Thursday, April 22, 2010

Secretary Of State To Look Into Contested Reserve Election

By John Severance

RESERVE - The New Mexico Secretary of State’s office has begun an investigation into the Village of Reserve election, Secretary of State Mary Herrera confirmed in an email to the Mountain Mail on Tuesday.
“There has been a complaint filed with this office and is currently under investigation,” Herrera said. “The individual who filed the complaint is Robert E.Caylor.”
On March 4, the Reserve Canvassing Board consisting of village clerk Kathaleen Harris, Magistrate Judge Clay Atwood and Catron County Clerk Sharon Armijo certified the election resuly. Edward T. Romero had 99 votes and M. Keith Riddle had 91 to secure the two Trustee spots. Caylor had 90 votes and Richard Torres finished with 87.
In his suit that was filed on April 8, Caylor named 12 people who he claimed were not eligible to vote in the March 2 election.
The suit alleges Morgan L. Cordell resides and teaches in Albuquerque and is the son of mayor Constance Wehrheim and the stepson of County Commissioner Edward Wehrheim and was coerced to vote by village officials. The suit also says Juan Perez lives seven miles from Reserve and was coerced to vote by public officials.
Lori Martinez is the treasurer and contract employee of Reserve and Catron County and husband Henry Martinez were aware they were not qualified to vote in the Village election because they lived five miles outside the village.
Other alleged nonresident voters named in the suit were Odelia Aragon, Dona Baldwin, Jennie Barreras, Sandra Bradshaw, Bryan Delgado, Pete Delgado, Lynnola Donnel and Paula Peralta.
The suit also alleges that Peggy Birmingham is incompetent to vote.
Peggy’s son, Mike Birmingham, said in a statement that “I, Mike Birmingham, son of Peggy Birmingham, am investigating legal avenues regarding hateful allegations made in Bob Caylor’s Petition to Contest the Reserve Valley Election of March 2, 2010."
Caylor and his attorney said they challenged the election results on the day of the election and also requested an investigation of these violations by the Secretary of State office several times pursuant to 83-8-6.1 of the NM Municipal Election Code.
At the Village Board meeting in April in which it decided the Village attorney should intervene, Torres made the following points before the trustees voted.
“Our right to vote is being challenged by this Petition,” Torres said. “As a voter, I find this very disturbing. The Petition names a longtime resident, a resident whom gave many years of service for the Village and County, in a mean and demeaning manner, which is unconscionable. It is the Trustees’ responsibility to protect the voting rights of its citizens.”
Caylor and Tippett, though, claim the law is clear when it comes to residency.
“The count is not the issue,” Caylor said. “The other issue is there were illegal votes in the election and village officials were soliciting votes from outside the precinct.
“The contest of the election will go to court and it’s already in court. It’s just a matter right now of giving the village attorney permission to go ahead and intervene in the contest. Basically, we want them in there. It gives us more access to the records to what happened.”
The village attorney is William Perkins, who did not return a phone call last week.
Perkins will represent Riddle in the lawsuit.
“Our attorney is going to file for dismissal,” Riddle said, “based on certification. Results were certified on March 4 and they filed on April 7.”
Tippett, though, claims that Romero, who also is contesting the election, was not sworn into office until April 8 and said there are no grounds for dismissal of the suit.
“It is a mess,” Caylor said. “When you do crooked things, it usually is a mess. They had every opportunity. We asked for a watcher and a challenger to keep them from voting. We are ready to go to court. That’s no problem. And I have no problem with intervention from the village attorney.”

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