De Baca recall election back on — for now

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

The 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has instructed De Baca County Clerk Laurie Pettigrew to proceed with today’s scheduled sheriff recall election.

The move comes on the heel’s of Monday’s ruling by a State Appeals Court judge to postpone the vote to determine whether Sheriff Gary Graves stays in office.

“We plan to have the election (today) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” Pettigrew said.

Graves’ lawyer, Bill Robins III, wrote in a hand-delivered letter to Pettigrew on Tuesday he intends to file an “emergency temporary restraining order” against Pettigrew (in the State’s Court of Appeals) to stop today’s recall election.

The 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office responded to Robins’ communication in writing.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Donald Schutte wrote it was Pettigrew’s duty as clerk to proceed with today’s election because De Baca County was not named as a plaintiff in Robins’ motion to the State Court of Appeals to halt the recall process.

“The county clerk (Pettigrew) must proceed with her constitutionally mandated duties despite your threat,” Schutte wrote.

Court of Appeals Judge Jonathan B. Sutin ruled Monday in favor of a motion filed by Graves’ attorney to halt Wednesday’s vote. A hearing was scheduled for Jan. 18 to hear arguments in Graves’ case.

“The recall scheduled for Nov. 9 is stayed pending further order of the court,” court records show.

Schutte argues if Robins intended to stop today’s election, the case should be brought to the state’s Supreme Court and not to the State Court of Appeals.

Schutte argued the constitution doesn’t allow for the Court of Appeals to stop the recall, he stated in his letter.

“It’s my opinion the election should proceed,” Schutte said. “The New Mexico Supreme Court is the only power that could stop the election,” he said.

Robins’ letter to Pettigrew also alleged De Baca County commissioners met in an emergency session Monday and instructed the county clerk to go forward with the election.

Commissioner Powhatan Carter III said Robins’ conjecture is untrue.

“We (the County Commission) haven’t met since October,” Carter said Tuesday night.

Graves is accused of acts of malfeasance while in office, including the misappropriation of funds, mistreating prisoners, and sexual harassment, according to plaintiffs.
He denies the allegations.

Ninth Judicial District Judge Joe Parker previously ruled probable cause warranted the recall election.

Pettigrew said 324 votes were cast during the early-voting period, which ended Saturday. She said there are approximately 1,400 registered voters in De Baca County.