria’s motion soon.