The House Majority Leader for the State of New Mexico, Democrat Sheryl Williams Stapleton, has resigned from her position as House leader, and from her position as a Representative, after state police launched a criminal investigation into her conduct amid alleged racketeering and money laundering rumors.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Democrat lawmaker has “unequivocally” denied the allegations made against her, but feels that it is best for her to resign now in the best interests of the state.
Her resignation has the support of State Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, as well as other Democratic leaders inside the Statehouse.
Republican Senators in the state also agree with her resignation, claiming that the evidence presented against her is “damming.”
Why the investigation?
Stapleton’s resignation comes after an investigation was launched by state police after she had been accused of racketeering and money laundering charges.
Police executed warrants to search the lawmaker’s home, as well as Albuquerque Public School offices, to which she oversees career technical education.
The Albuquerque School district is the largest employer in the city, and Stapleton has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation concludes.
Scott Elder, the Superintendent for the district, was also accused of fraud earlier in the year, which promoted investigations into Stapleton’s role in the district after her connections with a robotics and computer company were discovered.
The company is the district’s main supplier of technology and computer software.
Stapleton stated that the company was contracted to provide a unique interactive program known as CyberQuest, however, the district stated that the program, which was a standardized interactive quiz, wasn’t used by a lot of students.
Many district officials began to question the existence of the computer company, as they had no physical presence in the state, except from a New Mexico PO box address and an address in Washington DC.
Doubts grew further after Stapleton intervened just as the company’s contract with the district was about to be torn up and, according to a search warrant affidavit, Stapleton acted as a “go-between” for the company and the district, providing evidence and documentation.
Further search warrant affidavits showed that Stapleton had access to the company’s New Mexico PO box, where checks would be sent from the district. All in all, the district sent $5.4 million in checks from 2006 to 2021.
Reaction to Stapleton’s resignation and the ongoing criminal investigation came from all corners of the New Mexico Statehouse.
Governor Michelle Grisham, a Democrat, stated the allegations made against Stapleton were “incredibly serious,” and that there needed to be a “rigorous and thorough law enforcement investigation.”
Speaker of the House Brian Egolf released a joint statement with House Majority Caucus Chair D. Wonda Johnson and with House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos, stating that given the current allegations, Stapleton’s resignation aligns with the best interests of the legislature and of the state.
Republican leaders in the State Senate weren’t so generous in their remarks, labeling the evidence against Stapleton as “damming,” before stating that this case will show that “no person, regardless of title or status, is above the law.”
Stapleton has been a lawmaker in the state since 1995, and served as a teacher before her step into politics.