The Roundhouse in Santa Fe (Austin Fisher / Source NM)
The investigation into bullying and sexual harassment allegations against a prominent New Mexico state senator is complete, though conclusions aren’t available to the public, said Common Cause New Mexico’s Heather Ferguson.
The probe seems to have expanded to include more people who brought forward similar experiences.
Lobbyist Marianna Anaya filed an official complaint about Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) at the end of February, saying he had groped and pressured her, and yelled at her, among other tactics. After she rejected the senator’s advances, Anaya said, he retaliated by tying up legislation she was pushing for, including a voting rights package earlier this year.
As the news broke, more people came forward sharing their own stories about Ivey-Soto’s conduct.
Ferguson, the executive director of Common Cause NM, said she was interviewed by a special investigator hired by the Legislature to look into Anaya’s complaint.
Ferguson’s account is the first time the public has heard anything about the case since the complaint was filed five months ago. This is a civil matter handled internally by the state’s Legislative Council Service under the capitol’s anti-harassment policy. That means information can be shielded from the public. More could be revealed if a legislative body meets to censure or expel him.
The Legislature isn’t scheduled to reconvene until January 2023. It’s unclear when this will move forward under Senate leadership, but one thing is clear from Ferguson’s account: The investigator asked her about other situations where Ivey-Soto showed this kind of behavior with multiple other people.
Ferguson said she learned last week that the investigation was complete and soon after sent a letter to Senate leadership demanding that Ivey-Soto be removed from his post on several interim committees, which are meeting now between full legislative sessions.
The letter is signed by 28 organizations. “We believe Ivey-Soto should not remain in the Senate at all given his record of abusive behavior and uncontrollable temper,” it states.
This all came to light shortly after the end of the 30-day legislative session this year when Anaya filed the complaint, saying the abuse spanned years, often spurred by Ivey-Soto’s regular alcohol consumption.
The harassment culminated during the 2022 legislative session, Anaya said.
In one instance in particular, Anaya described, the two were at a party together and Ivey-Soto made multiple unwanted advances. She says he “disgustingly groped and pinched my buttocks,” during a reception at a Santa Fe hotel in 2015, and that this harassment and assault was also perpetrated against several other women through the years.
Ivey-Soto acknowledged the incident in a previous interview with Source New Mexico, and he apologized “for her experience,” but he didn’t think anything else inappropriate happened.
Neither Anaya nor Ivey-Soto immediately responded Wednesday to questions about the latest developments in the case. The Legislative Council Service is unable to say anything due to the privacy limitations in the anti-harassment policy.
Ferguson said the investigator asking her about more people who said they experienced abuse shows a clear pattern by the state senator since he took office in 2013.
She said people in all 28 organizations calling for Ivey-Soto to be removed from his committee appointments know about his behavior by witnessing it or experiencing it first-hand. “Every single one,” Ferguson said. “It was the worst-kept secret at the Legislature about his outbursts and bullying, his drinking in his office at all hours.”
The investigator asked Ferguson to refer anyone else with information on Ivey-Soto’s misconduct to him, she said, and multiple people have been made in contact to share their experiences.
If or when a report will ever be released publicly is still uncertain. That lack of transparency is something Ferguson and other advocates want to see changed.
Under the Roundhouse anti-harassment complaint guidelines, the investigation should next go to Senate leadership, and they will determine if the matter will go to a full committee that can take action.
The group is asking Senate leadership to share information about where the independent review has been distributed, whether probable cause has been determined so the case can proceed, who decides that, and whether there will be a public hearing.
Going forward, Ferguson said there is work to do to present a plan to legislators in January to codify the complaint process into statute and send sexual harassment or assault complaints to the State Ethics Commission to investigate these civil cases and do so in a public way.
“We want it to be a zero-tolerance policy,” Ferguson said. “We want open investigating practices for bullying, harassment, sexual harassment. Zero tolerance.”
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