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Duran Keeps Pension

Duran Keeps Pension

Duran pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors and two felonies in connection with her embezzlement of her campaign's funds to gamble in casinos around the state.

BY DAN VUKELICH

The wording of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s plea agreement does not include loss of her government pension.

Dianna DuranUnder state law, forfeiture of the Public Employees Retirement Association pension of a public official convicted of a felony related to his or her official capacity is discretionary, but not mandatory.

Here’s the language of the statute, 31-18-15.4:

“When a separate finding of fact by the trier of fact shows beyond a reasonable doubt that an offender is a public official and that the felony conviction relates to, arises out of or is in connection with the offender’s holding of an elected office, the basic sentence may be increased by an additional fine not to exceed the value of the salary and fringe benefits paid to the offender, by virtue of holding an elected public office, after the commission of the first act that was a basis for the felony conviction.”

Duran pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors and two felonies in connection with her embezzlement of her campaign’s funds to gamble in casinos around the state. Sixty-three other felony charges, including identity theft, were dismissed in a plea deal agreed to in Santa Fe District Court this morning. The plea obviates the need for a special investigative committee to begin impeachment proceedings against her. The committee was scheduled to meet next week.

In an announcement Friday afternoon, legislative leaders announced that because of Duran’s resignation, the special investigative committee would not proceed further.

The Democrat that Duran beat in the last general election, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, posted on her Facebook page Friday afternoon that she is actively considering a run” for the seat Duran vacated.

Duran’s plea bargain calls for five years of supervised probation and repayment of restitution with the possibility for incarceration for a short time after the plea is accepted by the court while Durasn is processed as a convicted felon. Presumably, the restitution would be paid to her campaign. Under state law, there are several options for unused campaign funds, including donation to the state General Fund or to PACs or to other candidates. Under the deal, Duran cannot declare bankruptcy to avoid paying the restitution.

Duran resigned late last night, just hours before this morning’s court hearing.

The judge must approve, and could possibly alter, the terms of Duran’s plea deal. Gov. Susana Martinez is expected to appoint a successor, who will serve until a successor is elected.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, whose office prosecuted Duran, released this statement following her resignation and plea:

“I am pleased that Dianna Duran has resigned from office and plead guilty to felony embezzlement, money laundering, and violations of the Campaign Reporting Act. Dianna Duran’s admission of guilt will allow the State of New Mexico to move forward. Ms. Duran must pay restitution to victims and under the terms of the plea there is 8 ½ years of jurisdiction and sentencing is at the discretion the court. After today, citizens can be confident that Dianna Duran will no longer have supervisory control of public funds or the reporting process within the Secretary of State’s Office. I am hopeful that this resolution will begin to rebuild the public trust and compel the new leadership to improve oversight and compliance in our campaign finance system and electoral process. My office will continue to prosecute individuals who

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.