NM senator defends his reputation while policy silences the people accusing him of misconduct

Leaked report finds sufficient evidence for two of three harassment allegations. Ivey-Soto calls on the FBI to investigate what he says is extortion.

By: - September 19, 2022 5:05 am

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The harassment complaint filed against a powerful N.M. senator is closed, he announced. 

“The letter that we received was a one page letter. Very short,” Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto told Source NM. “We were told that the committee had failed to find probable cause … the matter was being postponed indefinitely, and no further action will be taken.”

But outrage continues to grow, as everyone involved calls for reform of statehouse procedures shrouded in secrecy. The lobbyist who came forward with the initial complaint says her First Amendment rights have been violated because of the confidentiality rules about who’s allowed to speak about the matter publicly. 

And after the findings in the misconduct investigation were leaked, Ivey-Soto contacted the FBI about what he says is extortion.

Roundhouse anti-harassment policy needs reform, advocates and senators agree

The allegations

An independent investigator looked into three instances of misconduct by state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) within a complaint filed by a lobbyist, according to documents leaked to the Santa Fe Reporter late last week. 

He found sufficient evidence for two sexual harassment incidents — and not enough for the third allegation of mistreatment, given how the Legislature’s policy is written.

During interviews, Special Council Thomas Hnasko found many more people alleging assault, harassment and misconduct by Ivey-Soto, including other people describing sexual assault.

But the Democratic legislator’s peers — fellow lawmakers convened in a secret panel — won’t proceed with punishment, according to the senator, who says the case is closed.

Those lawmakers —- Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque), Sen. Benny Shendo (D-Jemez), Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Deming) and Pat Woods (R-Broadview) — either refused to comment on their position and the process or did not return calls to SourceNM. 

The public only knows they met to determine Ivey-Soto’s fate because of what Ivey-Soto himself has said.

“I don’t know if they voted not to find probable cause. I don’t know if they just couldn’t get a motion for probable cause. I don’t know. I don’t know what their motion was. I don’t know what their votes were,” Ivey-Soto said.

This all started seven months ago when lobbyist Marianna Anaya filed the complaint alleging Ivey-Soto harassed her on multiple occasions, groped her, and retaliated against her by blocking voting rights policies she championed earlier this year because she’d rejected his unwanted, inappropriate sexual advances.

Sen. Ivey-Soto accused of sexual misconduct by voting rights lobbyist

Hnasko was persuaded by Anaya’s recounting of two such instances, according to the leaked report. As to the third — an allegation that Ivey-Soto screamed at the lobbyist — was not found to be sufficient, because under Roundhouse policy, “heated conversations during the vigorous legislative process” are par for the course. 

The independent report said her third claim of bullying and confrontational harassment did not meet the probable cause standard of affecting her duties as a paid lobbyist at the Legislature.

Who’s allowed to speak about it now?

Due to confidentiality stipulations in the state capital’s anti-harassment policy, Anaya is barred from speaking publicly about the investigative process. When she filed her complaint, she did release a letter outlining some details about her interactions with Ivey-Soto, but she’s been silenced since that point. 

Her attorney filed a petition with a Santa Fe judge to lift the confidentiality stipulation so she can speak and share documents about the secret proceedings. 

The anti-harassment policy does allow Ivey-Soto, however, to publicly share information. 

“It’s completely open-ended, completely one-sided,” Anaya’s attorney, Levi Monagle said. “A confidentiality rule, which in our estimation and under a whole lot of Supreme Court precedent, is a flagrant First Amendment violation.”

Ivey-Soto took a victory lap of sorts with an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal saying he was informed by his lawyer that the case was suspended because the subcommittee of four lawmakers chose not to proceed. 

He used the opportunity to defend the “volume with which I communicate with people,” saying people need to be sensitive to his hearing condition. He also pointed to PTSD resulting from child abuse, writing that “just as we seek to accommodate the public, we need to remember the humanity of those who serve the public, as well, and provide appropriate accommodations for disabilities, seen and unseen.”

Ivey-Soto goes to the FBI

He said on Wednesday, shortly after he received notice the case was closed, he received a call from a person that he maintains as a contact in his cell phone stating they had a message for him from Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque).

“That person was not happy at being put in the middle to deliver a message to me from the pro tem,” he said. “As we got into it actually is when the person kept saying ‘This is not my message. I wasn’t consulted on this. I was just simply asked to deliver the message.’ ”

Ivey-Soto said the Albuquerque Journal contacted Stewart for a reaction to his op-ed the day before it was published and was told by the caller he refused to identify that he needed to resign from his position on the powerful Rules Committee or the independent investigation into Anaya’s complaint would be leaked to the public. 

He sat with the information on a trip to Santa Fe on Thursday, he said. He considered reporting the call to state police or the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. When he returned, he stopped at the FBI field office near I-25 and Montaño to report what he perceived as a threat from Sen. Stewart.

“I went in person. I arrived at 3:15 p.m. to talk to the FBI. I parked in that little parking lot that they have there and walked over to the gate. And I said I’d like to speak to the agent. And the fellow told me that he couldn’t let me in,” Ivey-Soto said. 

He was told to call a number and did so from the parking lot where he reached someone based in West Virginia. “I stressed to him that this was a time-sensitive situation. And that I would appreciate a call back, and I left my information.”

Ivey-Soto said he got a call back and eventually spoke on the phone with two FBI agents who said they’d write up his complaint and transfer it to an agent that investigates public corruption. He then called Sen. Linda Lopez to give her a heads up about the threat and his contact with federal investigators. 

The FBI would not confirm last week whether there is an active investigation or corroborate Ivey-Soto’s complaint, but the senator did share time stamps for when he made the call. 

Nearly an hour after Ivey-Soto says his report was filed with the FBI, the Santa Fe Reporter published the independent investigative report. 

While it was seemingly too late to have an effect on the process, it validates what survivors have said about Ivey-Soto’s behavior towards women working in the capital, said Oriana Sandoval, the CEO for the Center for Civic Policy.

Letter outlines more allegations of sexual harassment and bullying from Sen. Ivey-Soto

“We hold our elected officials to a high standard. If anything, this process has shown us once again, how flawed and broken the system is,” she said. “So we really do need to be working with our legislators in an urgent way, you know, to immediately think through some reforms.”

Sandoval’s organization launched stopiveysoto.com shortly after his op-ed in the Journal was published. They want it to be a resource to document everything that has been published about this investigation and a vehicle for anyone who wants to assist with their demands to remove him from office, or at least, from his committee chair positions in Santa Fe.

“We will continue accountability work on him,” Sandoval said. “The report has shown that the allegations that Mariana made as well as several other women were indeed credible. He has displayed a pattern of behavior that’s just not acceptable for an elected official.”

While Ivey-Soto weathered the storm on the harassment allegation, he does anticipate he could lose those committee responsibilities when the senate’s Rules Committee meets to determine those assignments. 

“Given the recent communications from Sen. Stewart I don’t have high hopes for that.” 

In the end, it may all come down to the voters. If he chooses to run, Ivey-Soto’s Albuquerque seat will be up in 2024.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.