4 Investigates: Las Vegas mayor faces voter fraud investigation
July 22, 2019 10:14 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- KOB’s 4 Investigates Team has learned the Las Vegas mayor is facing another criminal investigation. The latest investigations is centered on accusations of voter fraud and elections tampering that date back to 2018.
David Romero, who ran for Las Vegas City Council in 2018, filed a complaint with the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office, alleging Mayor Tonita Gurule-Giron committed voter fraud and tampered with the 2018 municipal elections in an effort to get her friends elected to the City Council.
“She was supporting a candidate that I was running against,” Romero said. “She got very involved in [the race].”
Romero alleged that city employees witnessed Gurule-Giron take an alarming number of absentee ballots.
When those ballots were returned to the city clerk’s office to be counted, they came from two Las Vegas homes. One home belonged to the mayor’s sister, the other home to two women who have campaigned for the mayor in the past.
“It was her way of trying to manipulate the election,” Romero said.
Romero, narrowly won his seat in a run-off election, but filed a complaint with Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver anyway.
The secretary of state told 4 Investigates she recently saw some serious red flags.
“The first thing we do is review the complaint internally and determine whether it rises to the occasion of being investigated by law enforcement,” Toulouse Oliver said. “In this case there was enough concerning information that we did feel that was necessary.”
In addition to the high number of supposed voters claiming to live at two addresses, Toulouse Oliver was also concerned about what appeared to be the same handwriting on each absentee ballot application.
“The other red flag is the eyeball effect of the handwriting,” Toulouse Oliver said. “That is something you want a professional handwriting analyst to look into further.”
After the internal review determined the allegations were credible, the secretary of state forwarded the investigation on to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’s office.
A spokesman for Balderas stated that the voter fraud allegations are part of an active investigation.
Other legal troubles
A publicly filed search warrant states that Balderas suspected Gurule-Giron defrauded her city by rigging bids to ensure her boyfriend Marvin Salazar, a construction company owner, would receive the projects.
Once awarded the contract, Salazar is accused of billing the city tens of thousands of dollars over the bid price.
Balderas also accused the mayor of bullying city employees into forcing them to break the law by allowing Salazar to receive free city services.
When one city employee explained that he couldn’t do that, because it’s illegal, the mayor allegedly told him, “don’t worry about who gets upsets, the only toes you need to worry about stepping on are mine. I’m the biggest executive there is.”
4 Investigator Chris Ramirez tried asking the mayor to respond to the allegations of voter fraud and bid rigging, but the mayor ignored the questions, issued a “no comment” and in one instance ordered police officers to physically stand in front of him to prevent him from asking questions.
Who’s paying the legal bill?
With all these legal troubles brewing, there are new questions about who is paying for her attorney fees. At a public council work session meeting in early July, Ramirez asked her about that.
Ramirez: Who is paying for your attorney, by the way?
Gurule-Giron: Umm, that is personal.
Ramirez: Are you paying for your attorney?
Gurule-Giron: Excuse me.
Ramirez: It's a yes or no, mayor.
Gurule-Giron: Yes, I am paying for my attorney.
But, 4 Investigates obtained a contract the mayor entered into with Santa Fe Attorney Carlos Quinones. An invoice shows Quinones billed $19,000 in legal fees for what appears to be legal consultation and work for the mayor. The bill was not paid by Gurule-Giron, but by Las Vegas taxpayers.
“She has many residents calling on her resignation,” Romero said. “I'm doing that tonight too.”
With so much baggage, so many unanswered questions, with a city in paralysis, many are now asking is Las Vegas better off with Tonita Gurule-Giron in the mayor’s seat…or out?
Updated: July 22, 2019 10:14 PM
Created: July 22, 2019 06:21 PM
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