The mayor of Las Vegas, New Mexico has been indicted on six felony charges of bribery and abuse of power after she allegedly provided lucrative city contracts to her boyfriend.
The Las Vegas Optic reported that the city’s first female mayor, Tonita Gurule-Giron (who appears to be a Democrat, though that has not been reported by any outlets covering her indictment), was charged on Monday after an investigation into alleged “official acts for personal financial interest, ethical principles of public service, soliciting or receiving illegal kickbacks, conspiracy to commit making or permitting false public voucher, unlawful interest in a public contract and demanding or receiving bribe by public officer or public employee.”
The outlet reported that the New Mexico Attorney General’s office raided the mayor’s home, city hall, and the home of her alleged boyfriend, Marvin Salazar.
KRQE reported that part of the indictment against Gurule-Giron stems from a contract she made with Salazar’s construction company — Gemini Construction — that involved several jobs with the city. At one point, Salazar’s company was hired to install new floors in city hall. The outlet reported that investigators claim to have evidence that after Salazar was hired to install the new floors, the payout for the job doubled — which should have required returning to the bidding process.
The Optic reported that Salazar was awarded a contract for the floors worth $8,998, but that amount was later revised to $19,123.35. Salazar had been underbid by Price’s Furnishings, which said it could install the new floors for $6,529.19. A note at the bottom of Price’s bid claimed the company doesn’t install hardwood floors, so their bid was rejected. The Optic reported that it is unclear who wrote that note. Price’s website mentions solid wood floors as an option.
Salazar and Gurule-Giron were allegedly in a romantic relationship when the flooring contract was awarded.
Martin Gonzales, who at the time of the contract bidding process was the public works manager for the city, told investigators that when Gurule-Giron became mayor she requested the flooring be installed by Benavidez Construction. Gonzales said he told her that the company must bid, and she asked him what the project would cost. Gonzales couldn’t tell her because doing so would violate the procurement code, the Optic reported. The affidavit charging Gurule-Giron claimed the mayor responded to Gonzales by saying, “I am the chief operating executive officer of the city and I was elected to know everything and I will know everything.”
Gonzalez, according to investigators, then told the mayor that the floors would cost about $9,000 based on the second bid that came in from Ron’s Flooring. Gurule-Giron then told him to award the contract to Gemini Construction but Gonzales said he couldn’t because the company had not bid. A month later, Gemini placed a bid for the contract that was $54 less than the bid from Ron’s Flooring. The mayor awarded the contract to Gemini two days after it placed a bid.
The next year, “an emergency purchase order for a water leak that occurred in City Hall was issued to Gemini in the amount of $10,000,” the Optic reported. Former Risk Manager Darlene Arguello told the outlet that it “was not an emergency; it absolutely wasn’t.”