Dow ethics settlement moves closer to resolution

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Rebecca Dow

SANTA FE — A retired judge serving as a hearing officer approved a settlement Wednesday that would require state Rep. Rebecca Dow to pay a $500 civil penalty for violations of the Governmental Conduct Act.

The tentative settlement is now set to go before the State Ethics Commission in August for final approval.

Retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan C. Torgerson said he was pleased to see the negotiated resolution given the “very contentious” nature of the case.

For nearly two years, Dow has fought allegations that she failed to properly disclose income from a nonprofit group she founded and violated the state law that restricts when legislators may represent a client before a state agency.

At one point in the case, Dow refused to sit for a court-ordered deposition, resulting in sanctions of $50 a day, according to documents filed in the case.

The settlement doesn’t address the financial disclosure allegation. Dow contends she worked diligently to comply with the disclosure law and “over disclosed” her role with AppleTree, the nonprofit she founded and once led as CEO.

But the agreement says Dow will pay a civil penalty for violations of the law restricting when lawmakers may represent someone before state agencies. The Governmental Conduct Act prohibits state lawmakers from helping someone before a state agency unless the lawmaker is unpaid or working on behalf of a constituent, among other exceptions.

AppleTree is funded mostly by state contracts and grants, according to documents filed in the ethics case.

Walker Boyd, the general counsel of the State Ethics Commission, highlighted emails Dow had sent to the Public Education Department and an invoice she submitted to AppleTree listing her meetings with state Cabinet secretaries to promote AppleTree as evidence that she had violated the Governmental Conduct Act.

Boyd described the settlement as a “hard-fought agreement” negotiated by both sides to avoid the cost and time of further litigation. The settlement also sets a precedent, he said, for enforcing the relevant parts of the Governmental Conduct Act, the state’s ethics law.

“I think the settlement is fair and reasonable,” Boyd said.

Dow didn’t appear at the online hearing because of technical trouble, her attorney, Lucas Williams, said. But he agreed the settlement was in the best interest of the state.

Once Torgerson enters an order approving the settlement, it will go before the full seven-member State Ethics Commission for consideration. Bipartisan approval is required for the commission to act.