The Secretary of State’s Office is investigating two complaints filed in the Doña Ana County Democratic primary race for district attorney, which has, thus far, largely been characterized by mudslinging.
We told you about one situation when we profiled the race on Monday: James Dickens, who is challenging incumbent Mark D’Antonio in the Democratic primary, used his access as a prosecutor in the 12th Judicial District based in Alamogordo to compile statistics from an internal case management system.
Now he’s using those statistics in his campaign for Third Judicial DA in Doña Ana county.
D’Antonio, who has already alleged that Dickens’ actions might be illegal, filed an ethics complaint with the SOS on Friday.
“I was outraged to find that Mr. James Dickens is guilty of a serious ethical violation and I demand that the matter be investigated and that he be held accountable for his actions,” D’Antonio’s complaint states.
The case management system “contains information that is not public record – like the names of people accused but not charged, methods on how certain cases are prosecuted, contact information for victims and medical records for defendants who have to undergo certain evaluations to determine if they’re competent or not,” D’Antonio wrote. And, he said, a policy of the state’s Administrative Office of the District Attorneys (AODA), the government agency that maintains the case management system, prohibits employees from using information in the system that’s not available to the public for any private interest.
D’Antonio had already filed a complaint with Dickens’ boss, 12th Judicial DA David Ceballes, but his complaint to the SOS states that Ceballes has “ignored” it.
Dickens has told NMPolitics.net that the information is public record and he is confident he did nothing wrong. And he accused D’Antonio of attacking a whistleblower who is exposing “his office’s abysmal record.”
“This is the typical bureaucrat’s tactic when their malfeasance has been laid bare to public scrutiny,” Dickens told us.
Ken Ortiz, SOS chief of staff, said the matter is under review.
Anonymous flier attacks Dickens
The second complaint, filed with the SOS on March 28 by Las Crucen Monica Gomez, relates to a flyer attacking Dickens that was handed out and placed on vehicles at a dinner hosted by the Democratic Party of Doña Ana County on Feb. 26. The flyer doesn’t identify who paid for it — even though state law requires disclosure.
The flyer, which is included with Gomez’s complaint, aims to tie Dickens to D’Antonio’s Republican predecessors in the DA’s office — Amy Orlando and Susana Martinez. It includes photos of Dickens with both former DAs and calls Dickens a “faithful Republican.”
Gomez’s complaint states that the same images used in the flyer “can be found on the Facebook page of Mark D’Antonio’s mother.”
A follow-up letter from Gomez dated May 12 states that the same flyer had been posted on a Facebook page belonging to D’Antonio’s sister but “has since been deleted.”
“If Mr. D’Antonio was not involved in its distribution I would like to know who was due to the illegal printing and distribution of the flyer without political disclosure statements,” Gomez wrote.
The SOS requested a response from D’Antonio on April 13 — sending the letter to the DA’s office, not D’Antonio’s campaign. D’Antonio complained to the SOS in his April 27 response about the letter being sent to the government office.
“It is this kind of blurring the lines between candidates and public officials that may lead to a lack of public confidence in the election process,” D’Antonio wrote.
As for the flier, D’Antonio wrote that it was not distributed by him or anyone with his campaign. “I did not authorize anyone with my campaign to display the ‘flyer’ or make it available to the public,” D’Antonio wrote. He said it had already been circulated widely before it was posted on Facebook.
Like the other complaint, this one is under review, Ortiz said.
The winner of the June 7 Democratic primary will face a Republican Brad Cates, a former state and federal prosecutor and state representative, in November. Cates is dealing with his own controversy over images that were posted on a personal website.